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U.N. Foundation invites church to apply for grant

Mothers with sick children wait to see a doctor at the San Pedro Health Center near Huambo, Angola. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

By United Methodist News Service*
Feb. 12, 2008

Bishop Felton E. May

The United Methodist Church has been invited by the United Nations Foundation to apply for up to $5 million to underwrite a campaign to strengthen its global health ministries.

The fundraising, education and outreach campaign would aim to raise $100 million over three years and especially would support the church's efforts to eradicate malaria and other diseases of poverty in Africa.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, received the invitation in mid-January through the United Nations Foundation, which is helping to facilitate the grant process.

The development was announced Jan. 26 by Bishop Felton E. May, interim chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, in Fort Worth, Texas, where the church will hold its top legislative meeting this spring.

Underwriting support was being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the two church leaders said in making the announcement.

The denomination plans to submit a formal grant proposal in a process that began last May with a letter of inquiry. Both May and Hollon said many details must be worked out regarding the grant, operating the campaign, and ministries that will be supported by the campaign.

"We at the U.N. Foundation feel this is an extraordinary opportunity for the people of The United Methodist Church," said Elizabeth Gore, executive director of partnership alliances for the U.N. Foundation, in a Jan. 15 letter to Huie.

"The immediate success of Nothing But Nets has built momentum among the people of the church in support of eliminating malaria," Gore said in the letter. "It is our goal to work in partnership with you and executive leadership over the coming years to save lives and inspire the launch of an inspirational movement within the church."

Collaborating for global health

The United Methodist Church has long been a key player in the fight against malaria and other diseases of poverty, having operated hospitals, clinics, schools and mission centers across Africa for more than 160 years.

In recent years, the denomination has increasingly sought ways to partner with other organizations––particularly in its global health initiatives––to leverage funding and gain greater access to networks and knowledge that can contribute to substantive global change. Partnering organizations have welcomed the church's on-ground infrastructure already in place to aid vulnerable people.

The Rev. Larry Hollon

In 2006, the people of The United Methodist Church joined with the United Nations Foundation, Sports Illustrated and NBA Cares to become one of the founding partners of Nothing But Nets, a global grassroots effort to prevent malaria through the purchase and distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to children in Africa. The campaign has raised more than $18 million so far. More than a million African children die from malaria every year.

Last October in Seattle, The United Methodist Church was the only faith group represented at the Gates Foundation's Malaria Forum. Both May and Hollon participated in the forum that brought together more than 300 scientists, physicians, public health leaders and top government officials from across the globe.

Global health is one of four areas of focus identified by the denomination as part of its long-term vision. "Our goal is to ultimately create conditions for better health for people all over the world," said Hollon.

May said health ministries continue to be an integral part of the denomination's worldwide outreach. "Today, the Lord is calling us to tackle the diseases of poverty––those plagues that must and can be controlled. Such work is our God-given responsibility," said May.

The church also has a long history in education, advocacy, medical ministries and creating public awareness of health issues including HIV/AIDS, another of the diseases of poverty. The 2004 General Conference set up a Global AIDS Fund to address this health issue.

*This story is based in part on a joint news release issued by United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

Video Highlights

The Rev. Larry Hollon and Bishop Felton May on the Gates Foundation invitation

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

United Nations Foundation

Nothing But Nets Campaign

Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church

United Methodist Global AIDS Fund

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