Rob Mather lives in London with his wife and four children. In June 2003 he saw a television programme about a two-year-old girl called Terri who suffered 90% burns in a house fire. He was very moved by her story and rounded up two friends to swim and raise some money for her trust fund.
What started as a three-person swim developed over the next seven weeks into 150 swims in 73 countries involving 10,000 people. 100% of the money raised went to Terri's Trust Fund. 'Swim For Terri' took place on 6th Dec 2003. Andrew Garner offered to build a small website, in his spare time and for free, so everyone swimming could see who else was swimming.
A few people asked 'What are we doing next year?'. Rob's throwaway line was 'Get a million people to swim...' and World Swim Against Malaria was the result. He started World Swim by persuading twenty people to give him 5,000 swimmers each. Eventually 250,000 people swam in some 160 countries. Andrew joined Rob full time as the swim developed. Speedo played a crucial role in the early days.
As a result of the swim, many more people knew about malaria and that the equivalent of seven 747s full of children under five die from malaria every day.
People asked if they could raise funds in ways other than swimming so the Against Malaria website was created so people could fundraise 'against malaria' in whatever way they wished. The organisation's name was changed to The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) to reflect that development.
Efficiency, transparency and demonstrating impact were important guiding principles from the start.
Efficiency meant Rob approached a series of organisations and asked if they would help pro bono, politely suggesting they didn't need $5 as much as two children in Africa, and elsewhere, needed a bednet. They agreed. Many organisations, particularly PwC, Citi and Microsoft who helped from the start in significant ways, have been important supporters and none has stepped aside since AMF started. The result is AMF has very few costs and those it does have are covered by a small group of private donors.
Transparency meant all donations were, and are, listed on the website and linked to the specific distribution for which they fund nets.
Demonstrating impact meant showing the nets were distributed as promised, with photos and video, and has developed today into collecting and publishing monthly malaria data to track the impact of the nets.
Malaria kills half a million people every year and 400 million fall ill. Before bed nets were made available, it was three or more times that. Nets are a proven intervention - a more effective a way of saving lives than any other. There is still a long way to go and every death from malaria is preventable.
Given the scale of this problem, malaria is clearly a humanitarian issue.
Malaria is also an economic issue. Malaria is the single greatest drag on the economy of Africa. Every $1m spent fighting malaria efficiently improves the GDP - the wealth - of the continent of Africa by $12m. Fighting malaria is a very good investment.