Flash mob, giant mosquito
help delegates observe World Malaria Day

By the Rev. Judy Worthington, pastor of Bethel Belle Haven charge, Eastern Shore

On World Malaria Day General Conference was abuzz with activity. A flash mob of youth invaded the conference worship service dressed in blood-red t-shirts with the logo: “Imagine No Malaria.” A 6-foot tall, black mosquito buzzed in their midst, bringing to our attention the real threat that malaria holds for much of our world.

Infants and children under five-years of age and pregnant women are at risk of dying from malaria. Those older than five years are often able to survive the disease but are at risk of loss of income and productivity due the chronic and debilitating nature of the disease.

Since the launch of Nothing-but-Nets in 2008, The United Methodist Church has learned a great deal about the needs of communities subjected to this deadly disease. As a result the initiative, which started as an effort to supply bed nets, has expanded and become more comprehensive. The goal of the new campaign, Imagine No Malaria, is to eliminate malaria deaths by 2015.

A costumed mosquito menaces a dance mob during a World Malaria Day
observance on April 25 at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in
Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Imagine No Malaria. Imagine… a world in which no infant or child ever dies because of malaria. Imagine… a world where no pregnant woman dies from the disease. Imagine… a world where NO ONE ever dies from this disease. We, the United Methodist Church, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and regional governments are helping to make it happen. Through Imagine no Malaria, The United Methodist Church and its partners hope to restructure health delivery systems to deliver the message of “NO MALARIA” across nations. By partnering with local governments the campaign hopes to distribute treated bed nets, educate the public to know where to go when children get sick and to provide effective treatment.

Imagine No Malaria has three distinct initiatives aimed at eliminating malaria deaths:
1. Train Community Health Workers:
Community Health Workers will take the lead in educating their communities about the disease; the importance of using bed-nets; and where to go to receive treatment. The Community Health Workers will also be part of a door-to-door campaign to educate and inform their communities.
2. Establish Community Health Clinics for treatment of those who have malaria.
This second tier of the No Malaria campaign will provide affordable and effective treatment through community health clinics to those who are infected.
3. Establish 12 Health Boards of trained and equipped indigenous leaders to oversee the malaria program in Africa.

To be successful each country’s malaria program relies on the ability to effectively plan, organize, and implement its program at the community level so that it is a community-led, community driven initiative.

According to Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, leader of the West Pennsylvania Annual Conference, “The United Methodist Church’s malaria clinics have become the most trusted delivery system across the continent of Africa. New churches are forming across Africa because of the awareness of the malaria mission by The United Methodist Church.”

Bishop John K. Yambasu, episcopal leader of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, takes very seriously the responsibility of the church in Sierra Leone to help in the campaign. Earlier this year the Sierra Leone Annual Conference took a special offering for Imagine No Malaria. Bishop Yambasu said, "Truly, we all have an important role in this fight against the killer disease, malaria. Imagine No Malaria is changing lives in many ways in Sierra Leone.”

Since the start of the Imagine No Malaria campaign, $20.2 million has been raised, 850,000 bed nets have been distributed and 5,000 health workers have been trained. To date the initiative has seen tremendous results. When the campaign was started the statistics were that a person died every 30 seconds from malaria. Today that rate has been halved to every 60 seconds. That is a tremendous achievement already but there is still a long way to go. A goal of raising $75-100 million has been set. “Our goal of ending malaria deaths is bold and ambitious,” Bishop Bickerton said, “but when we stand together as United Methodists, God can do far more than we can possibly imagine.”

To learn more or find out how you can help, go to: www.imaginenomalaria.org


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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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