Malaria’s Toll Continues

Word came from Zimbabwe this week that the daughter of United Methodist Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa died on Tuesday of malaria. While the disease wreaks havoc among the poor, it’s clear its reach is far wider.

A United Methodist bishop recently told me in Africa he had to step down from presiding at his annual conference because he had an episode of the disease. He also reported the death of a close family member to malaria.

The attention the disease has gotten in the past few months is positive but the short attention span that we in television-saturated Northern societies hold tends to lead us to quickly turn to other more current causes.

Such a shift in attention could be a fatal. A sustained effort is necessary to get this disease under control, if not eradicated. Any loss of momentum can give the parasite time to adjust and become even more resistant to residual sprays and medications.

It’s also common to assume that mere coverage translates into progress against a disease. It doesn’t, of course. Sustained efforts an all fronts–vaccine research, clinical trials, net distribution, education, water management, environmental cleanup and health care access all must be attended to if the disease is to be reduced. We are a long way from that desired state.

The news and personal testimony of those who live in areas where the disease continues to take its toll makes this clear.

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