Back to ELCA Blogs
  • No categories
  • ELCA Malaria Campaign

    Make Malaria History

    All Saints inspires a community–the Novato Malaria Campaign

    Posted on November 13, 2013 by jessicanipp
    I enjoyed my lunch with (front) Linda, V-Anne, (back) Pat, Donna, Brian and Peter from All Saints in Novato!

    These Novato Malaria Campaign committee members from All Saints Lutheran Church are going to change the world! (Front) Linda, V-Anne, me; (back) Pat, Donna, Brian and Peter

    Today I had lunch with Peter, Pat, Brian, V-Anne, Donna and Linda, members of the malaria committee at All Saints Lutheran Church in Novato, CA. Their pastor, Annemarie Burke, would have joined us, but she was on vacation.

    They started by telling me how long they had been members of All Saints: “about 30 years”; “35 years!” “going on 37 years”; “but I’ve been here the longest!” (that was Brian, proudly).  Donna was the newcomer, beginning her membership “only” about a dozen years ago.  She’s the council president now, but just about everyone around the table has had their turn with the gavel. A dedicated bunch, to be sure; more than 150 years of church membership between them.

    And then it got exciting. “We like to think outside the box,” says V-Anne. “We know that God is calling us to be a different kind of church now,” affirms Linda.

    “Our new pastor came about a year and a half ago,” they explained to me, “and since then, we have felt a real revitalizing in our congregation. Maybe not growth yet, but new life; new energy.” Led by these and other visionaries, All Saints is going through a process of “repurposing”—analyzing their community, researching emerging generations and how best to reach them, affirming God’s grace and their call to action, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

    ‘God Work. Our Hands. Sunday,’ which was celebrated across the ELCA on Sept 8th this year, was a turning point for All Saints. “We worship about 70-80 people a Sunday,” begins V-Anne.  (“We worship God,” corrects Pat gently, and we all laugh.) “About 70-80 of us gather together each week—to worship God,” V-Anne goes on.  “But on ‘God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday,’ 92 people gathered together at All Saints to serve our neighbors.”

    We hope mascot "Mo Skeeter" will "mo-tivate" Novato!

    We hope mascot “Mo Skeeter” will “mo-tivate” Novato!

    Service, as they say, is in the DNA of this congregation.  So it makes sense that, as part of their “repurposing” campaign, they would dream big about malaria awareness and fundraising. “We’re going to put Navato on the map!” says Brian enthusiastically. And I truly believe they will.

    Their goal for the ELCA Malaria Campaign is intriguing: $53,301.  Peter clarifies: “It’s one dollar for every citizen of Novato.  We’re going to get the whole city involved.” (Linda chimes in that she’s pretty sure they could raise two dollars per citizen without much trouble.)

    And I think they’ll do it—their plans are ambitious and organized and these folks are just not going to stop until they’ve carried the message of malaria prevention and control to every one of their neighbors.  They’ve even chosen a mascot: a slightly rough-looking dude named “Mo Skeeter.”

    The approach for the “Novato Malaria Campaign” has three tiers. More than 80 community leaders—not necessarily Lutherans!—have been invited to a dinner on January 16th. The team plans to let them know about the great work that the ELCA Malaria Campaign is supporting in Africa, and inspire them with ideas of how to get involved. (And they won’t hurt for ideas: their initial list of activity suggestions is two pages long!)

    The whole community of Novato will be invited to celebrate World Malaria Day on April 26th by taking part in an outdoor event at All Saints on April 26th.  The event promises “awareness, fundraising… and fun.”

    The third tier of the Navato Malaria Campaign will involve a two months of intentional fundraising in the community, culminating in an energetic presence in Novato’s 4th of July parade.  “We have one of the largest parades in the Bay Area,” Donna is proud to say.  It lasts 2-1/2 hours and draws a huge crowd.

    And if this committee has their way, just about every citizen of Novato will be marching behind the Novato Malaria Campaign float!

    Calling all kids’ materials!

    Posted on November 12, 2013 by jessicanipp
    The ELCA Malaria Campaign is seeking your best ideas for kids' activities!

    The ELCA Malaria Campaign is seeking your best ideas for kids’ activities!

    Send us your best ideas!

    The ELCA Malaria Campaign has two summers left before we reach our goal: the summer of 2014 and the summer of 2015. In those two summers, we would love to work with as many congregations and camps as possible to get Lutheran kids excited about the great malaria programming that we support in Africa!

