On September 24, 2014, New Mexico State’s Head basketball Coach Marvin Menzies [San Diego State’s Head basketball coach Justin Hutson] joined a team of University basketball coaches from across the United States and traveled to Dakar, Senegal to attend the Sports for Community Summit.

Implemented by Langley Sports Management, the Sports for Community Summit is “a unique worldwide professional development platform that combines networking, sports clinics, and informative panels.” In each offered session, coaches share how they can improve and positively impact their communities through sports.  

On Friday evening September 26th, the group joined several coaches from Dakar club and national basketball teams to meet with local NGO Speak Up Africa and discuss the link between athletics, health and development, and how US Universities can engage in behavior and advocacy for child health. Speak Up Africa is a Dakar headquartered advocacy and communications organization focused on the amelioration of child health throughout the West Africa region, with a particular focus on the prevention and treatment of malaria.

There are approximately 627,000 malaria deaths annually, 77% of these deaths occurring in children under five. There are hundreds of millions of malaria cases worldwide, with 3.4 billion (half of the world’s population) at risk.  Though there has been unprecedented success in treatment, particularly in Senegal where national efforts have resulted in a 62% reduction in incidence nation-wide; without support for continued efforts, the burden could result in massive costs both in human capital and economic growth.

Knowing that more efforts need to be made, Speak Up Africa along with the National Malaria Control Program of Senegal and PATH have joined together to implement the Zero Malaria! Count me in campaign.  This campaign challenges each participant to take responsibility for preventing and treating malaria in their own way, including children and families pledging to sleep under a mosquito net every night, and private sector companies renewing their financial and in-kind commitments to the malaria fight in Senegal.

Recognizing the need to become involved, all coaches joined the lively discussion, which included volunteering to tweet and post malaria messages, and recruiting both American and West and Central Africa players to spread the word through recorded videos. Above all, the consensus was that each individual can do their part and in their own way become a part of malaria elimination in Senegal.