Malaria haunted Samson Kiware’s childhood. Growing up in Tanzania, “of course I suffered from malaria,” he reports. “It seemed like everyone I knew had malaria at some point. It was that common.”
Samson attended secondary school in Kisarawe, near Dar es Salaam. “It was a boarding school, so when my classmates and I got malaria, we took care of each other.” And there was a lot of malaria in Kisarawe. So much, in fact, that Samson eventually switched schools, moving to northern Tanzania, hoping to avoid the long weeks of school absences due to malaria.
A lifelong Lutheran, Samson then received a scholarship from the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod to study at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. He excelled in his studies of mathematics and computer science, and was excited to be accepted into the Masters and then the PhD program at Marquette University in Milwaukee. “When I found out I could use mathematics to work in the health field, right away I thought about malaria,” he recalls.
Now his research centers on new techniques that will complement other malaria interventions such as indoor residual spraying (IRS) and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs). Samson also has a special interest in how climate change might impact the presence of malaria in different geographical regions. He uses mathematical modeling to create statistical analyses that aid the research projects.
Research is a key factor that will aid in eliminating malaria from sub-Saharan Africa, according to Samson, but research takes a long time. “I don’t want to just be doing research and publications while people are dying from malaria at the same time,” Samson says. That’s why he’s such a strong supporter of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. “This campaign is a way to implement the interventions that have already been researched and approved. It’s something we can do right now. It’s so important to support medical centers, nets and spraying.”
He’s proud of the anti-malaria work that Lutherans are doing, in the ELCA and in Africa. “The church is showing compassion. We’re not doing this because there’s something in it for us. We’re doing it because we are the church, and because we care about suffering people.” Samson believes that people relate to the church’s message best when the church shows them God’s love. In his experience, “when Lutherans help people, there are no strings attached.”
His long-term goal is to return home to Tanzania to teach and to continue his malaria research “until I work myself out of a job!” At that point, he’ll use his math and computational analysis background to get to work on the next global health problem.
Samson is very grateful for the opportunities he’s had to study in the United States. “The Greater Milwaukee Synod brought me here and gave me this chance. They led me to where I am today.” He’s glad to be an example of the strong companion synod relationship between the Greater Milwaukee Synod and the Meru Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
And he’s glad to be a malaria researcher and a supporter of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. “When I go home, I still see people in Tanzania getting sick from malaria. It’s still there.”