A mother watches her child sleep under the safety of a bed net in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By Michelle Scott Okabayashi*
January 17, 2013—When asked to recall some highlights from the past four years of the church’s Imagine No Malaria Initiative, Nyamah Dunbar, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) executive for Imagine No Malaria, doesn’t hesitate. “The way in which our health coordinators and health boards have risen to the challenges placed before them,” she says, is foremost in her mind.
Well before the 2008 General Conference made the initiative an official priority of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR had been at work helping United Methodist hospitals and health boards in Africa to build their capacity to respond to community health needs through UMCOR’s Hospital Revitalization and Malaria Control programs.
“Then, with funds being raised through Imagine No Malaria, they needed to be competitive in writing grants and requesting funds. This means that systems had to be in place for accountability, program management, and reporting. [INM] is a very different partnership strategy from the church-to-church relationships of the past; we are now accountable to the denomination and to the world through this initiative,” explains Dunbar.
Imagine No Malaria seeks to raise $75 million by June 30, 2014, to eliminate suffering and preventable deaths due to malaria. These funds target comprehensive health programs that aim to bring this deadly disease to an end while also building active and informed communities. And these goals are well on their way to being met through the hard work and contributions of United Methodist churches, health boards in Africa, and a plethora of global partners engaged in anti-malaria work.
This is what United Methodists have accomplished through Imagine No Malaria so far:
- Provided training for 12 health boards in 15 African countries in governance, strategic approach to ownership, local capacity building, and sustainability.
- Distributed approximately 1.2 million nets in seven African countries.
- Mobilized and trained more than 5,400 community health agents to provide their communities with information about health issues and introduce changes for healthier living.
- Raised approximately $28 million for the Imagine No Malaria Initiative.
“Scaling-up” is the buzzword for Imagine No Malaria in 2013. While the gains thus far have been impressive, there is still much more to do to meet the goals of this church-wide initiative. UMCOR’s work distributing nets, providing technical training for medical staff and community health agents, and increasing the capacity of health boards will see an increase in program diversity and efficiency, as well as the introduction of programs that address community health issues beyond malaria.
And what about the $75 million that is being raised to support these programs to weaken malaria’s grip on African nations? Churches, annual conferences, and individuals continue to answer the call to give in inspiring and creative ways.
Gary Henderson, executive director of the Global Health Initiative, is pleased with “the number of annual conferences that said they will join the parade” in 2013. “We have great support from the Council of Bishops. Ordinary United Methodist folks are engaged in activities. It is amazing the way in which we touch people’s lives,” he said. “Imagine No Malaria has inspired more people than we can measure or count.”
Can you imagine a world without malaria? You can certainly make it possible. Join the effort to eliminate this illness that steals the life of a child in Sub-Saharan Africa every 60 seconds. Your gifts to Imagine No Malaria, Advance #3021190 are making a difference.
Michelle Scott Okabayashi is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.