$3 million grant boosts malaria campaign

11/3/2011

Sierra Leonian volunteers with The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign hang a mosquito net at a home in Koribondo Village near Bo, Sierra Leone, in December 2010. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.Sierra Leonian volunteers with The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign hang a mosquito net at a home in Koribondo Village near Bo, Sierra Leone, in December 2010. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation, has given a $3 million grant to the Imagine No Malaria campaign of The United Methodist Church.

Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, the campaign’s spokesperson, said the grant would provide administrative support to help the church reach its $75 million fundraising goal. The new gift brings the total funds raised for Imagine No Malaria to more than $18 million.

“It gives us a boost in the next phase of the campaign,” Bickerton said.

The Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications, which administers Imagine No Malaria, explained that the gift “will allow us to pursue our renewed strategy to present Imagine No Malaria to the annual (regional) conferences and local churches with new energy and with staff support (and) help us to follow through on philanthropic gifts.”

Tangible results on the ground in Africa, Bickerton said, will include expanded work in Angola and Zimbabwe and replicating the successful model developed in Sierra Leone. “We’re really expanding our implementation across the continent,” he explained.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo — an area Bickerton calls “the heartbeat of malaria” – the church has cooperated informally with UNICEF and is negotiating to work with various organizations in remote sections of the country. “You talk about the church going where the road ends, we have hospitals and clinics with no roads to them in Congo,” he said.

When Bickerton told a meeting of the United Methodist Council of Bishops Nov. 2 about the $3 million grant, Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu applauded the church’s efforts against the No. 1 killer of children in Africa. "The United Methodist Church is providing armor in this fight against the killer disease we call malaria,” he said.

Grassroots participation

John Amara tries to cool his son Peter’s malarial fever with a makeshift fan at The United Methodist Church's Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, in December 2010.John Amara tries to cool his son Peter’s malarial fever with a makeshift fan at The United Methodist Church's Kissy Hospital outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, in December 2010.

For Shannon Trilli, director of the malaria initiative of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the active participation of the African bishops and their church members is what makes the campaign unique.

Since 2008, the United Methodist annual (regional) conferences in Africa have strived to create health boards that provide both a sense of ownership and mechanisms for accountability.

“They (health boards) already are performing at extremely high levels,” Trilli said. “Their programs have results that are comparable, if not better, than any agencies out there.”

Faith-based organizations also have people and infrastructure in remote communities that other organizations can’t reach, she pointed out. Because these organizations are trusted, communities are more willing to absorb information about malaria-prevention techniques.

This credibility has led to attention from groups working on international health issues, such as the Gates and U.N. foundations.

“We’re seen across the world as a pretty integral part of this whole thing because of the delivery system the church provides,” Bickerton said.

Progress against deaths

Imagine No Malaria was the only faith-based group to be invited to the Oct. 18 Malaria Forum sponsored by the Gates Foundation, where Melinda Gates saluted Bickerton and the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

What is exciting to Bickerton, he said, is the progress made against malaria deaths over the past few years. A child now dies of malaria in Africa every 45 seconds instead of every 30 seconds, he said, and the annual number of deaths worldwide — already on the decrease — is projected to drop from 800,000 in 2010 to 100,000 in 2015.

Initiated by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the components of Imagine No Malaria include a fundraising campaign goal of $75 million, public policy advocacy for funds, research and treatment, and the creation of a sustainable health infrastructure in Africa — where the malaria burden is greatest — as well as training health workers and distributing bed nets and medications.

* Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.

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