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Florida faith leaders join in fight against malaria

United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton challenges Miami-area pastors to join in the Nothing But Nets campaign against malaria. UMNS photos by John Gordon.

By John Gordon*
April 25, 2007 | MIAMI (UMNS)

Nearly 70 people representing more than 20 churches in greater Miami attend the Faith Leaders' Breakfast in observance of Africa Malaria Day.

Leaders of about two dozen churches in the Miami area learned on Africa Malaria Day how $10 can help save the life of a child in Africa.

Nearly 70 United Methodist pastors attended a Faith Leaders' Breakfast on April 25 to find out more about the Nothing But Nets campaign, a partnership involving the people of The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, Sports Illustrated, the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, Major League Soccer’s MLS W.O.R.K.S. and other groups. The meeting was hosted by Christ Church United Methodist in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

Nothing But Nets has raised $5.5 million to send insecticide-treated sleeping nets for children in Africa. The nets are considered one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent malaria, which kills 1 million people a year -- most of which are children, according to United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton.

"I get blown away when I read … repeatedly of the number of people who die every year," Bickerton told the faith leaders. "Every 30 seconds, a child dies."

Former Miami Heat basketball coach Stan Van Gundy lends his support to the cause.

The breakfast was held in conjunction with Africa Malaria Day, designed to raise awareness of the deadly disease. At the same time, the United States observed Malaria Awareness Day for the first time.

A $10 donation will send a net to Africa and provide community workers to help families learn how to use them. Bickerton said he hopes malaria someday will be eliminated like polio.

"Nothing But Nets is our opportunity," he said. "We can prevent a killer disease."

The Florida event kicked off a multi-city tour to promote grassroots awareness of the malaria problem and encourage church groups, sports teams and others to raise money for the campaign.

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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