Bednets, Malaria and Poverty

The critique of Nothing but Nets falls short of
considering the whole picture.

The critique of Nothing But Nets, the grassroots organization providing bed nets and training to African mothers to prevent malaria falls short for several reasons. First, all the materials for Nothing But Nets that I’ve had something to do with does, in fact, state that several methods should be employed to protect children from mosquitos that bear the disease. These include residual spraying, wearing long-sleeved shirts in the evening, cleaning up water breeding grounds, using bed nets and providing training in proper use.

In addition, the global health initiative of The United Methodist Church has always stated Nothing But Nets is one component of a much larger and more comprehensive effort to tackle all the diseases of poverty–malaria, TB, HIV/AIDs. To focus on one disease, or one methodology for ending these diseases is inadequate. Beyond treating disease, The United Methodist Church has worked to reduce poverty and has interpreted and educated church members about the need for direct intervention with people on the ground, providing the necessary resources, including bed nets, medications, training community-based health care workers, building clinics and hospitals, providing information by radio and other communications channels, and working to change public policy in the U.S. and globally.

The church has been active in combatting poverty and providing healing for 160 years in Africa. We’re not newcomers to this work, nor naive in carrying it out. In fact, the church is present with people in places that others haven’t yet recognized. And we work in conditions that others shy away from and we don’t seek media attention for validation. We’re not expatriates, we’re local people on the ground. Many of our brother and sisters stay in areas that expatriates must leave because of danger or other hardship.

We’re rebuilding hospitals, schools and universities that have been destroyed by insurgencies and civil conflict. They’ve been destroyed more than once and we’ve rebuilt more than once. We didn’t just stumble into this, we’ve been doing it for a long, long time. We believe in staying power.

And we know that nets are not enough. They are one intervention among many. They work. They are immediately accessible. They are affordable. Moreover, nets have provided us the opportunity to raise awareness in the U.S. and other parts of the world to a need that has gone unaddressed for decades. Children didn’t just start dying of malaria, we’ve known about it and heard calls from our leader in Africa for years. And we’ve sought to bring it to global awareness. Nets are giving the handle to do this.

But we don’t stop with talk about nets. We talk about poverty and ask why people are still dying from diseases that have been conquered in the affluent world. We present our people with information about how to help, from providing nets to volunteering to studying public policy and advocating for change. We are working to mobilize 13 million United Methodists to make global health a priority concern for the foreseeable future. We know there is no short-term fix to tackling the diseases of poverty. We know we’ll have to fight these diseases one child at a time, one day at a time until the job is done. We are asking the people of The United Methodist Church to engage this struggle because we believe it’s the right thing to do and in following the teachings of Jesus who was known as the Great Healer, it’s essential to our faithfulness.

Join the conversation!

Post a reply in the form below.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image