When United Methodists wrap their hearts around the sobering reality of poverty and disease, we not only grieve with those who are affected, we also spring into action.
Right now, our primary project as a denomination is to work to eliminate malaria from sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2015. This need was identified by African Methodist leaders and the UMC along with our community partners around the globe have developed a comprehensive plan to address it.
However, I know that you may not know much about malaria.
Every 30 seconds, a child in Africa dies a painful death from malaria caused by the bite of a tiny mosquito.
The World Health Organization says that most of the approximately 1 million deaths from malaria reported worldwide in 2006 were African children. Most of them were younger than 5 years of age.
Deaths from malaria are slow and painful. First come headache, tiredness, and weakness in the joints followed by a very high fever. Then the fever’s effect on the brain causes the child’s muscles to jerk, just before death.
The United Methodist Church has been partners in the cause to eliminate malaria for several years. We were among the original partners in the three-year-old net distribution and education effort marketed under the name “Nothing But Nets.” When it was realized that an even more comprehensive approach was needed to eliminate deaths by malaria by 2015, the United Methodist Church was a willing and ready partner. We already have nearly 200 years of experience in African countries as well as congregations filled with clergy and lay leadership ready to be the hands and feet on the ground. Our churches throughout the African continent provide a necessary network for the distribution of nets and provide spaces for training and community education efforts.
There are four components to the plan that has been developed.
Prevention: This includes the distribution and use of bed nets; access to diagnostic tests and medicine; draining standing water; and improving sanitation.
Treatment: This includes improving infrastructure so that people can access the churches, schools, hospitals, and clinics that can provide care and medicines to treat malaria. The UMC will also work to ensure that these facilities have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives.
Education: The UMC has trained thousands of local people in African communities who will work on the ground to teach their communities about avoiding malaria. In Sierra Leone, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Democratic Republic of Congo, these community workers are going door-to-door to deliver bed nets, install them, and teach people how to properly use and care for them.
Communications: The final part of the plan is to upgrade communications networks throughout the continent. New radio stations and hand-crank and solar-powered radios ensure that many people are reached with life-saving information about malaria prevention and treatment.
So, what can you do?
Well, our Missions and Social Justice Team has dedicated 100% of our Christmas Eve Offering to Imagine No Malaria. In addition, the Finance Team has voted to match the Christmas Eve offering with monies from the General Operating Fund so that your contribution on that evening doubles!
I pray that we would join in giving generously on that evening when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the salvation he brings and his life-giving message!