By Diane Degnan
(TAMPA, Fla.(UMNS): On World Malaria Day 2012, Imagine No Malaria, a global health ministry of The United Methodist Church, is celebrating progress against the mosquito-borne disease and calling for a renewed commitment to end preventable deaths from malaria.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization released its 2011 World Malaria Report, which cited a significant reduction in estimated annual malaria deaths – from more than 1 million in 2007 to 655,000 in 2010.
“When the Global Health Initiative was affirmed during General Conference 2008, it was a benchmark moment for the worldwide United Methodist church,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. “It’s humbling to know that United Methodists have had a key role in reducing malaria’s impact by half – from a death every 30 seconds to a death every 60 seconds. More must be done, but our church is committed to this life-saving mission.”
Impact in Africa
The work of Imagine No Malaria is facilitated by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which provides program support and technical expertise to create sustainable systems that help prevent malaria deaths.
To date, widespread support from United Methodists has enabled Imagine No Malaria to distribute 846,000 mosquito nets, train more than 5,000 community health workers and establish 12 health boards to oversee malaria programs in Africa.
The success of each country’s malaria program ultimately depends on the ability of the African people to effectively plan and implement at the community-level. In Sierra Leone, for example, more than 3,500 community health workers were trained to deliver, install and teach proper care for mosquito nets. This newly formed grassroots network also helps communicate messages about preventing malaria and tracks net usage rates to measure longer-term efficacy.
Changing The World
The people of Sierra Leone aren’t just receiving help, they are giving as well. Earlier this year, the Sierra Leone Annual Conference presented Imagine No Malaria with a generous donation following an offering taken at its annual conference event.
“Truly, we all have an important role in this fight against the killer disease, malaria,” Bishop John K. Yambasu, episcopal leader of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, said. “Imagine No Malaria is changing lives in many ways in Sierra Leone.”
The work of Imagine No Malaria has also helped grow the United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. In late 2010, following a nationwide mosquito net distribution in the West African country, Bishop Yambasu received several requests from tribal chiefs to create United Methodist churches where none existed previously.
More than $20.2 Million Raised
As of April 22, 2012, $20,202,778 has been raised for Imagine No Malaria programs in Africa. Donations have come from 61 United Methodist annual (regional) conferences throughout the world. The effort has set a goal to raise $75-$100 million for its role in the global response to alleviate malaria’s burden.
“Our goal of ending malaria deaths is bold and ambitious,” Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, leader of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and chair of the Global Health Initiative, said. “But, when we stand together as United Methodists, God can do more than we can possibly imagine.”
Churches throughout the connection have planned events to raise awareness and funds to support the Imagine No Malaria mission. From youth-led lemonAID stands, to community-wide 5K runs, Imagine No Malaria has captured the spirit and compassion of people of all ages.
One Million Mosquito Nets
Later in 2012, Imagine No Malaria will distribute its millionth mosquito net to a family in Africa. More information will be available as planning details are determined in Africa. Plans are underway for several net distributions on the continent, and more details will be available as they are finalized.
About Imagine No Malaria
Imagine No Malaria is an extraordinary ministry of The United Methodist Church, putting faith into action to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa. With a goal of raising $75 million to improve health infrastructure and empower a sustainable victory over the disease, Imagine No Malaria is our opportunity to rethink how we reach beyond our church, opening doors to those who need it most. For more information, please visit us online at www.ImagineNoMalaria.org.