Mission Report August 2018

August 14th, 2018 by Kali Lewis

In 2016, our church participated in raising funds for a project called Imagine No Malaria; this church raised over $1,350. Have you ever wondered what happened to this project since then? I have. I thought at the time that Imagine No Malaria was just a church project, but was amazed to learn that the whole world has become involved in it. The project was begun by the United Nation’s World Health Organization, which was soon joined in its sponsorship by private foundations such as the Bill Gates Foundation, which became partners in the effort to stamp out malaria. When I added up the financial contributions from private donors and other existing donor resources, I came up with $200,000,000 which will have been contributed to the effort by 2020. In addition, almost all countries which deal with malaria within their borders have united together in an attempt to become malaria free by the year 2020. Paraguay is the first country to have achieved this goal under this program. Paraguay has recorded no cases of malaria within the past three years. Out of 21 countries identified as having significant problems with malaria, 10 are now on track to eliminate it within their boundaries by 2020. Most countries now realize that eliminating diseases such as malaria can unlock tremendous growth potential. When children are not dying of preventable diseases at the rate of one child every two minutes, they are able to attend school. In addition, healthy adults can now contribute to their communities and to their own economic welfare through their labor. What is the new battle plan? One effort relies on genetic control. Only the female mosquitoes bite, so only they can transmit malaria to humans through their bite. It is possible to modify the genetic make-up of these mosquitoes so that they only produce male offspring. Over time the number of female mosquitos will decline to the point where they no longer pose a significant problem. Another significant development is that of a vaccine which, when administered four times over a one-year period, will protect the recipient from the disease. Scientists are hoping to develop a vaccine which requires only a single dose to provide the needed protection. Another effort to reduce the mosquito population is aimed at spraying areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed with insecticides which kill them. Drones are now being used to find such areas of standing water in locations that are difficult to access by other means. The drones can provide information on their locations much more quickly and with much greater precision than can the satellite imaging programs which are currently being used. In addition to the new technologies, better vaccines, and other malaria reduction efforts, we cannot underestimate the power of the affected people to make changes which will lead to the elimination of this widespread disease. Mama Wimba is a forty-year-old resident of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She lost a son to malaria. When malaria nets were distributed to the people in her community, she realized that they really worked, and could indeed prevent people from getting the disease. She decided to inform the residents of her community about them. She visited the local school and told the children, who in turn told their parents. Mama Wimba was effective in spreading the word because she spoke the language of the members of her community, in a way which they could understand. Some people were unaware of the importance of the nets. Others were afraid the nets would suffocate them or that the chemicals with which they were sprayed would harm them. Mama Wimba was able to reassure them on these points and educate them on how the nets worked and how they should be used. Through her efforts the nets were much more widely used than they had been, and the cases of malaria in her community dropped significantly. Go, Mama Wimba! Now that I have brought you up to speed on the Imagine No Malaria project, you can be assured that the contributions you made were well spent. – Submitted by Norma Johnson