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Summit recognizes United Methodist anti-malaria work

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Photo courtesy of the U.N. Foundation

The Rev. R. Randy Day (center) visits with (from left) the NBA’s Jim Jackson, retired NBA player Sam Perkins and WNBA player Ruth Riley during the White House Summit on Malaria.
Dec. 15, 2006

By United Methodist News Service*

The United Methodist Church's commitment to eradicating malaria was recognized at a Dec. 14 forum hosted by President and Mrs. George W. Bush.

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was among those invited to the White House Summit on Malaria in Washington. The New York Times called the gathering "the Who's Who" of the global opponents of malaria.

"As I looked around that room, I saw potential for a profound impact on the elimination of malaria and other preventable diseases," Day said. "We are talking about the lives primarily of children, and we can do something about it, and since we can, God requires that we do it."

The global ministries board, the church's international mission agency, announced a malaria prevention and control effort in August 2005. It more recently joined with United Methodist Communications to represent the church in the Nothing But Nets campaign of the United Nations Foundation, in league with the National Basketball Association's NBA Cares foundation, Sports Illustrated, Millennium Promise and the Measles Initiative.

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A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose

Domingos Antonic, 8 months old, lies dying of malaria at the provincial hospital in Malanje, Angola.
The church's work with Nothing But Nets was twice recognized from the podium at the summit, by Melinda Gates and the NBA Cares' Kathy Behrens. Gates and her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are spending millions through their foundation to find a malaria vaccine.

Since May, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $1.7 million with average donations of $62, according to the campaign. In addition to Day, who was representing the people of The United Methodist Church, representatives from the other founding partners of the campaign -- the NBA and the U.N. Foundation -- were also at the White House summit.

"While bed nets are just one way to curb the spread of malaria, the power of the campaign is that it is an easy thing for people to understand and even easier for them to have an impact," said Kathy Behrens, NBA senior vice president for Community and Player Programs. "Send a net. Save a life. It's just that easy."

Malaria, spread by mosquitoes, infects more than 500 million people a year, primarily in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America. Some 800,000 African children per year die of the disease, which can be prevented. Children under the age of 5 are particularly vulnerable.

Rallying support

Held at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society, the summit was part of the Bush administration's effort to raise the profile of malaria and to rally governments, foundations, charities, corporations and faith organizations to combat it.

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A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose

Children play alongside a sewage-filled ditch in the Maxinde neighborhood near Malanje, Angola.
"I believe that people are finally recognizing that we can do a great deal to reduce, and eventually to eliminate, malaria," Day said, reflecting on the forum. "It was gratifying to see so many leaders from the public and private sectors come together around this age-old health problem."

He related Melinda Gates' remarks that while the National Geographic auditorium was packed on Dec. 14, such a meeting could have taken place in a broom closet a decade earlier.

The United Methodist missions and communications agencies are building support throughout the denomination for the Nothing But Nets campaign, with an emphasis on getting young people involved. The disease is transmitted primarily through nocturnal mosquito bites, but a $10 contribution pays for the purchase and distribution of an insecticide-treated bed net that can protect a family of four for up to four years.

Nothing But Nets, administered by the U.N. Foundation, is one important part of the malaria work of the Board of Global Ministries. The agency also has launched a pilot community-based malaria prevention program in Sierra Leone. It uses church-related medical personnel to teach local church and community leaders on the use of nets and prevention medications.

United Methodist Communications is helping develop community radio stations in African countries as a way to provide information on health-related concerns -- such as disease prevention -- to local communities. In many parts of Africa where infrastructure is minimal, radio is the most effective means of sharing information and news.

How to give

United Methodists and others can contribute to the nets campaign and to the work in Sierra Leone through the Advance for Christ and His Church, the designated mission giving channel of the denomination.

The Advance number for Nothing But Nets is 982015. The number for the community-based program is 982009.

More details about Nothing But Nets are available at

Gifts can be made by credit card online at (select the icon for online giving to the Advance) or by going directly to Credit-card donations also can be made by phone at (888) 252-6174. Contributions by mail should be sent to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068, or donations can be placed in the offering plate of any United Methodist congregation. Donors should make sure that the appropriate Advance number is on each check. One hundred percent of every Advance gift goes to the designated ministry.

*This story was based on a report provided by Elliott Wright with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, with additional information added from Nothing But Nets and UMNS reporting.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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