    We know that many ELCA congregations and outdoor ministries have already been active in teaching kids about malaria and how we can help.

    Rather than reinvent the wheel, we’d like to put together a Vacation Bible School/camp curriculum that showcases the best, most fun and educational ideas that you have already created and tested!  Will you share your best ideas with us?

    We’re looking for ideas in the following categories:

    • skits
    • songs
    • crafts
    • games/activities
    • bible studies
    • malaria education
    • integrated lessons

    We also need a name for this great resource. We’d love to hear your suggestions for that as well!

    Please send your ideas to by December 16, 2013. Include the name of your congregation and the name of the person or people who created the resource, so we can give proper credit!

    For those of you who are planning VBS for next summer, please consider using our curriculum. We promise that it will be ready in time! :-)


    A malaria litany: Rebuke the fever!

    Posted on November 7, 2013 by jessicanipp
    Thanks to Karen Nurmi for sharing this wonderful resource with us!

    Thanks to Karen Nurmi for sharing this wonderful resource with us!

    Many thanks to Karen Nurmi, a malaria and hunger leader in the Metropolitan New York Synod, for creating and sharing this wonderful order of service with us! This devotion was used to open their “Malaria Summit” last weekend, which gathered volunteers from several congregations around the synod. Participants learned about the medical and scientific aspects of malaria, heard how Lutherans of the ELCA and Lutherans in Africa are working together to do something about malaria, heard a firsthand story from Pr. Carol Fryer, one of the pastors who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and shared ideas of how to activate their congregations!

    Opening Verses

    We, who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, let us say to the LORD,
    “You are our refuge and stronghold, our God in whom we put our trust.”
    God will rescue us from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly plague.
    We shall not fear the arrow that flies by day;
         nor the plague that stalks in the darkness,
         nor the sickness that lays waste at noon.
    We will call upon the LORD, and God will answer us,
    God will rescue us and show us the salvation of the LORD.

    jesus healReading
    Luke 4:38-40 (This is the short story of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law from a high fever)

    Compassionate and healing God, you rebuked the fever that afflicted Peter’s mother-in-law and restored her to wholeness.

    We gather today to stand with our sisters and brothers in Africa who live with the constant threat of malaria.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We walk with them on the long, rutted road to the clinic.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We keep vigil at the bedside of children and pregnant women stricken by malaria.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We accompany the doctors, nurses, and family members who care tirelessly for malaria patients.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We embrace the parents who grieve the loss of children to malaria, and we weep with those who have lost wives and mothers.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We despair with those who are burdened by poverty and the financial costs of malaria.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We pray for the success of researchers who discover methods of prevention and treatment and for village health care teams as they educate people about malaria.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    We wait in hope with our sisters and brothers for the day when malaria will be no more.
    Use us, O Lord, to rebuke the fever.

    Open our hearts, O Lord, and infect them with generosity and love for your people so that through our gifts and serving lives might be changed as the fever of malaria is rebuked; in Jesus’ name. Amen

    Seeking eye doctors for mission opportunity

    Posted on November 5, 2013 by jessicanipp
    Are you an optometrist or ophthalmologist interested in a mission opportunity? Read this post for more details!

    Are you an optometrist or ophthalmologist interested in a mission opportunity? Read this post for more details!

    Dear blog readers,

    The following post is not specifically about malaria, but as you know, malaria is a disease that is strongly tied to hunger and poverty. Poor families who are able to strengthen themselves economically are also able to strengthen themselves to resist malaria.  And so we– the ELCA Malaria Campaign– are strongly supportive of all efforts that seek to walk alongside communities and families as they work to end poverty and disease and to begin lives of health and well-being.

    The ELCA Malaria Campaign is also deeply supportive of all of the ELCA’s global relationships.  Some of these relationships happen on a national level, such as the church-to-church relationships that are the backbone of our collective malaria work. And some of these relationships are more local, such as the wonderful Companion Synod relationships that are a part of the tapestry of many ELCA synods.

    For many years, the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin has been walking together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. Their relationship has included many personal visits. A delegation of Lutherans from the Northwest Synod of Wisconsion will be traveling to Malawi next year (April 29-May 17, 2014). The members of this delegation will be working with their Malawian partners on a specific project: eye health, eye exams and distributing corrective lenses.  Those of you who wear contacts or glasses know what a huge difference the right pair of corrective lenses can make in a person’s life!

