First lady Laura Bush joined officials from government and the private sector February 15 to examine the role of faith-based and community nongovernmental organizations in controlling malaria in Africa.
The "Compassion in Action Roundtable" was convened by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
"In many African villages," Bush said, "churches are the only formal institutions that can manage malaria control and prevention. In malaria-prone regions, people look first to their churches, mosques or synagogues for help. They trust their pastors to provide it."
Roundtable participants included Ambassador Randall Tobias, U.S. global AIDS coordinator; Timothy Ziemer, coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative; Jay Hein, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University; and John Bridgeland, chief executive officer of Malaria No More.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the one-celled Plasmodium falciparum parasite and three closely related species. Each parasite lives part of its life in people and part in mosquitoes. The disease is transmitted to people in the bite of an Anopheles mosquito and can result in severe headache, high fever, chills, vomiting and death.
Each year 350 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than 1 million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. But the disease can be prevented and cured. Bed nets, insecticides and anti-malarial drugs are effective tools to fight malaria in areas where it is transmitted.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EFFORTS
The President's Malaria Initiative is a $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control malaria in Africa and reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 countries by achieving 85 percent coverage of proven preventive and curative interventions.
President Bush announced the initiative in June 2005. It is a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Department of State, the White House and others.
"Aid from American taxpayers has reached more than 6 million Africans," the first lady said. "This year, 30 million more will receive lifesaving medicines, sprays and nets as the program expands. The malaria initiative also calls on developed countries, private foundations and volunteer groups to help reduce suffering and death caused by this disease."
In his January 23 State of the Union address, President Bush called for Congress to provide more funding to fight malaria, and at the White House Summit on Malaria in December, Laura Bush announced the creation of the Malaria Communities Program, a $30 million initiative to provide grants to African and American nongovernmental organizations and civic and religious groups to support their malaria control efforts. (See fact sheet.)
"Private sector institutions bring a fresh perspective and a personal touch to the fight against malaria," she said, "especially our community and faith-based organizations. In the United States, religious groups can enlist millions of volunteers and donors with their message of compassion and hope."
By working with the President's Malaria Initiative, Bush said, relief organizations, businesses, philanthropies, churches and nongovernmental organizations can expand their efforts and save more lives.
"We've already seen the benefits of this coordination," she added.
In Tanzania, for example, the government's malaria program subsidizes bed net vouchers for pregnant women. And through a partnership between the President's Malaria Initiative and Mennonite Economic Development Associates, the programs will be expanded to cover all of Tanzania's children.
Since the program was launched in late November, it has supplied nets to protect nearly 390,000 infants, and it will reach another 1.5 million babies every year.
In southern Angola, the President's Malaria Initiative recently joined with the government to launch a residential mosquito-spraying program.
The President's Malaria Initiative "supplied the insecticide sprays," Bush said, "but it was the Christian Children's Fund [CCF] that conducted all of the community education programs. CCF spread throughout rural Angola, teaching residents how mosquito sprays can save them and their children from malaria."
CCF workers explained how spraying campaigns are conducted and taught residents to prepare their homes by moving their furniture away from the walls.
Thanks to the coordination between the President's Malaria Initiative and the Christian Children's Fund, she said, 90 percent of the targeted families opened their homes to the spray, and more than 500,000 people were protected from malaria.