Thursday, February 14, 2013: Beyond Nets
Mathew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me.”
He came into the hospital in the arms of his mother. Anemic and frail, 8-month-old Domingos died within hours, still cradled in her arms. His veins were too small to withstand the blood transfusion he needed to survive. And the hospital, which is barely able to provide basic care, lacked the equipment to save him.
With scant resources, the Malanje Provincial Hospital in Angola serves a population of 1.2 million people. Malaria alone accounts for 40 percent of the hospitals’ cases. Dr. Laurinda Quipungo, a physician, said, “The image of a dying child is very frequent here. It is our reality. Sometimes we will have two or three children die in the same day.”
We could easily be lulled into believing that Domingos is nothing more than a statistic: we’ve never met him or his family. We didn’t see the sadness in his mother’s face as she held her dead infant or the disappointment of his brothers and sisters when they heard the news. Attached to each number is a name, a heartbeat, a loved one, a soul.
Malaria is a crisis that affects individuals, families and economies. Even if a child survives beyond age 5 with a well-developed immune system, that child will still get malaria, again and again. When they are older it will prevent him/her from working at times, which will eliminate food from the family’s table. Poverty in their household will lead to poor health, which will cause the statistics to grow.
There is, however, an amazing reality in the midst of all of this. Malaria is preventable! Our Imagine No Malaria ministry goes beyond providing nets. It is a comprehensive approach that also supports efforts to educate about prevention, establish community-based malaria control programs, and revitalize hospitals and clinics across Africa.
This approach is working. Malaria rates in parts of Africa are on the decline. For example, after increasing net coverage and access to medication, the mortality rate for children under age 5 in Rwanda dropped by 66 percent in two years. There are similar reports from other areas where a comprehensive approach has been used.
I am a leader of the church, a person driven by convictions of the heart, words of scripture, and inspirations of the Spirit. I am driven by a desire to make real God’s call that we love one another as God loves us.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton,
Western PA Conference,
Chair of Imagine No Malaria
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.