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Church, Global Fund join in malaria fight

 
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6:00 P.M. EST Oct. 1, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)

David Evans, left, manager for non-government donors with the Global Fund, talks during a visit to United Methodist Communications with colleague Nicolas Demey. UMNS photos by Ronny Perry.
David Evans, left, manager for non-government donors with the Global Fund, talks during a visit to United Methodist Communications with colleague Nicolas Demey. UMNS photos by Ronny Perry.
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The first time Nicolas Demey traveled to Africa for his work with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, he met a woman who put his vocation into perspective.

“I went to Eritrea,” he recalled. He and a photographer were supposed to meet with a woman who was living with HIV/AIDS. They discovered the woman’s house had crumbled to the ground, and her son had taken her in.

They learned the woman “was also co-infected with tuberculosis, and she had lost three kids from malaria. So this was one woman whose life was really ravaged by the three diseases,” he said.

The United Methodist Church is in the middle of an effort to raise $75 million through Imagine No Malaria, a portion of which will go to The Global Fund, a recognized global leader in the fight against diseases of poverty. This is the first time the Global Fund will work together with a faith-based organization.

“The fact that we can establish a partnership with The United Methodist Church is really a first for the Global Fund,” said partnerships officer Demey.

Founded in 2002, the Global Fund has committed $19.3 billion to programs addressing AIDS, TB and malaria. The fund is at work in 144 countries.

The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who heads the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is enthusiastic about the collaboration.

The Rev. Cynthia Harvey
The Rev. Cynthia Harvey
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UMCOR has been involved in addressing global health issues throughout much of its 70-year history. According to Harvey, the tasks of the Global Fund and of UMCOR “mirror one another.” Through the church network, she added, we have a trusted health-delivery system that can go “to the end of the road”—even when that road is little more than a narrow dirt path.

“There are places where no one else wants to go, and yet we are there.”

‘The goal is close’

Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who heads the Imagine No Malaria campaign, said that when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000, statistics showed a child under 5 died from malaria every 30 seconds. Today the death rate has slowed to one every 45 seconds in Africa, still an unacceptable situation when talking about a preventable disease, Bickerton said.

The use of bed nets has increased tenfold in the last few years, according to David Hayward Evans, Global Fund manager for non-government donors.

“We believe since about 2002, about 750,000 children’s lives have been saved through the interventions financed by the Global Fund and other international partners,” he said. “And we believe that over the next five years, a further 1 million or so children’s lives can be saved—essentially, that malaria can cease to be a major health problem in these countries.

“We have good medicines for malaria,” Evans continued. “We know bed nets work. We know indoor residual spraying works. With AIDS, we have (antiretroviral drugs) and other measures in education.

“But,” he cautioned, “we need to continue to scale up, particularly on malaria. The goal is close, but we’ve got to close the deal.”

Harvey remembered a visit to United Methodist-related Ganta Hospital in Liberia. She cradled a shivering baby, suffering from pneumonia and malaria.

“You could just see this child gasping for every breath,” Harvey said. With the mother’s permission, she held the baby and prayed for her. And Harvey said she understood in her heart why UMCOR is present.

Left to right, David Evans, Nicolas Demey, the Rev. Cynthia Harvey and the Rev. Larry Hollon discuss The United Methodist Church’s partnership with the Global Fund.
Left to right, David Evans, Nicolas Demey, the Rev. Cynthia Harvey and the Rev. Larry Hollon discuss The United Methodist Church’s partnership with the Global Fund.
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The church network offers a trusted health-delivery system, she added, that can go “to the end of the road”—even when that road is little more than a narrow dirt path.

‘Called to be change agents’

Helping people to make an emotional connection between a disease that no longer exists in the United States and one that annually kills 800,000 children in Africa is a challenge, Evans admits.

Telling the stories and encouraging action turn complacence into compassion.

“We’ve been fighting malaria for 160 years,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, United Methodist Communications’ top executive. “It’s not a new issue, but the ways to combat it have changed.”

“The Global Fund is all about investing the world’s money to save lives,” Demey said, to “give hope to people who otherwise basically have a death sentence hanging above their head.”

Harvey explained the importance of capacity building. “Helping local churches in Africa create health boards,” she said, builds accountability for the health of their communities, encourages medical personnel to take up posts in underserved areas and creates “community-based health-care (volunteer) networks.”

UMCOR is not looking at isolated program areas such as “water and sanitation, or hunger and poverty, or how to improve our clinics,” she continued. Rather, UMCOR seeks to integrate the strategies of those programs in ways that effectively fight diseases of poverty.

Reflecting on Matthew 25, Harvey said, “We are called to be change agents.”When United Methodists learn that a child is dying of a preventable disease like malaria, they are mandated by Wesleyan tradition to take action and work to create change.

To learn more about the Imagine No Malaria campaign and to donate, go to www.imaginenomalaria.org

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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