    Malawi-MapThe two eye doctors who normally travel with this team are unable to make the journey next year; however, the issues are critical enough that the trip must proceed. The Northwest Synod of Wisconsin is looking for 2 or 3 volunteer optometrists or ophthalmologists to join the 2014 delegation.  (Students of optometry or ophthalmology may also qualify if they have had two years of medical training.)

    Volunteers are asked to cover the costs of their flights, which average about $2000.  Other trip expenses will be covered.

    Is the Holy Spirit calling you to join this companion delegation? If you would like more information about the trip logistics, the delegation, or the clinics in Malawi that are partnering with the delegation, please let me know ( I will be happy to put you in touch with the contact person from the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin who can answer your questions!  


    Consider a Thanksgiving gift to the ELCA Malaria Campaign

    Posted on October 30, 2013 by jessicanipp
    November brings a season of giving thanks and sharing blessings.

    November brings a season of giving thanks and sharing blessings.

    It’s almost the end of October, which means that Thanksgiving (and even Christmas!) decorations are starting to fill up the stores.  In the church, we are looking toward the end of our liturgical year, and the beginning of the next liturgical year– otherwise known as Advent, the season of holy anticipation. The popular Thanksgiving season and the liturgical season of Advent are wonderful times to reflect on our blessings, and to share those blessings with others.

    Jessica’s Top Ten Reasons to support the ELCA Malaria Campaign in 2013:

    10. “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” (Luke 4:38-39)  Jesus teaches us to rebuke the fever!

    9. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12) Members of the body of Christ are suffering from malaria — and so we must all respond together.

    8.  Lutherans in Africa have been serving the whole person– body, mind and spirit– for decades.  The malaria programming is new, but the good health care system and strong reputation of African Lutheran churches are already deeply rooted. People in these rural communities are willing to learn from trusted Lutheran voices.

    7. We make it easy to give! You have lots of options. You could send a check ( to P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764). You could call us up (800-638-3522). You could give online.  You could give through the Good Gifts catalog.  You could become a Monthly Partner!

    6.  Timing matters. Our overall ELCA Malaria Campaign goal is $15 million. Along the way, we have annual goals, which are benchmarks that help us keep the money flowing consistently to the programs in Africa. 2013 is an important year! Several programs are in full swing, and several more are ramping up. Your year-end gift to the ELCA Malaria Campaign helps us to meet our 2013 annual goal of $5 million.

    You can use a card like this one to announce your holiday gifts given in someone's honor.

    You can use a card like this one to announce your holiday gifts given in someone’s honor.

    5.  The ELCA Malaria Campaign uses your gift very efficiently.  We’re a very lean program. Our overhead costs (fundraising and administration) are only 10%, which means that 90% of your gift goes to our companions and partners in Africa to fund their malaria programming.

    4.  Malaria disproportionately affects young children and pregnant women. A year-end gift to the ELCA Malaria Campaign is a wonderful way to honor a special woman or child in your life.

    3.  We have resources for you! If you give a gift in someone’s honor, you can announce your gift with a lovely card like this one.  (To see our whole selection of cards, click here.)

    2. The programming that we support through the ELCA Malaria Campaign is making an impact. Three years ago, a child died of malaria every 30 seconds.  Through the work of Lutherans and many others across the globe, that death rate has slowed by half. We’re making a difference!

    1.  Malaria is preventable and treatable! Through the good work of our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Africa, your gift will change lives.

    Expanding to 13 countries!

    Posted on October 29, 2013 by jessicanipp
    The ELCA Malaria Campaign works with companions in 13 African countries to prevent and control malaria.

    The ELCA Malaria Campaign works with companions in 13 African countries to prevent and control malaria.

    With the addition of Namibia and Burundi, the ELCA Malaria Campaign is now working with Lutheran companions and organizations in 13 countries in Africa to support community-based malaria programs. (See map at right.)

    The ELCA Malaria Campaign has raised $9.3 million so far, and plans to raise a total of $15 million by 2015 to support programming implemented by Lutheran churches and organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.  These relationships build on decades-long partnerships between the ELCA and our Lutheran companions in Africa.  Funds raised by the ELCA Malaria Campaign underwrite the programming and ELCA Global Mission staff provide technical support as our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Africa plan, implement and monitor the programs that offer anti-malaria resources to their communities.

    Malaria programming in Namibia will take place under the umbrella of the LUCSA Regional Malaria Program.  LUCSA–the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa–is a sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation, of which the ELCA is also a member.  The LUCSA Regional Malaria program is already operating successful country programs in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the program in Namibia will benefit from the experiences of those existing programs.

