White House Screens HBO Malaria Movie

The White House intended to host a screening Friday of the HBO film Mary and Martha, starring Hillary Swank. One of the women who inspired the movie, Jo Yirrell, came to Washington for the screening.

The screening, however, ended up being canceled due to developments in the Boston bombing.

“I hope that the viewers and attendees of the screening will take away that no parent should lose a child to malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, and I hope they feel compelled and inspired to act,” Yirrell told FishbowlDC in an email last week, before it was canceled. “For the White House screening attendees especially, I hope the film and personal stories that they hear right after the film will stay with them over these next few critical months.”

Yirrell is the inspiration for the character Martha, played by Brenda Blethyn. Yirrell’s son, Harry, died in 2005 of malaria while volunteering at a school in Ghana. He had tablets to prevent the disease but gave them away to children who he believed needed them more. He was 20.

In 2009, Yirrell became an ambassador for Malaria No More UK, an organization that works to eradicate malaria.

Yirrell credits the news media and the Obama administration for the public’s awareness.

“We are at a critical tipping point in the fight against malaria,” Yirrell said. “Huge progress has been made thanks to the global support of governments and the private sector, and the U.S. and UK Governments have been at the forefront of this.” She says  President Obama‘s recent request to Congress for $1.65 billion for the Global Fund and UK government’s renewed commitment to reduce deaths from malaria by at least 50 percent is to be saluted. She stressed that a child still dies every 60 seconds from a disease that is preventable and “costs less than a cup of coffee to treat.”

“Mary and Martha” aired Saturday. For every view the trailer for the film receives, Malaria No More is providing a full course treatment for a child with malaria. It is sponsored by Malaria No More’s partner Novartis Malaria Initiative.