On Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden malaria became a high profile cause. Hip Hop founder Fab Five Freddy was on New York Knicks TV along with Lance Laifer, the founder of Dunk Malaria, to raise awareness of the disease. Around the Garden kids and adults alike were given the chance to dunk a mini-basketball in a mini-hoop, some donating cash as they went. And with the game going into double overtime everyone had plenty of time to dunk a ball.
From last weekend to this Sunday a unique initiative is underway, the brain child of Laifer, a hedge fund manager, and founder of Hedge Funds Against Malaria, to get as many people as possible throughout the world shooting baskets to raise awareness of the catastrophe that is malaria. Tens of millions of children will die from this disease, which is completely preventable, over the next ten years. Laifer says that the "natural tie in between basketball and malaria is basketball nets and bednets."
Readers will know that Africa Fighting Malaria, which I co-direct, is not a big fan of bed nets (as opposed to spraying insecticides, such as DDT, indoors), but it's a much easier sell to get people interested in malaria via bed nets than a straight argument over DDT. And it's not as if nets don't work -- they can and do -- so we're more than happy to go along and help the initiative. The Hedge Fund community has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for bed net purchases and distribution with the help of the Free Africa Foundation, and it is broadening its work into other anti-malaria activities. But the hedge fund community cannot do it alone and media work like the Dunk malaria stunt can bring in far more supporters to fight malaria.
"We strongly believe that the citizens of the world shouldn't be able to sleep while so many defenseless children are sent to their death by a mosquito. For this reason we are conducting the worlds first 24 hour dunk malariathon in NYC on March 19," continues Laifer.
Laifer wants anyone and everyone to take one shot on a basket anywhere in the world. "Shoot a hoop on a basket in your driveway and have in mind that you want to save a child's life. If you don't have a hoop in your driveway, go to a friend's house or a gym. If you can't make it to anywhere that has a basket, then shoot a virtual basket at Africa Fighting Malaria -- this is also a great place to research the disease and its pernicious effects on the children of the world," he concludes.
The partners are wide and varied ranging from the New York Knicks and the United Nations (you can view the press conference here) to World Swim for Malaria and it's easy to donate to the purchase of bed nets there. Other groups involved include the Malaria Foundation International, The Free Africa Foundation and Be the Cause -- for a full list of charities see this link.
If Sunday is too soon for you then AFM will be gearing up for a DC malariathon with Laifer on April 24, the day before World Malaria Day. Anyone wanting to participate can email me at email@example.com.
Malaria is one of the few diseases that is cheaply and easily prevented, but unlike HIV has no effective lobby or celebrity backers. Its continuing devastating impact should be a cause for anger and action, and if Fab Five Freddy has anything to do with it we might just start to see Hip Hop Against Malaria. Come on Kanye West; start bitching about something really important!
Roger Bate is a Director of Africa Fighting Malaria and a Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.