    Since malaria a key health issue in the northern part of Namibia (Ovamboland), the Lutheran Malaria Program in Namibia will work primarily with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), whose congregations are mostly in the north.

    Malaria concerns in Namibia are exacerbated by widespread hunger. Lutheran churches in Namibia are currently working to ameliorate the effects of a severe and long-lasting drought emergency that is causing 14 percent of the Namibian population to suffer from food insecurity. Through Lutheran Disaster Response, the ELCA is helping the Lutheran churches in Namibia to provide economic assistance to those in greatest need.

    ELCA Global Mission is working with LUCSA and our companions in Namibia to finalize a malaria proposal. Programming is expected to begin in 2014.

    Malaria programming in Burundi will be implemented by Lutheran World federation, in conjunction with the malaria program in Uganda.

    Malaria programming in Burundi will be implemented by Lutheran World Federation, in conjunction with the malaria program in Uganda.

    The small country of Burundi has been hit hard by malaria. Burundi has by far the highest rates of malaria in the Eastern Africa region. Despite the great need, Burundi has not received adequate support for its malaria initiatives and lags behind other countries in the region in progress toward its health-related targets. With support from the ELCA Malaria Campaign, Lutherans in Burundi are stepping up to help close this gap.

    The Lutheran World Federation is active in Burundi, and plans are in place to integrate malaria work within the framework of existing projects and networks and staff in Burundi. Because there is an active Lutheran Malaria Program in neighboring Uganda (underwritten by the ELCA Malaria Campaign and implemented by LWF), the Burundi program can be run with existing structures and oversight.  This makes the Burundi malaria program a very economical one that will deliver maximum impact for a minimal cost.

    Programming in Burundi will begin immediately.


    Welcome to LutherFest!

    Posted on October 24, 2013 by allisonbeebe

    This story was submitted by Dorothy Sorrell, Synod Malaria Coordinator for the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod. Thanks, Dorothy!

    Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia, has been celebrating LutherFest throughout the month of October.  The special focus on Martin Luther is to commemorate the Reformation, and celebrate the Luther Decade leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The four weeks of the month provided opportunities for learning, growing in Lutheran heritage, and enjoying relaxed get‐togethers.

    Colorful mosquitoes and a bright display for LutherFest's Malaria Campaign

    Colorful mosquitoes and a bright display for LutherFest’s Malaria Campaign

    October 20th was declared Malaria Sunday, in recognition of the work of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  Members of the congregation set up a Malaria Campaign display, including very colorful mosquitoes. (See picture)  Temple talks were presented at all three worship services describing the Campaign, and a combined teen and adult class conducted to discuss the challenges and accomplishments of the Campaign.  Members were asked to pray for and contribute to the Malaria Campaign.

    Sunday School classes added an age‐appropriate focus on Luther throughout the month, and helped  to promote awareness of the terrible toll malaria continues to take on many developing countries.  The children made mosquitoes and mosquito netting as reminders of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

    Additional  activities included “A Night with Katie Luther” for the women of the congregation;  a book discussion of “Martin Luther”, written by Martin Marty;  a one-act play entitled “Shattering the Myths of the Reformation” , written and performed by Dr.  Paul Wee, ELCA Pastor; and a discussion of the causes leading to the Reformation led by the Rev. Dr Bob Prichard, Virginia Theological Seminary.  A month long display of Luther-related prints, posters and books was provided by Pastor Wee.

    A display on Martin Luther

    Celebrating our Lutheran Heritage with photos and facts about Martin Luther!

    Taking time away from heavy discussions, the congregation also held an Octoberfest complete with bratwurst and other international dishes, and a FairTrade store; a family movie night and pizza, with adult and children movies about Luther; and a Bier Stube Nacht at a local brewery to recognize Luther’s enjoyment of good beer and discussions.

    See the complete list of events at







    Kingdom Assignment multiplies the blessings at Beaver Lake

    Posted on October 21, 2013 by jessicanipp
    Deb Houtkooper, parish nurse at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church, spearheaded their ELCA Malaria Campaign efforts.

    Deb Houtkooper, parish nurse at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church, spearheaded their ELCA Malaria Campaign efforts.

    I am proud to share the disclaimer that this post is about my very own family! Deb is my mom and Collin is my nephew. :-) – Jessica Nipp Hacker,  ELCA Malaria Campaign Coordinator.

