South Georgia Conference joins fight against malaria

3/31/2011

Because of malaria, nearly four African children will have died by the time you finish reading this article.

Because of malaria, nearly one million people worldwide die each year.

Because of malaria, an estimated 10,000 pregnant women and 200,000 infants die each year in Africa alone.

The World Health Organization reported that in 2008 there were 247 million cases of malaria and nearly a million deaths. In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds; the disease accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths.

Eradicated in the United States since the early 1950s, malaria is treatable and curable, and the United Methodist Church is helping fight this devastating disease.

In 2008, Global Health was affirmed as one of the four focus areas of The United Methodist Church.  The overall objective of the church’s Global Health Initiative is to eliminate diseases of poverty worldwide, which includes malaria, AIDS/HIV and tuberculosis.

Since The United Methodist Church launched its Imagine No Malaria campaign on World Malaria Day last April, congregations and annual (regional) conferences have cast a wide net of support for the lifesaving initiative.

Gifts to Imagine No Malaria recently surpassed $15 million, thanks to caring United Methodists who donated to special offerings and participated in fundraisers to wipe out the mosquito-borne disease.

The South Georgia Conference has joined in the fight against malaria by pledging its support to raise funds to help eradicate the disease.   At its 2011 Annual Conference session in Tifton, the South Georgia Conference will collect a special offering that will be given to the Imagine No Malaria initiative. Each church is encouraged to receive an offering in the weeks prior to Annual Conference and bring the offering with them to Tifton.

“After visiting Africa earlier in the year, I have a better understanding and appreciation for the Imagine No Malaria initiative,” said Rev. Doreen Smalls, associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries and Conference Secretary of Global Ministries.  “The hotels we stayed in had bed nets to protect us from mosquitoes.  Poverty is so massive on the continent that most people can’t afford this simple preventative measure.  When I think how as little as $10 will buy a net and save a life, how can I not get involved?”

Albany First United Methodist Church’s “Sunday Evening with our Neighbors” ministry kicked off their Imagine No Malaria campaign on Sunday, February 20.  The ministry, which serves many of downtown Albany’s poor and homeless residents, will collect donations until May, when they will be given during the Annual Conference session.

A few years ago ministry leaders challenged the Sunday evening ministry’s attendees to raise money for charity, and the response has been overwhelming, said Becky Boyd, Albany First UMC’s director of lay ministries.  Enough money to buy six mosquito-repelling bed nets was collected on the first night of their Imagine No Malaria campaign.

“They have responded really well,” Boyd said.  “They love to be able to give back to someone or something.”

Overcoming malaria requires educating communities and health care workers, developing health care infrastructures and making advancements in health care communications – along with net distributions. Imagine No Malaria is the United Methodist church-wide effort to create a powerful foundation that will build a stronger broad-based community health infrastructure to help fight against diseases of poverty.

“I’m excited that our Annual Conference will be joining the global fight against malaria,” Rev. Smalls said.  “We are asking local churches and conference ministries to become involved in two ways:  by raising awareness and by financially supporting Imagine No Malaria.  In partnership with our brothers and sisters in Africa, the gifts and resources shared through Imagine No Malaria will empower an entire continent to achieve a sustainable victory over the disease.  The good news is that each and every one us can do something in the fight against this deadly disease.”

Money collected prior to the Annual Conference Session in Tifton June 5-9 can be placed in the offering place during opening worship.  Donations can be sent anytime to the Office of Administrative Services; PO Box 52101; Macon, GA 31208 with the Imagine No Malaria Advance Special #5840. 

*Additional content provided by the United Methodist News Service