World Malaria Day: A History of Success, High Expectations for the Future
by Michelle Scott
Fort Worth, TX, April 26, 2008--On the first annual World Malaria Day, United Methodists at General Conference gathered to celebrate The United Methodist Church's contributions to the eradication of this preventable but deadly disease. General Conference is The United Methodist Church's top legislative meeting that occurs every four years.
At the conference's April 25 morning plenary, Bishop Thomas Bickerton shared the creative ways in which United Methodists have been engaged in the fight against malaria through the Nothing But Nets campaign. Bishop Bickerton is the president of the United Methodist Commission on Communication and bishop of the Western Pennsylvania episcopal area.
The United Methodist Church was a founding partner in the campaign to purchase insecticide-treated nets that are distributed through the United Nations Foundation's network. United Methodists have contributed $4 million of the more than $20 million raised for Nothing But Nets so far.
Nothing But Nets is the newest component of the church's fight against malaria. The Community-Based Malaria Control Program, launched in 2005, provides education, medication, and mosquito nets to prevent and treat malaria.
Community-Based Programs Work
The program has empowered United Methodist hospitals, clinics, and community-outreach projects in seven countries to respond to malaria through programs that focus on community health. Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has noted a reduction in malaria cases since the Malaria Control Program began.
In Zambezi, Zambia, people are now experiencing life without the burden of malaria. Incidences of malaria have been reduced dramatically through the Community-Based Malaria Control Program. Those who had been sick with malaria every two to three weeks have now gone for months without sickness. The initial program assisted 300 people. Plans are in place to reach out to all 5,000 of Zambezi's citizens to increase the effectiveness of the program.
The next step in The United Methodist Church's fight against malaria is the Global Health Initiative—global health is one of the four foci of the church for the next quadrennium. Bishop Bickerton also announced during the morning plenary a $5 million grant from the United Nations Foundation with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to kick off the initiative. The $5 million will be used for a fundraising and educational campaign to leverage approximately $100 million toward eradicating the diseases of poverty: malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.
Expectations for the Future
The Global Ministries Health and Welfare unit is positioned to be the hands and feet of the church through its hospitals and programs. With a long history of successful health ministry, the unit is gearing up to create an even bigger impact on the diseases of poverty. "We are concerned not only with malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other preventable diseases but also with the poverty that makes them so pervasive," said the Bishop Felton E. May, interim general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, at a World Malaria Day press conference following the morning plenary. "How can we address the issues of poverty and in so doing make malaria history?"
Also at the press conference were the Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary for the United Methodist Commission on Communication, and Bishop Bickerton. All three leaders in the denomination's Global Health Initiative spoke of the collaboration needed to successfully address global health issues in the coming years. "We ought to have a posture of expectation," said Bishop Bickerton in regards to the possibilities for the future.
How You Can Help
Checks can be mailed to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance number and name on the memo line of your check. Online gifts can be made at www.givetomission.org.
To learn more about Nothing But Nets, go to www.nothingbutnets.net .
* Michelle Scott is the communications director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).