    Members of Beaver Lake Lutheran Church in Maplewood, MN take mission and outreach seriously! Every year, 10 members of Beaver Lake receive a “Kingdom Assignment” from the congregation’s Enduring Gift Foundation: they are given $100 as seed money, and are asked to use their unique gifts and talents to multiply those funds in support of an outreach project.

    Deb Houtkooper received one of the Kingdom Assignments for 2013. “I am the parish nurse in our congregation,” she relates, “so when I chose to complete a Kingdom assignment, I gravitated toward a project dealing with health.  My daughter, Jessica Hacker [that’s me!], is the coordinator for the ELCA Malaria Campaign – a cause I strongly believe in.”

    Net-themed centerpieces constructed by Sunday school children highlighted the malaria focus.

    Net-themed centerpieces constructed by Sunday school children highlighted the malaria focus.


    Deb is also a quilter, and her Kingdom project—a Malaria Sunday celebration in April—reflected her creative talents as well. “I made netting flowers for centerpieces,” she recalls.  “The Sunday school kids learned about malaria and made mosquitoes with Styrofoam balls, netting for wings, and stick-on eyes. The mosquitoes, together with the netting flowers, made great centerpieces for our luncheon.”

    On Malaria Sunday, Beaver Lake celebrated with just one worship service, instead of two, so the whole congregation could be together. With encouragement from Pastor Charlie Brown, Deb led the service.  The sanctuary doors were hung with mosquito netting, making the sanctuary truly a safe place!  The children’s sermon brought kids together under a net to experience what it felt like to be protected from mosquitoes. The “grown-up sermon” featured malaria-related stories as well.

    During the luncheon after the service, members of Beaver Lake Lutheran Church learned more about the ELCA Malaria Campaign and the impact that Lutherans are making in the fight against malaria. The free-will offering raised more than $2000, which is a lot of money for this small (but mighty) congregation!

    Deb wrote to her congregation afterward: “Because of your caring and kindness, families will be provided mosquito nets (along with training and education to ensure they are protected when they sleep); medication will be  administered to those sick with malaria; village health teams will be trained to provide immediate medical care to those ill with  malaria; and pregnant women and their infants will be kept safe from malaria. Your generous gifts will directly impact others and save lives. It is my honor to belong to such a welcoming and giving congregation.”

    A young artist gave Jesus a protective net and some frustrated mosquitoes!

    A young artist gave Jesus a protective net and some frustrated mosquitoes!

    One of the younger visitors to Beaver Lake that Sunday was Collin Dettmer. He learned a lot during the children’s sermon, and his “sermon doodles” on the front of the bulletin demonstrated his newfound knowledge.

    The picture was of Jesus in Luke chapter 4, rebuking the fever from Simon’s mother-in-law. In the spirit of the day, Collin surrounded Jesus and the woman with a green mosquito net, just like the one they had used in the children’s sermon.  Jesus’ hand was outside of the net– swatting mosquitoes, of course.

    Surrounding the protective net were several frustrated mosquitoes. “They’re mad because they can’t get in and bite the lady,” explained Collin. “Except for the happy mosquito– she wasn’t hungry anyway.”

    Out of the mouths of babes!

    Many thanks to Parish Nurse Deb Houtkooper for her efforts to bring malaria into her congregation’s discussions of health.  Does your congregation have a parish nursing program? Perhaps this would be a great opportunity for you, too!

    Potential vaccine brings (limited) excitement

    Posted on October 17, 2013 by jessicanipp

    Throughout  the past week, news media have been “abuzz” with some malaria news: a new malaria vaccine  developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline showed good results in recent tests.

    An effective vaccine could make a life-saving difference in the fight against malaria.

    An effective vaccine could make a life-saving difference in the fight against malaria.

    Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m a person who cares a lot about malaria, and I’d like to share some of my own thoughts about the potential new vaccine.

    When I first heard the news, my heart soared! Was this the “silver bullet” we had been hoping for, the game-changing moment in the fight against malaria? As it turns out, it wasn’t.

    The RTS,S malaria vaccine trials did show some success: malaria

    But not as wonderful as I would hope.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, childhood vaccines normally given in the United States have proven effectiveness of 97.5% to 100%. That kind of effectiveness brings results, and builds confidence in the public.cases were approximately halved in one age group of children who participated in the trial.  If that vaccine were to be commercially available, and if it were given to many at-risk children internationally, it would certainly reduce cases of malaria.  There would be fewer deaths from malaria.  And of course, that would be a wonderful outcome.

