Sunday Focus: Preventing Spread of Malaria in Congo

CHICAGO, IL (April 22, 2010) – As organizations and countries around the world focus this Sunday on World Malaria Day as a way of fighting the plague, members of Evangelical Covenant churches can do their part by participating in this year’s Children’s Service Project.

“Bed Nets for Life” raises money to purchase life-saving mosquito netting for children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as supporting initiatives to educate families about the disease. “Each $10 dollar gift will provide one bed net,” says Dave Husby, director of Covenant World Relief (CWR).

The project is a cooperative effort involving CWR, the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM), the Department of Christian Formation, and the Paul Carlson Partnership. Different projects are offered each year and generally run December through May, but can be supported at any time.

The 2009/2010 Children’s Service Project booklet contains 24 stories of children in Congo who have benefited or will benefit from the ministries of CEUM and its efforts to stop the spread of malaria. Reading the stories to children is a way of reminding them who will receive their gifts. It also enables the children to connect with the larger picture of God’s kingdom as they give, says Steve Burger, director of children and family ministries.

Malaria is the largest cause of death for children under five years of age in Congo. It is spread through mosquito bites.

Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice, has seen the devastating effects of a simple mosquito bite while traveling in countries where the disease still is common. “As our guides constantly reminded us to use our repellent and our beds nets, I looked around at others who had no long sleeves or long pants, and some who had no clothes,” she says. “I saw those who would be sleeping on mud floors with no beds to put nets over, even if they had them, and I knew that a simple mosquito bite was not that simple at all.”

Some 243 million malaria cases were recorded worldwide last year, killing nearly 900,000 people. Most of the people who died were children living in sub-Saharan Africa, says Husby, noting that a child dies every 30 seconds from the disease.

“The good news is that malaria is preventable through medicine, pesticides, and insecticide-treated bed nets,” Husby says. Most children in Congo currently do not have a bed net, however.

The World Health Organization reported malaria cases and deaths in 2009 dropped by 50 percent or more in countries that have achieved high coverage with bed nets and anti-malaria treatments.

Adam Phillips, an ordained Covenant minister who is the faith relations manager with the ONE anti-poverty organization, notes in a recent article that fighting malaria also inflicts a terrible economic toll. “In total, malaria costs sub-Saharan Africa an estimated $12 billion in lost economic productivity, foreign investment, tourism and trade every single year.”

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