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Commentary: Malaria kills friends ‘and we cannot stop crying’

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Carol Kreamer
July 31, 2006

Editor's note: Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds and a person every 10 seconds somewhere in the world. These are the sad statistics and Carol Kreamer, coordinator of the Mozambique Initiative for the United Methodist Church in Missouri, puts a human face on this deadly disease as she writes about the death of a friend.

A UMNS Commentary
By Carol Kreamer*

Laurina Osseia was a beautiful young woman of 34 who lived in a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique. When she and I and Mozambique Initiative representative, Ezequiel Nhantumbo, began working together in March, she was eight months pregnant and due to deliver two weeks after I was to depart Maputo.

She came in to work every day, even Saturday, knowing that there was much to be done in the two and a half weeks that I would be working in the area financial executive office.

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A UMNS photo by Carol Kreamer

Laurina Osseia is eight months pregnant in this photo taken in March.
I came to know Laurina as a friend and a co-worker. Through her broken English and my broken Portuguese, we communicated and I discovered her dry sense of humor. She had a three-year old son, Fernando, Jr., and we talked about our families -- me about my grandchildren and she about her son.

I came to learn that Laurina was devout, ethical, bright, and mature for her 34 years. Having worked also through the ninth month of pregnancy many years ago myself, I knew how her back must have hurt sitting at that desk and how tired she must be at the end of the day.

She had been taking accounting courses at the university, and instead of attending class, she came to work in the office to learn while I was there. I was grateful for her efforts, tediously working side by side with me and Ezy (Ezequiel), going through past year journals, helping to reconstruct the 2005 accounting and learning processes as we went.

I took a photo of her profile and we laughed as we looked at the digital image -- her pregnancy photo! The look on her face said, “Carol, why are you making me do this?” I expected I would come back in April to greet her with her new baby.

When I arrived on April 20, there was Laurina! She had still not delivered and expectantly awaited the day. Finally, we got word by cell phone that Laurina had delivered her new baby girl.

Laurina was healthy prior to and soon after she delivered the baby. And baby Ylva was healthy with a good birth-weight.

How excited we were. I wished I did not have to depart the next day (May 4), sorry that I would miss seeing her and the new baby. I looked forward to seeing her in the future to bring proper greetings and gifts.

Laurina’s battle

But two weeks later, Laurina’s battle began.

Just about everyone I know in Mozambique has malaria, kind of like the common cold here in the United States. They treat it each time, though knowing it could eventually be deadly.

According to Laurina’s husband, Fernando, on Saturday she was admitted to Maputo Central Hospital with chills and a fever. It appeared that she had complications and now had pneumonia.

Many people talked to her on Sunday and thought she was doing better. Laurina even sent Ezequiel a text message on his cell around 3 p.m. Sunday to say she was at the hospital, as he had promised to visit her on Monday.

Then, late in the evening, she took a turn for the worst and word was received of her death.

Statistics have names

We who work in mission become -- as the Rev. Don Messer calls it in his book, A Conspiracy of Goodness -- a collegiality of bridge builders.

Messer reminds us of this historic dimension of the mission and ministry, and that missionaries have symbolized this bridge-building ministry between peoples and nations. He reminds us also that quite often someone loses their life while bridges are being constructed.

We are reminded that the statistics are not non-persons. Each statistic has a name. For me that name is Laurina. When you know the name, it becomes more than a non-person, more than just another who has died from malaria every 10 seconds somewhere in the world. As Messer concludes, there are no non-persons in God’s family.

The funeral service for Laurina was held at the big Malanga United Methodist Church on June 7.

More information about the fight against malaria can be found by visiting the Malaria Consortium Web site at and the Roll Back Malaria Group at and our friends at Bread for the World, who continue to advocate in the fight against these killer diseases that are one of the causes of hunger and poverty around the world at

United Methodists also can ask members of congress and President George Bush to fully fund the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other programs that support prevention and ensure universal access to treatment by 2010.

A special fund for the United Methodist Community Based Malaria Prevention Program has been established with the denomination’s Advance for Christ and His Church, a "second-mile" voluntary giving program. The Advance Special offers a way for United Methodists to participate in the malaria program as individuals or through local churches, districts and conferences.

Donations, payable to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, should be designated to Advance No. 982009, "Malaria Control." Checks can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit-card gifts can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or going online to

UMCOR also has prepared a church bulletin insert on the malaria program that can be downloaded from by clicking on the resources link.

*Kreamer is coordinator of the Mozambique Initiative, Missouri.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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