Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead
I’ve said it before … but can you believe that we could actually see the end of malaria in our lifetime? It’s amazing to think about. Every 45 seconds, someone dies from malaria. Most of them are children under the age of 5. That’s an average of 80 every single hour. 1,920 every day. 57,600 every month. Over 690,000 every single year. Seriously?! That’s over half a million children … dying from something that we can prevent …
It’s past time to do something about it.
There are several organizations doing something about the malaria problem. Here at Soul Munchies, we’re partnering with the ELCA Malaria Campaign to do what we can to help end malaria. Each month, we send a portion of our tithe to the campaign. And we’ll continue to do so until malaria is a thing of the past.
We aren’t just partnering with the ELCA Malaria Campaign because we’re good Lutherans. We partner with them because they are making a difference. We partner with them because they are working with eleven other church bodies in Africa to really get at the root of the malaria problem. The problem of malaria is interconnected to problems of hunger, poverty and otherissues common in developing areas. The Malaria Campaign is more than a band-aid. It’s about more than sending nets to Africa. It’s about partnering with people on the ground in the communities to address the real, complex needs there. It’s about accompaniment.
A few weeks ago, I got the chance to talk with Jessica Nipp, the Coordinator for the Campaign. She shared with me that people on the ground are reporting significant changes in their community because of education and medical treatment. Here are three short stories:
According to a headman in North Western province, the program has helped them to dispel myths and to seek early treatment. He said in the past the people in his area didn’t know the symptoms of malaria and associated them with witchcraft. This led them to seek the help of herbalists, which complicated the malaria cases and children were dying. As a result of the sensitization and awareness given in the church and the community, complicated cases of malaria are now rare.
An elder from the Chavuma congregation in North Western province said the program has helped because the people in the area didn’t treat malaria symptoms as an emergency and they didn’t know the effects of malaria on children. They would keep their children with malaria symptoms at home without taking them to the health facilities. They now take the children to the clinic within 24hours from the time the malaria symptoms start showing.
An Elder in Mununji congregation in North Western province said the Malaria campaign program has helped because in the past they never had anti-malarial medicines, rapid diagnosis Testers (RDTs) or trained people to treat, Test or give out medicines. “However, because of the malaria campaign program we now have trained community workers, rapid diagnosis testers and anti-malarial medicines in their village and they treat malaria with the first-line medicines provided by the church program. We never used to be tested for Malaria before we are given medicines but now we get tested by the community health worker before we are treated for malaria to make sure its malaria the moment we see malaria symptom.”
Interpretation note: It’s important to be tested for malaria within 24 hours of the symptoms appearing—so that treatment can be successful. And it’s important to make sure the test is positive before administering drugs, because if medicine is administered too freely, drug resistance can occur.
I never really gave much thought to it before … but it’s like anything else … without education, the supplies are almost useless. But when we begin to educate communities about how to get at the root of the problem … the supplies become so much more effective.
But in order to really end all malaria deaths before 2015, we have to tap into the power of we. We have to work together. But where do we start?
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our daily lives and not even think about the fact that people are dying from a disease that is so easily prevented. One of the most important things you can do is help people become aware that it’s a problem. And that it’s not a problem too big to tackle. So often we feel powerless to change the world … but this is one area where we CAN make a difference. Now. In our lifetime. Today.
The Campaign has so many great resources to help raise awareness. The Campaign blog shares stories of what people are doing to raise awareness, raise money, and help end malaria. One synod has even created a crossword puzzle that can be used in committee meetings, Sunday school classes, and small group gatherings.
One reason we have committed to funding the ELCA Malaria Campaign is because we know they do good things with our money. We know our money is making a difference. Every single month we know we have helped make a small dent in the problem of malaria. Maybe you can only give a one-time gift of $10. It may not seem like a lot to us, but when we donate, our small donations can be combined with other small donations and eventually add up to something big.
Maybe you don’t have much extra money. Perhaps you, like us, already donate to the Campaign regularly. Or maybe you want to raise awareness and donate all at the same time. Planning a fundraiser can be a great way to help people begin to understand, and become passionate about, ending malaria. Plan a potlock, a chili cookoff, an art show … fundraisers help those one-time gifts of $10 add up to something even more sizeable. And maybe even more importantly, fundraisers help raise awareness and even help build community.
God has given each one of us gifts and talents that we can use to help. What will you do?