Malaria–The Preventable Scourge

Every thirty seconds malaria takes the life
of a child around the world. Seven of nine deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
The tragedy is compounded by a stark reality–malaria is preventable. These
deaths are not beyond our ability to prevent them.

Every thirty seconds malaria takes the life of a child someplace in the world. Seven of nine deaths occur in Africa. The tragedy is compounded by a stark reality–malaria is preventable. These deaths need not occur. We have the ability to prevent death by malaria. We have the ability to eradicate malaria.

The Time Global Health Summit, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is addressing this harsh reality and looking at solutions. It’s a worthy and hopeful summit bringing together community-based organizers, health specialists, politicians and other leaders, and non-governmental organizations to share information about prevention and treatment.

On the first day of the Summit, The United Methodist Church is announcing a community-based pilot program to be implemented in Sierra Leone beginning Dec. 5. The pilot will be replicated in Liberia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe as funding becomes available.

A key component of the community-based program is providing health information to people in cities and towns within reach of radio. Radio is a key medium for distributing information people can use to improve their quality of life.

In partnership with The Sierra Leone Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, the health program will be implemented by the Health and Welfare Unit of the General Board of Global Ministries. The community-based radio infrastructure will be implemented by United Methodist Communications.

An important part of interpreting the reality of malaria’s toll is to inform people in the developed world how they can help in this life-saving effort. Assisting in the purchase of bed nets, radios and medicines are among the ways we can help. In addition, medical professionals and others can volunteer to staff clinics and prevention programs when the time is right.

Malaria is not a complex public health issue. It is a relatively simple disease to prevent through mosquito control, protection and treatment. The technologies are available and well-tested. Bed nets treated with mosquito repellant are effective and affordable. Medications are formulated and effective. Information is available and can be disseminated with relative ease.

The United Methodist Church has infrastructure in place. The church has been in Africa for 105 years and has functioning hospitals and health clinics situated across the continent. United Methodist congregations in Africa are among the fastest growing in the denomination. Beyond the health infrastructure, these churches are also located in cities and villages throughout the continent and they represent an invaluable infrastructure that can be mobilized to end the suffering and death.

Malaria is a health problem that can be addressed. Progress can be measured in the most important metric available–the saving of human lives. We can put an end to the scourge of malaria in Africa and Asia, as surely as malaria is contained and controlled in the developed world. It’s a matter of will, resources and commitment. The Time Global Health Summit will identify the means and the capacity of the world to bring life to children who otherwise face unnecessary infection and death. Let’s hope it awakens the world, the church and people of good will everywhere to malaria, the preventable scourge.

General Secretary R. Randy Day, General Board of Global Ministries, Bishop Jao Soame Machado, leader of the Mozambique Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, Dr. Cherian Thomas, director of the Health and Welfare Unit of the GBGM, and I will attend the Summit.
I intend to blog from the Time Global Health Summit over the next four days.

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