United Methodists Help Fight Malaria in DRC

April 14, 2010


Nashville: The people of The United Methodist Churchwill join with partner organizations to distribute 30,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where malaria is a leading cause of death.

The nets will be distributed to families in the Bongonga neighborhood of Lubumbashi during the week leading up to World Malaria Day, April 25-a date which also marks the official launch of The United Methodist Church'sImagine No Malaria campaign, a comprehensive effort to raise $75 million to fight malaria and eliminate death and suffering from the disease in Africa by 2015. The campaign is supported by a partnership with the United Nations Foundation.

"Churches such as The United Methodist Church are often the only organizations serving rural communities located 'at the end of the road'," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton, chairman of the United Methodist Global Health Initiative. "That is one of the reasons faith communities are such a vital part of efforts to eliminate death and suffering from malaria. We provide education and resources in areas far out of reach or with no access to a health care facility."

The distribution strategy and volunteer coordination are being organized and implemented by CORESA (Coalition Religieuse pour la Santé), a multi-faith coalition formed in 2008 that aims to implement community-based health programs in DRC. The United Methodist Church, through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, was a leader in forming the coalition and designing this project.

The United Methodist Church also provided $150,000 towards the net distribution-money raised through donations to Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots effort to save lives in Africa through the distribution of nets. Other key partners contributing to the effort include Nothing But Nets creator the United Nations Foundation, which granted $30,000 to conduct the initial strategic planning and training program for CORESA member organizations in January, and NetsforLife®, who will supply the nets.

NetsforLife® typically accesses remote communities that are not reached by national health programs, using a network of local churches, faith-based groups and NGOs. NetsforLife® works to instill a "net culture"-a community-wide understanding of the protective value of nets and the right way to use and maintain them.

"In this country, we are born with malaria and we are dying with malaria," said Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo of the North Katanga area. Ntambo says it's critical for the church to teach people about malaria, how to avoid it, and the importance of health care.

A delegation of United Methodists from the U.S.traveled to DRC to help distribute the nets, including Bishop Bickerton of the Pittsburgh area, Bishop James Dorff of the San Antonio area, Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the Dallas area, and representatives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and United Methodist Communications.

South African singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka , dubbed the "Princess of Africa," will kick off the distribution event on April 15. The actual distribution will be conducted by volunteers who will go from house to house distributing nets and educating residents about their proper use.

According to the World Health Organization, malaria infects an estimated 23.6 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo each year, and causes an estimated 96,000 deaths. One in five children in the Congo die from malaria before their fifth birthday.

Media Contact: Diane Degnan
(615) 742-5406 (office)
(615) 483-1765 (cell)

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