Protecting Future Generations Against Malaria
By Judith Santiago*
March 25, 2010—Mawazo, 27, lives in a small village around Kamina in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She gave birth to her first child a year after getting married. Over the following six years Mawazo had four miscarriages each preceded by a debilitating high fever, most likely caused by malaria.
Mawazo never had antenatal check ups, so she did not receive the intermittent preventive therapy in pregnancy that would have protected her against malaria. Malaria is a preventable and curable disease transmitted by a female anopheles mosquito that kills an estimated one million children around the globe each year, the vast majority in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women in and around Kamina are now learning how to prevent malaria especially during pregnancy by taking intermittent preventive therapy and using long lasting bed nets.
UMCOR Health is providing grants from the United Methodist Malaria Control Program to educate and empower at-risk communities with information that will protect them against malaria. United Methodists are encouraged to observe World Malaria Day on April 25, 2010 and participate in creating awareness about malaria prevention. The denomination’s “Imagine No Malaria” Campaign, a focus of the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, will also kick off on World Malaria Day.
Education Reduces Malaria Outbreaks
UMCOR Health, with grant support from Nothing But Nets funds raised by the East Ohio Annual Conference, and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, is working to increase knowledge about malaria in the North Katanga Episcopal Area in DRC where the United Methodist Church has health care facilities. More than 7,200 pregnant women in Kamina received education on antenatal care and mothers with pre-school children learned how to protect their families from mosquitoes. 3,000 insecticide treated long lasting nets were distributed to people living in Kamina and in surrounding villages. The project publicized the steps needed to reduce the mosquito population over the local radio, which benefited about 255,000 residents in the Kamina region. Communities also participated in the cleaning of the Kamina River and in the removal of stagnant water to reduce mosquitoes.
“We received many testimonies from people living in the surrounding areas,” said Dr. Kasanka Mwana Ngoie Guy, a Global Ministries' Global Health Initiative missionary working in the North Katanga Annual Conference. “After the students from the United Methodist public school cleaned the Kamina River, the mosquito population decreased.”
Three months after the mosquito net distribution, a survey of malaria cases was conducted at Shungu Memorial United Methodist Health Center, a health facility supported by UMCOR. The survey showed a reduction in malaria cases. In 2008, 912 cases of malaria were reported in Kamina in children under five years old, and in 2009 the number of cases had dropped to 771. In 2009, there was also a reduction of malaria in pregnant woman with 161 reported cases, as compared to 268 cases in 2008.
Malaria and HIV
Malaria is one of the main causes of mortality and morbidity among pregnant women and young children in DRC. According to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, there were 26 million cases of malaria reported in 2006 alone. The disease is responsible for about 50 percent of all outpatient visits, causing great strain on the already limited health care infrastructure of the country. In addition, malaria is thought to contribute indirectly to HIV transmission through unscreened blood transfusions. Persons living with HIV/AIDS are particularly vulnerable to malaria, as the immune system of AIDS patients is already weakened. The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund also helps health facilities like Shungu Memorial to create awareness about HIV/AIDS and to care for those affected by malaria, HIV/AIDS, or tuberculosis with testing, treatment and counseling support.
“Malaria is the first cause of outpatient consultations in pregnant women, said Dr. Kasanka. “It is the main reason why fever leads to miscarriages in the North Katanga Episcopal Area.”
The community health workers from Shungu Memorial advised Mavazo to register for antenatal care for her next pregnancy. She followed their advice and got a treated mosquito net, education and anti-malarials. In August, 2009, Mawazo successfully gave birth to healthy baby.
Community-Based Malaria Program
UMCOR’s Community-Based Malaria Program supports United Methodist and ecumenical health workers and hospitals as they work to combat malaria in their communities. The program provides communities with comprehensive plans to combat malaria that are tailored to their specific needs. This initiative includes community training on basic measures to prevent sickness, free medications and consultations to those who are ill or who are vulnerable to malaria. The program provides treated nets to protect pregnant women and families with young children.
How You Can Help
Give to the Community-Based Malaria Control Program, UMCOR Advance 982009, and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, UMCOR Advance #982345, which supports the fight against HIV/AIDS and provides testing, treatment and counseling support.
*Santiago is the Project Manager for UMCOR Communications