NEW YORK - British soccer legend David Beckham put his star-power to use on Wednesday in a bid to reinvigorate the fight against malaria under the slogan "Malaria must die - so millions can live".
The retired athlete joined ranks in a campaign by Malaria No More UK, a British charity, to star in a short film in which he is caged in a glass box and swarmed by mosquitoes.
The stunt is a reference to the way malaria is transmitted through the bite of the blood-sucking insects.
"These insects are annoying in places like the U.K. but in many parts of the world a mosquito bite is terrifying and deadly," Beckham said in a statement.
Despite successes in recent years, malaria continues to kill about 445,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"This is totally unacceptable," said Beckham, a member of Malaria No More UK's leadership council and a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.
The former England soccer captain, who retired from the game in 2013, remains a global celebrity. During his career he played as a midfielder for top clubs including Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The "Malaria must die" campaign is particularly focused on pressuring leaders of countries in the Commonwealth, a 52-member grouping including Britain and most of its former colonies, to adopt policies aimed at eliminating the disease.
The WHO last year warned that progress in the fight against malaria had stalled amid signs of flatlining funding and complacency that the disease was less of a threat.
In its most recent World Malaria Report, the WHO said malaria infected around 216 million people in 91 countries in 2016, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year.
The vast majority of deaths were in children under the age of five in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Robert Carmichael.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit )