AN adventurer who raced 160 miles across the Sahara desert and spent 49 days rowing in the Atlantic Ocean has failed his toughest mission yet – to make his way from London to Edinburgh.
Heavy snowfall over the weekend meant that Ben Fogle – who presented the BBC’s Animal Park and Wild In Africa – was unable to travel between the two capitals to attend the launch of the 50p Life Change Appeal.
The campaign is being led by a new Scots charity to raise awareness of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) overseas.
Developing World Health estimates that almost one sixth of the world’s population is affected by the top seven preventable parasitic and bacterial infections that can cause death and physical deformity.
The 50 pence appeal is being supported by Dundee-born actor Brian Cox, Scots singer-songwriter Darius and Ben Fogle.
But severe weather conditions across the country caused airport closures and disruptions to the East Coast main train line, which stopped the explorer making it to his destination.
Ben, 37, was diagnosed with Leishmaniasis, a potentially fatal skin-eating parasite bug, while filming in the Peruvian Jungle.
The disease threatens around 350 million people in 88 countries around the world and as many as 12 million are believed to be infected, with up to two million new cases occurring every year.
He said: “I underwent two courses of treatment and though painful and unpleasant, I was incredibly lucky to have access to the medicine and world class tropical health care in the UK.
“Many people overseas aren’t so lucky and that is why I wholeheartedly and passionately support this 50p Life Change Appeal.
“50p really could change a life – I was lucky – 50p will ensure others are too.”
Darius was also unable to make the launch, after taking advice to stay in Glasgow in case the weather takes another turn for the worst.
Colin Hutchison, a spokesman for the charity’s launch at the Royal College of Physicians, said: “We told Darius just to stay where he was – there’s no point risking it when it’s like this.
Emmy award-winning actor Brian Cox recently returned from Africa where he was filming a documentary about Scottish missionary David Livingstone.
He witnessed some of the “devastation” that the diseases can cause.
He said: “There are over 1.4 billion people affected by NTDs, 90 per cent of the disease burden of these is in Africa where they are responsible for about 500,000 deaths annually.
“Having recently visited Africa, I’ve personally witnessed the devastation that these diseases cause.
“It’s in all our power to help tackle the scourge of neglected tropical diseases.
Brian said children are worst affected as they play in streams where the parasites often live on snails in the water.
He said: “Whilst children are the most vulnerable, these diseases cause human misery to millions due to social stigma, deformities, chronic and debilitating pain.
“For as little as a 50p donation, a child in Africa will receive treatment for all seven of the most common NTDs for an entire year.
“We can also continue to develop new treatments for those NTDs, such as African sleeping sickness, which urgently need them.”
For more information visit www.50pence.org