|Africa University to blanket continent against malaria|
Bishop Nkulu Ntambo and Fanuel Tagwira of Africa
University display an Insect Shield blanket to be distributed through
the United Methodist-related school in Zimbabwe. UMNS photos by Linda
By Linda Green*
April 14, 2008 | JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (UMNS)
Africa University is partnering with a U.S.-based manufacturer to
blanket the continent with specialized blankets that ward off
disease-carrying mosquitoes and pests.
(From left) Board members Lenora Thompson, the Rev.
Heinrich Meinhardt, Roar Fotland, Thokozile Chitepo, Caroline Njuki and
Wee-Li Tan listen to a presentation.
The Africa University board of directors, during its March 24-28
meeting, applauded the university's collaboration with the United
Converting Co. LLC of Silver Spring, Md., to distribute Insect Shield
blankets to regions of Africa in the fight against malaria and other
The university's development office is negotiating with the manufacturer about the terms.
"We see the blanket as something we can run with because we have
students coming from 22 different countries who can extend the blankets
to their countries so that our people can be protected from malaria and
other diseases," said Fanuel Tagwira, interim vice chancellor of the
United Methodist-related university.
Bishop Nkulu Ntambo, university chancellor, called the blanket a "life-saver" and "the hope of people."
"It is better to prevent than cure," Ntambo said. "Africa has been
facing a lot, and malaria has been the first killer. It affects our
morality, our belief and our health."
In Africa, malaria has had the worst impact on the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and its 60 million people, said Ntambo, who is
from the Congo. He noted that a lack of education fosters a belief that
malaria is the result of sorcery and witchcraft and divides many
"This blanket which will prevent and give hope to people is more than
a living life. Congo will enjoy it more than anyone. Congo will have
hope," he said.
The blanket initiative will not compete with Nothing But Nets,
according to James Salley, the university's vice chancellor for
Nothing But Nets is an anti-malaria campaign of The United Methodist
Church and other partners to buy and distribute $10 insecticide-treated
sleeping nets for families in Africa. During its first year, the
campaign raised more than $18 million for the nets.
The blanket, when slept under or placed around a person, wards off
pests such mosquitoes, ticks, lice, fleas and flies. The product has
been tested in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salley said.
"The blanket takes the fight to the next level," said Bishop Ernest
Lyght, chairman of the Africa University Advisory Development Committee.
University leaders say the blanket is another tool in the fight against controllable diseases.
"It is better to prevent than cure." –Bishop Nkulu Ntambo
"It is not a competition," Tagwira said. "Our idea is to help our
communities, and anything that will help to improve our communities and
eradicate malaria can only complement instead of compete with."
Donors are being solicited to purchase blankets adorned with the
university's logo for the school's 1,300 students and staff and for the
children and staff at the nearby Old Mutare Mission, a United Methodist
ministry that daily draws nearly 4,500 people to its grounds.
"The blanket is going to help us to play a large part in the eradication of malaria on the African continent," Tagwira said.
For more information, contact the Africa University Development Office at (615) 340-7438.
Challenges in a crisis economy
In his first report to the board, Tagwira said his first three months
as interim vice chancellor have been challenging and rewarding. He
spoke of meetings with students and staff about their concerns and of
his invitation to them to take active roles in finding solutions to the
challenges confronting the Pan-African school.
"We all understand that pragmatic and prudent decisions must be taken
as we make our way in this harsh and unpredictable economic
environment," he said.
Zimbabwe is a country in flux economically and politically under embattled President Robert Mugabe.
The Associated Press reports that a third of the population depends
on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80
percent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than
100,000 percent, and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water,
electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35
Tagwira said the university is trying to fulfill its mission, but
said the country's crisis environment has had a critical impact on the
academic staffing of two of the university's largest
disciplines––humanities and social sciences and management and
administration. The university is using part-time teachers to fill
vacancies left by staff who left for more lucrative positions. The
school also has begun a payment plan to retain academic staff.
In other actions, the board learned that:
- The university's telephone and electrical systems are being upgraded;
- Some residence halls are scheduled for renovation;
- Students have implemented a campaign to help purchase a bus to transport them to the city and other local sites;
- Two students are in an exchange program with Kalamazoo (Mich.) College and Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio, through August;
- Academic Search Inc., based in Washington D.C., has been chosen to help the university find its next vice chancellor;
- The university will launch a Master of Intellectual Property degree program in May;
- Africa University and Japan International Christian
University have entered a student "Invitee Program" agreement in which
two students from the faculty of humanities and social sciences will
attend one year of studies in Japan before returning to Africa
University to complete their degree requirements;
- Bishop Woodie White will deliver the June 7 commencement
address for the university's 14th graduation ceremony, where 314
students are scheduled to receive degrees.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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