Feliciano Gomes looks out of the doorway at her home in Bom Jesus, Angola, after receiving a new mosquito net as part of the United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria campaign.
By Julia Kayser*
On October 12, 2012, Imagine No Malaria coordinated a large-scale net distribution in Bom Jesus, Angola. Volunteers went door-to-door and distributed a total of 9,000 insecticide-treated bed nets. Angola’s United Methodist health board and the NGO Africare were indispensable as local partners. The Rocky Mountain Conference provided funds for the nets.
This net distribution was foreshadowed at the West Angola Annual Conference health board’s first training session in February 2012. Board members were empowered to make specific and strategic plans to improve access to health care in rural villages. After the training event, West Angola leadership traveled to Bom Jesus with UMCOR’s Shannon Trilli, director of Global Health, and Ted Warnock, a Global Ministries missionary. They presented a symbolic gift of several bed nets to the community, promising future collaboration to prevent malaria. Seven months after this symbolic gift, UMCOR returned with nets for everyone.
Nyamah Dunbar, UMCOR’s executive secretary for Global Health, sat down with some of Angola’s women leaders to discuss the impacts of this month’s net distribution. Lucrécia Domingos, the wife of Bishop Gaspar J. Domingos, is a physiotherapist with a degree in clinical analysis and health sciences. It was at her suggestion that the UMCOR delegation first traveled to Bom Jesus in February. She says that rural health posts have always been a crucial part of the church’s mission in Angola. “It is a joy that our American brothers and sisters are joining forces with West Angola UMC,” she says. “As a mother, my concerns are not only for my own children, but also for other children and adults who suffer from malaria.”
Engracia Fernando de Almeida Pescoal is the pastor of Bom Jesus United Methodist Church. She also has 10 years of experience working as a community health nurse. She’s one of the volunteers UMCOR has identified and trained, with help from Africare, the government, and the local church. So far, she has been to 19 local villages within the Bom Jesus commune to inform families of the distribution. “I have visited homes and seen the sick people—some have even died—so the nets could not be coming at a more critical time.”
Maria Sonhi is a district superintendent overseeing 21 churches and their accompanying programs in Angola. She urges local churches in the United States to continue their partnership with West Angola. “What we have started is only the beginning,” she says. “There is so much more to be done: more communities, even more underserved than Bom Jesus, that remain in need of support.”
If the strong voices of these women leaders in Angola resonate with you, show your support with a donation to Imagine No Malaria. “Our ultimate goal is to eliminate malaria from Angola,” says Domingos. Join this effort today.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.