Pastors lead malaria task force



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Pastors lead malaria task force

By Jenna De Marco | Feb. 4, 2010 {1136}

NOTE: Headshots of the Revs. Audrey Warren and Riley Short are available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

Rev. Audrey Warren

Although the Rev. Audrey Warren thinks the phrase “imagine no malaria” is a little ironic, that hasn’t prevented her from taking a leadership role in the cause.

Imagine No Malaria is an initiative of The United Methodist Church that aims to eradicate the disease as a major source of death and suffering in Africa by 2015. The public launch of the campaign is World Malaria Day April 25. 

Warren, who is senior pastor at Branches United Methodist Church in Florida City, said the irony lies in the fact that “for most of us, this command is fairly easy,” since the disease is not a threat in the United States.

In Africa, by contrast, malaria infections kill a child once every 30 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the world’s 1 million annual malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Humans contract this preventable and curable disease through mosquito bites.

School children in Lekki, Nigeria, perform a skit promoting the effectiveness of mosquito nets in preventing malaria. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose. Photo #10-1397.

Warren has visited several African countries, including Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa, and describes the trips as “pilgrimages of pain and hope.” She says they have helped her develop a deep connection with the people that guides her passion to help lead the Florida Conference Imagine No Malaria task force.

One of Warren’s initial roles, she said, will be to talk about the widespread nature of the disease in Africa.

“I think the first mission of this task force is education,” Warren said. “I hope we can first get people to imagine a world with malaria and then bring them to a place where they want to imagine a world without it for their sisters and brothers abroad.”

After witnessing first-hand “the horrifying reality” that people are dying of a curable and preventable disease, Warren said she is compelled to take action.

“This is our opportunity to be a part of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ today,” she said.

Rev. Riley Short

The Rev. Dr. Riley Short, a retired Florida Conference pastor, will co-lead the Florida task force with Warren. In addition to raising local church awareness for the initiative, the pastors will coordinate fund raising to support the multi-pronged effort of The United Methodist Church, which includes prevention, education, communication and treatment.

Since 2006, The United Methodist Church has partnered with other high-profile organizations in expanding worldwide malaria prevention efforts through the United Nations Foundation’s “Nothing But Nets” public health campaign. The program focuses on malaria prevention by providing insecticide-treated bed nets to vulnerable communities at a donation of $10 per net. The nets protect people from mosquito bites while they sleep.

“Bed nets use a simple but effective prevention approach: eliminate contact with mosquitoes, eliminate malaria,” the organization’s Web site says.

The United Methodist Church’s Global Health Initiative has set a $75 million fund-raising goal for Imagine No Malaria that was approved at the 2008 General Conference. The money will expand grassroots programs like Nothing But Nets and develop more comprehensive efforts to promote prevention and education activities, strengthen health delivery systems and train health care workers to more effectively treat the disease, according to United Methodist News Service.

Kaltouma Zakaria Moussa relaxes beneath a new mosquito net provided by the Nothing But Nets campaign at her home in a camp near Goz Beida, Chad. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo #10-1398.

Although Warren and Short have not yet planned a strategy for the Florida Conference, Warren already has a few ideas for involving youth, infusing “a certain urgency and passion” for the project, she said. One possibility is creating a fund-raising competition between youth groups, with the group raising the most money traveling to Africa to deliver the funds.

Warren expects some may think such a trip would be unnecessary, but “we have to remember that we’re a relational church,” she says. Last year, several United Methodist Church organizations and conferences sent representatives to Africa to distribute malaria-relief funds.

The Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, director of the Florida Conference’s Connectional Ministries office, says some Florida Conference start-up money will be available for Imagine No Malaria.

“I also expect we will include some information at annual conference since the theme is eradicating extreme poverty, and malaria is definitely one of the diseases of poverty,” Fogle-Miller said.

Local churches and individuals interested in helping with the Imagine No Malaria task force may contact Warren at audrey.warren@flumc.org or Branches United Methodist Church at 305-246-2686. More information about the initiative is available at http://www.imaginenomalaria.org and http://www.nothingbutnets.org.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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