When the 2008 General Conference affirmed global health as one of the Four Areas of Focus for The United Methodist Church, the objective was eliminating diseases of poverty worldwide – including malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Eliminating death and suffering from malaria has been the signature program of the Global Health Initiative for the last eight years. At the same time, other health-related work through Global Ministries has included establishing community health programs all over the world. Together, church members and staff from general agencies have made positive impact.
Some of the greatest global health-related celebrations of the past four years have resulted in part from United Methodist-sponsored programs and partnerships, says Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director for the Global Health Unit for the General Board of Global Ministries,
"Millions die from malaria, HIV or birth complications," Ige says. "Our greatest celebration is being a part of the stories of those who didn't but who could have died without the timely interventions of the programs we support. To be able to say our programs through partnerships reached 36 countries and directly impacted the lives of over 4 million people — direct beneficiaries of trainings, recipients of nets, people successfully treated or screened for diseases — makes us extremely proud and humbled to be so used by God."
"We also celebrate our rich network of partners," Ige says. "To accomplish such success in global health without spending millions of dollars on setting up offices and hiring expensive expatriate staff is something we are always eager to share. Our approach is to work through local faith-based organizations and church-based health boards."
Established in 2010, the Zimbabwe Episcopal Health Board ensures that United Methodist health institutions provide holistic, affordable and accessible health care services. The board comprehensively addresses malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health, supports treatment and prevention programs, educates congregants, health facility staff and community volunteers, revitalizes health facilities and supports human resource development.
"With the Global Health Initiative's support," says Hannah S. Mafunda, Zimbabwe Episcopal health coordinator, "the board has made The United Methodist Church visible in meaningful ways." As lives are transformed and saved, church leaders realize that the church can and should do even more. Strong partnerships with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, National Malaria Control Program and World Council of Churches let the church's voice be heard in health matters affecting the Zimbabwean people – especially those who live in rural communities."
In Liberia, support from the Global Health Initiative has benefitted programs in HIV awareness, prenatal care and malaria prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment. Water and sanitation projects have reduced the cases of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and typhoid fever.
A new Board Health Development, formed with the support from Imagine No Malaria, "has a strategic plan for strengthening existing health services and establishing new ones," Okanda continues. "Health Board members have been recruited and trained, and facilities, such as the Lokole Health Center, were built. Large batches of antimalarial medicine, antibiotics and fluids were also provided."
Support through the Global Health Initiative, Okonda says, is fighting malaria, but it is also strengthening the health system's ability to provide quality care through community-based interventions, such as HIV testing of pregnant women and implementing an informational program about HIV/AIDS in schools.
Cindy Solomon, marketing consultant and content writer, Franklin, Tennessee
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the World Service Fund apportionment at 100 percent.