6:00 P.M. EST April 25, 2011 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Three “champions” against malaria, holding a mosquito bed net, are (from left) Nate Stafford, a 13-year-old Boy Scout from Fayetteville, N.C.; retired NBA star Dikembe Mutombo; and United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton. UMNS photos by John Goodwin.
View in Photo Gallery
United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton has spent the past five years telling people how an investment as small as $10 can help reduce the number of malaria deaths in Africa.
On April 25, he and other “champions” in the fight against malaria were recognized for their efforts by the Nothing But Nets organization.
The event at the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel also marked World Malaria Day 2011 and served to launch a new public service announcement that will appear on the Toshiba vision screen in Times Square through May 21. During an evening reception at the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to unveil the Champions to End Malaria Photo Exhibit, which will run through May 22.
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Founding partners of the campaign, created in 2006 by the United Nations Foundation, include the people of The United Methodist Church, Sports Illustrated and the NBA Cares Foundation.
Besides the bishop, other champions at the launch were actress Mandy Moore, retired NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, Roll Back Malaria Executive Director Awa Coll-Seck and Boy Scout Nate Stafford.
Bickerton, 52, who leads The United Methodist Church’s Pittsburgh Area, serves as spokesperson for the denomination’s Global Health Initiative. The initiative includes Nothing But Nets and Imagine No Malaria, a denominational campaign to raise $75 million to help eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. Gifts to Imagine No Malaria surpassed $17 million this month.
In Times Square, Bickerton saluted some of the other champions against malaria, such as the doctors, nurses and health-care practitioners of United Methodist-related and other faith-based hospitals and health systems in Africa.
Elizabeth Gore, an executive with the United Nations Foundation, introduces Mandy Moore, an actress and singer involved in malaria prevention. View in Photo Gallery
“They are the unsung champions … doing the hard work of saving people’s lives,” he said.
The bishop also lauded those who have contributed, even in small amounts, to the campaign to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets as part of the solution to a disease that kills a child every 45 seconds. “I would like to celebrate the lives that are already saved, the champions who are yet to be,” he added.
Coll-Seck, a mother of four, doctor and former minister of health for Senegal, can attest to the results of the prevention effort. From 2008 to 2010, some 300 million nets were distributed in Africa, covering 76 percent of the population at risk for malaria. Such statistics “show how important the work has been,” she said.
Moore witnessed the distribution herself during a recent trip to the Central African Republic. The real champions, she noted, include the mother she met in a rural village who now has a bed net to use to protect her children. “She had lost two children in the course of a month from malaria,” Moore said.
Mutombo, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pointed out that the fight is not yet over. At least 45 percent of the deaths at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, built on the outskirts of Kinshasa by his foundation, are due to malaria, he explained.
“The fight is just starting,” he said. “We have to keep it going until we see no more deaths from malaria.”
That will require more donations from people like Stafford. The 13-year-old Boy Scout made a 100-mile walk this winter from Carthage to Fayetteville, N.C., where he lives, as part of his goal to buy 1,000 nets for Nothing But Nets.
Documentary on the disease
An hour-long TV special, “A Killer in the Dark,” documents the struggle in Africa against malaria and highlights the work of Imagine No Malaria both on the continent and in the United States.
The documentary, narrated by actress Pauley Perrette, is beginning to air on NBC affiliate TV stations as a presentation of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and the National Council of Churches. It was produced by United Methodist Communications.
Donations to Imagine No Malaria can be made here.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.