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United Methodists fight malaria through education


Dr. Pedro Antonio, a public health official in Malanje, Angola, examines a stagnant pond for signs of mosquito infestation as part of efforts to control malaria.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.












By Michelle Scott*
Feb. 2, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

Mrs. Monica, of Kassa, Nigeria, got to work immediately after the week-long training she received through the United Methodist Community-Based Malaria Control Program.

She asked her husband to cut down or trim trees growing around their home that could harbor mosquitoes. She emptied all containers of stagnant water that could be a mosquito breeding ground, then taught her neighbors to do the same.


Duwahabi Ogoba and her two children from Lekki, Nigeria, are protected
from malaria-carrying mosquitoes
by an insecticide-treated net.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

She paid for malaria treatment for some of the children in Kassa and made sure pregnant women were tested for the disease as well.

But Mrs. Monica is an exception in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is viewed simply as a fact of daily life. It is a disease that robs families of their children and makes parents too sick to work.

The United Methodist Community-Based Malaria Control Program seeks to create a culture of malaria prevention, educating people most at risk about basic measures they can take to prevent the mosquito-borne disease.

Armed with the right information, people can fight malaria by using treated bed nets, ridding the areas around their homes of stagnant water and reducing the mosquito population. The lessons begin with building awareness that malaria is completely preventable, through programs such as the training attended recently by Mrs. Monica and 36 other women from her community.

The idea of "malaria prevention and control in this part of the world is truly a strange thing because not so many people think that preventing or controlling it can be possible or even realistic," said Yolia Raymond, who works at the rural health project in Zing, sponsored by the United Methodist Church of Nigeria, and heads the HIV/AIDS and malaria program there.

The program began in 2005 in Sierra Leone when 25 people from seven countries gathered at Kissy United Methodist Health Center to learn how to begin sustainable malaria-fighting efforts in their own countries. All went home promising to spread the good word that this chronic and common disease, which steals a life every 30 seconds, can be prevented through basic measures.

What is happening in southern Nigeria under Raymond's leadership is an example of how the United Methodist malaria program is spreading all across Africa. Community leaders like Mrs. Monica are learning about malaria prevention and anti-malaria medication and prenatal education for pregnant women and are distributing mosquito bed nets to vulnerable families.

They are even working to grow their own malaria medicine. The rural health program is planting farms of Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood, a plant that normally grows in China and provides a key element in anti-malarial drugs. Having access to the plants in Nigeria will help make this life-saving medicine more accessible and affordable.

United Methodists can support the program in Nigeria and similar programs in Africa through financial contributions to Malaria Control, UMCOR Advance No. 982009. Checks to UMCOR may be placed in United Methodist church offering plates or mailed directly to: UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit card donations can be made by calling 1-800-554-8583.

*Scott is a communications specialist for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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