United Against Malaria and CECAFA: Protecting fans through football

Guest Posting by Bremen Leak, Voices for a Malaria-Free Future, Bamako Office Johns Hopkins University – Center for Communication Programs

uam-cecafa-sm.jpgThe 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa may be over, but Africa is still fanatic about football.

That’s why the United Against Malaria partnership—forged ahead of the World Cup to raise awareness about malaria through football—continues to fill stadia and airwaves across the continent with critical messages about malaria prevention and treatment. Today it’s the humanitarian face of the CECAFA (short for the Counsel of Eastern and Central African Football Associations), organizer of Africa’s oldest football tournament and the year’s biggest football competition since the World Cup.

A 12-team tournament lasting 16 days, the CECAFA Challenge Cup has drawn as many as 60,000 fans per game since its started on Nov. 27 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. These fans are primarily men, considered the decision-makers and breadwinners of Tanzania.

To reach this key demographic, Voices for a Malaria-Free Future, through Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—a founding partner of UAM, has joined forces with CECAFA and local beverage maker Tusker to bring attention to the region’s deadly malaria statistics, one football game at a time.

In Tanzania, for example, malaria claims some 80,000 lives each year—almost one in ten of all malaria-related deaths in Africa. In the long run, those deaths rob football clubs of talent, vitality, and World Cup victory, which is why CECAFA’s chair, Leodegar Tenga, announced last week that CECAFA and UAM “shall be partners forever, until we eradicate malaria.” As a result, five additional CECAFA football federations have since joined the campaign.

The official support of CECAFA and the tireless efforts of Tenga have helped UAM continue to educate fans, inform the media, and engage business and political leaders. As the opening ceremony began, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete joined Tenga on the field to greet the UAM ball boys during the opening ceremony.

Throughout the tournament, UAM banners will fly on the field and in the parking lot. Players, ball boys, team escorts, and officials will wear UAM T-shirts or uniforms. And all printed programs will feature simple messages labeled “winning moves to beat malaria, protect your family, stay healthy, and save money.” These include sleeping under a long-lasting insecticide-treated net every night, visiting a health center for malaria testing and treatment when sick, and encouraging pregnant women to seek antenatal care.

More information on UAM and CECAFA may be found online at www.unitedagainstmalaria.org and www.cecafa.net

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