It has been four years since Cheryl Cole was left fighting for her life after contracting malaria. At one point the singer was given just 24 hours to live.
Now fully-recovered, she is helping Sport Relief bring attention to the devastating disease, which continues to claim thousands of lives across Africa every year.
“When I climbed Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief five years ago, it was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Cheryl says in a video set to be broadcast on the live Sport Relief show in 21 March.
“The motivation lay in knowing it could help in eradicating malaria and ultimately saving lives by providing mosquito news.
“I didn’t think for one minute that only a year later I would get malaria myself and become so ill that at one point I was given 24 hours to live,” the 30-year-old added.
“It was the scariest thing you could ever imagine for me and my family. The pain I felt and went through, it’s what so many people go through, all because they don’t have a mosquito net which could save their life.
“I was lucky; I had the best care I could get. Some people are not so lucky. A £5 mosquito net could keep a child safe and really does help.”
Malaria is a preventable disease – but thousands of adults and children continue to die every year because of a lack of medical supplies and basic resources like mosquito nets.
“In 2009 when I climbed Kilimanjaro a million kids a year were dying of malaria, now five years later it’s 150,000 less per year. That’s 150,000 kids saved, so we are beating malaria,” explained Cheryl, who collapsed at a photoshoot after returning from a holiday in Tanzania with Derek Hough in 2010.
“I’ve decided to speak out about this again now because having experienced it, it’s obviously very close to my heart and I want people to know how easy it is to help.”
Cheryl’s emotional plea is one of a number of celebrity appearances for the Sport Relief special.
Presenters David Walliams, Gary Lineker, Davina McCall, Claudia Winkleman, Jack Whitehall and Fearne Cotton will host a star-studded show full of celebrity performances, comedy sketches and highlights from this year’s Sport Relief challenges.
One of the most anticipated sketches is the return of Only Fools and Horses featuring David Beckham, a huge fan of the classic comedy.
The Sport Relief weekend will take place from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 March, with all money raised going to help some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK and around the world.