    A vaccine that’s only modestly effective– like the new RTS,S vaccine– would certainly do some good, but I don’t know that it would be terribly well received. If millions of vaccinated children still went on to develop cases of malaria every year, I imagine that parents would eventually be less likely to have their children vaccinated. After all, it might not even work.

    I’m very glad for the scientific innovation represented by the RTS,S vaccine, but I’m hoping an even better one is right around the corner.  That’s my opinion– what’s yours?

    – Jessica Nipp Hacker, ELCA Malaria Campaign Coordinator

    P.S. Here are some articles that report on the new vaccine:

    • BBC News: “The vaccine known as RTS,S was found to have almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children in the trial and to have reduced by about 25% the number of malaria cases in infants.”
    • The Economist: “This is good news, but RTS,S will not vanquish malaria by itself.”
    • An editorial in the New York Times: “While its efficacy is modest, it is nonetheless a significant advance in the long struggle to control a disease that kills some 600,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of 5.”
    •  “‘The need for long-lasting insecticidal nets, rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies (anti-malarial drugs) will continue,’ even if RTS,S is made available and used.”

    Malaria in the United States– a brief history

    Posted on October 14, 2013 by jessicanipp
    Lima, Ohio got its name from a container of anti-malaria medication!

    Lima, Ohio got its name from a container of anti-malaria medication!

    Malaria has been responsible for half of human deaths since the stone age. In fact, since the dawn of time, malaria has likely killed more humans than any other disease. It is a disease that has shaped human history, trade, war, culture, politics, religion and even the human genome. Malaria is still one of the top three killers of children on the planet. Half of the world’s population– 3.3 billion people—live at risk of contracting malaria every year.  (And 250 million times per year, people do.)

    As people living in North America, we’re in the safe half of the human population, where malaria is concerned.  But did you know that malaria has left its mark on the United States as well? We used to have malaria here– and lots of it.

    In 1882, malaria was a real threat in most of what is now the United States.

    In 1882, malaria was a real threat in most of what is now the United States.

    The town of Lima, Ohio is a great example.  In the early 1800’s, just after the area has been settled, a great malaria epidemic broke out. Town leaders were able to import quinine—the best malaria drug available at the time—from Peru.  That shipment of quinine saved the lives of many inhabitants.  And when the time came to give the town a permanent name, the grateful residents looked to the containers that had delivered the life-saving drugs (Lima, Peru) and thus Lima (pronounced Lie-ma) got its name.

    In 1882, most of the South, Southeast, the Midwest, the Plains and even part of Montana were in the “Malaria Zone.” Scientists were only beginning to understand the malaria parasite at this point in history.   In 1880, Charles Laveran identified the malaria parasite… and won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. In 1898, Sir Ronald Ross demonstrated that mosquitoes cause malaria– and a few years later, he also won a Nobel Prize for his discovery.  And in 1934, Chloroquine was discovered to be an effective treatment for malaria.

    Because of these discoveries, malaria was much more contained in the United States by the mid-1930’s.  At that point, cases of malaria were only found in the South and Southeast of the United States. A lot of these areas were swampy– the ideal mosquito breeding grounds.

    Children's author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) created many educational materials about malaria in the 1950's.

    Children’s author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) created many educational materials about malaria in the 1950’s. Click on the photo to see a larger version!

    Around World War II, the United States began to take more intentional action against malaria. In 1946, we created the Communicable Disease Center… which is now known as the Centers for Disease Control– the CDC.  It’s true: the first major task of the CDC was to eliminate the threat of malaria in the United States.

    And here’s how we did it:

    • DDT was used liberally to eliminate mosquito populations.  We now know that DDT has some harsh environmental consequences, but at the time it was seen as relatively harmless to everything other than mosquitoes. I’ve even heard stories from ELCA members who remember going out to play in the cloud of insecticide that followed the DDT trucks!
    • We drained a lot of swampland; for example, the Everglades in Florida.
    • Education was emphasized both at home and for military personnel in the Pacific Theater. Children’s author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) even joined in this effort. He created many educational materials about malaria. You can view the pages of his pamphlet here (Note: in the linked photo album, click the back arrow to advance to the next page of the story).
    • Another simple intervention that we were able to implement in the United States: window screens.

    Between the DDT, the elimination of mosquito breeding grounds, the education and the window screens, we able to eliminate malaria transmission almost entirely by 1952.