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George Clooney: I got malaria in Sudan

Actor George Clooney says he contracted malaria during a recent visit to Sudan while lending his support to the referendum there.

George Clooney
Actor George Clooney attends voting ceremonies during the first day of voting for an independence referendum in the southern Sudanese city of Juba on January 9, 2011. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Actor George Clooney contracted malaria while visiting Sudan earlier in January to lend his support to a referendum on independence for the South, he said in an interview to be aired Friday.

Clooney, 49, who has been working to ensure a peaceful election in Sudan, joked that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir may be to blame for the malaria-infested mosquitos that bit the American star. Bashir is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

CNN talk show host Piers Morgan, who took over for Larry King, asked Clooney if he thought the president had "detached a detail of sickly, vengeful mosquitoes to target you whenever you arrive?"

Clooney responded, in jest, "Yeah, I think so," according to an advanced copy of excerpts.

The actor has recovered from the disease, and used it as an opportunity to push for more support for those in the developing world who die from malaria every day.

"This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa can be reduced to a bad 10 days instead of a death sentence," he told TMZ.

Voting has ended in the south, and the region now awaits the results, which are expected to favor independence from the north. Despite fears of violence, the voting was largely peaceful.

Watch this video in which GlobalPost senior correspondent for Africa Tristan McConnell describes the celebratory mood in the country this week.

Clooney made two trips to Sudan in three months to lend his celebrity status to support free and fair elections in the divided and often unstable country.

“I keep coming back to keep the attention on it,” Clooney told GlobalPost during his recent trip. “I’ve always felt as if the more light that is shed on a subject, the less ability for humanitarian crisis to happen. I’ve been committed to [Sudan] since 2005 and you don’t abandon a place when it’s going through its changes.”

While in Juba — where he likely contracted malaria — Clooney gave support to southern Sudan President Salva Kiir. Clooney said he was optimistic that Kiir could build a functioning government.

"It's been 55 years of marching, fighting and dying," Clooney said at a press conference with U.S. Senator John Kerry and John Prendergast, director of the anti-genocide group Enough Project. "Today marks the first step toward independence. It's not often in your lifetime that you get to see the birth of a nation. It's an honor for me to be here. I'm proud to stand among such brave individuals."

Clooney has been working on a Google-powered satellite surveillance project that aims to prevent abuses in Sudan or at least gather evidence if Bashir is brought before the ICC.

Every year there are about 250 million cases of malaria and nearly a million deaths around the world, according to the World Health organization. In Africa, 20 percent of childhood deaths are due to effects of the disease. The unpleasant but treatable disease affects about 30,000 international travelers a year.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/africa/110120/george-clooney-malaria-sudan