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United Methodist Church to Begin New Malaria Initiative in Sierra Leone;Program Gives U.S. Congregat

Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church
Bishop Roy I. Sano Executive Secretary
100 Maryland Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 547-6270

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 1, 2005

Contact: Stephen Drachler
(615) 456-4710 cell
sdrachler@umcom.org

United Methodist Church to Begin New Malaria Initiative in Sierra Leone; Program Gives U.S. Congregations Opportunities to Save Lives in Africa

NEW YORK The United Methodist Church today unveiled a new community-based initiative that will connect U.S. churches with the African congregations fighting malaria.

Key church leaders outlined the new ministry during the opening day of the Time Global Health Summit in New York City.

"Malaria is not an Africa problem, it is a world problem," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the denomination's General Board of Global Ministries. "We believe Americans have a moral responsibility, and through this ministry, new opportunities to fight malaria and save lives."

The initiative will begin in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in early December, Day said. It will use existing church health facilities for a comprehensive locally focused malaria education, prevention and treatment program. The denomination's plan is to create similar programs in Liberia, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Joining Day was Bishop João Machado, leader of The United Methodist Church in Mozambique. "When I travel throughout my country, I see the babies dying. It makes me very sad to know these babies do not have to die," said Machado, who lives with the disease.

Day said every church in the United States has an opportunity to connect with churches, first in Sierra Leone, and soon in other countries, including Mozambique, to provide insecticide-treated bed nets, solar and hand-powered radios, anti-malarial medicine and tools for controlling mosquitoes.

The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has the infrastructure health clinics, schools, church buildings to provide a readymade backbone for the initiative, Day said. The denomination's roots in the country trace back to 1855.

"The startup costs are surprisingly small about $350,000 for Sierra Leone. That includes staff, drugs, equipment and health education," Day said. 'We are looking for churches, individuals and other organizations in the U.S. to partner with us."

Day said the insecticide treated bed nets cost about $5 apiece. Radios that use solar or hand cranked power cost about $30. A community based radio station which will be an effective tool to communicate in rural areas comes in a kit costing about $18,000.

Machado said the situation in Mozambique, where the life expectancy is 41 for women and 40 for men, reflects the conditions in many African countries where more than 700,000 children die every year from malaria.

"We need radio stations and radios to educate the people. We need drugs to treat people who have the disease. We need drugs for people who are most at risk of getting malaria. And we need help to deal with the mosquitoes that infect the people." Machado said.

"With these tools, we will be able to educate our own people, and save lives," Machado said.

The Time Global Health Summit is convening leaders in medicine, government, business, public policy, religion and the arts to develop actions and solutions to health crises. It is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.