|Delegation delivers nets to malaria-infested township|
The Rev. Ianther Mills prays with a Zimbabwean child
receiving an insecticide-treated bed net to help prevent malaria. Mills
was part of a team from the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference
distributing 7,125 nets as part of the Nothing But Nets campaign. UMNS
photos by Shaun Lane.
By Shaun A. Lane*
June 28, 2007 | CHAKOWA TOWNSHIP, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
Herbert Mlambo smiles as bed nets are distributed at Chakowa United Methodist Church in Chakowa Township in Zimbabwe.
Malaria robbed Herbert Mlambo of his family.
The devastating disease that kills one person every 30 seconds took
one of his two sons, two grandsons, one granddaughter and his only
sister. Another grandson is now battling for his life.
Mlambo has lost count of the many friends and relatives who also have
died of malaria. He estimates the number to be in the hundreds.
The 53-year-old resident of Chakowa Township in Zimbabwe says he used
to be a bitter man over malaria. But his attitude changed on June 11 as
he quietly stood at a fence near the Chakowa United Methodist Church.
"I thought that no one cared about my small town," Mlambo said. "We
are dying a slow, steady death. Malaria has really destroyed our
population and the families here. … I thought we would all eventually
die of it. But it looks like some help has arrived. This is beautiful to
Help arrived in the form of a blue net.
The Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference joined with the
United Nations Foundation for an 11-day mission trip to distribute
7,125 insecticide-treated sleeping nets in and around Mutare, Zimbabwe.
The 13-member team of Baltimore-Washington pastors, staff members and
volunteers delivered nets to more than 15 communities. Many pastors
prayed with recipients as they received their nets.
Send a net, save a life
The nets are the instrument of Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots
campaign to fight malaria with sleeping nets. The people of The United
Methodist Church are one of the founding partners of the campaign.
"I thought that no one cared about my small town. … But it looks like some help has arrived. This is beautiful to see."
As Bishop John R. Schol of the Baltimore-Washington Conference and
delegation members distributed the nets, women and children danced and
sang to express gratitude.
"It’s exhilarating for The United Methodist Church to be able to
touch people’s lives, knowing that they will live longer because of what
we’re doing," Schol said. "On the other hand, it leaves a lump in my
throat knowing that so much more needs to be done."
While malaria has been eradicated in the United States, between 350
and 500 million people, primarily in Africa, are still infected
annually. Nearly 3,000 people die from malaria every day in Africa, and
75 percent of those are children younger than age 5. According to the
2005 World Health Organization World Malaria Report, only 3 percent of
African children under 5 sleep under an insecticide-treated net, a
measure that substantially reduces the chance of contracting the disease
since mosquitoes transmit malaria primarily at night.
The economic impact is crippling as well, costing Africa about $12
billion a year in lost productivity due to illness and death from
"It is a critical situation," said Blessing Zimunya, who works at the
Chitora Clinic of The United Methodist Church in Chitora. "We are
thankful for the kindness of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. These
nets will help. But we need more help. We need more nets than what we
have. There are still many children who will go without."
Bed nets work in two ways: They prevent mosquitoes from biting during
the night and spreading the disease, and the insecticide on them also
"The nets are a much better remedy than what we had before," said
Wardlove Dhlakama, a nurse at the Chitora Clinic. "Before we used a
special soap and cream to try to prevent the mosquitoes from biting
people, but that is very expensive and we cannot afford to do that for
"It was also not very effective all of the time," she said. "The nets
will do a much better job of preventing malaria infections and
hopefully saving lives. And the children will sleep more comfortably.
But we need more kindness like this."
According to the United Nations Foundation, half of Zimbabwe’s
population lives in malaria-prone areas. Increasing resistance of the
malaria parasite to drugs has contributed to increasing outbreaks of
malaria epidemics––one of the primary reasons the nets are among the
most effective ways to prevent transmission.
The Rev. Victoria Starnes hands a young boy a bed net, as the Rev. Ernest Lyles looks on.
"I wish I had known about the nets earlier and knew what some of the
signs were," said Patricia Chikaka of her 2-year-old daughter’s death
from malaria. "She would have slept in it every night. I have two other
children and I will use it for them. The mosquitoes are very bad,
especially during the summer. It is hard to sleep. Maybe we will sleep
well now and not worry. That will be a blessing."
Blessing to be a blessing
At the Munyarari United Methodist Clinic, the Rev. Kendrick Weaver of
St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Bowie, Md., said it was as much
a blessing for him to give out the nets as it was for others to receive
"When they walk up to you and you see the gratitude in their eyes,
you immediately want to do more," Weaver said. "Some of them dropped to
the ground right in front of me and just gave thanks. It was an
incredible experience––one that I will never forget. To directly
contribute to a life-saving cause like this in the name of Jesus is
truly a blessing."
"To directly contribute to a life-saving cause like this in the name of Jesus is truly a blessing."
--The Rev. Kendrick Weaver
People in clinics, villages and churches said there is still much to
be done. Many people at mission stops were turned away because there
were not enough nets for everyone. But instead of being angry, they
"We just hope that the pastors remember us and come back," Chikaka
said. "We need them to pray for us and continue to bring nets. We thank
Mlambo, the man who seemingly lost everyone close to him because of
malaria, said he gives thanks as well. As nets were distributed in front
of the Chakowa church, he stood motionless behind a fence and watched
from a distance.
"This is a great day for them," he said, pointing to women and
children receiving their nets. "I don’t want to get in the way. I know
all of them. It’s good to see them happy. I just want to stand here and
enjoy what I am seeing."
*Lane is director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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Nothing But Nets
Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church
Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
Baltimore-Washington Zimbabwe Partnership
United Nations Foundation