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    Make Malaria History

    After 2015: Then what?

    Posted on August 30, 2013 by jessicanipp

    Since the inception of the ELCA Malaria Campaign, we’ve been aiming for a goal: 2015. This is a time-bound campaign, with a defined beginning and a defined end.  We want to raise—and send to our partners—$15 million by 2015.  Increasingly I’m hearing the question: then what?

    IMG_0525And it’s a good question. Even “long-lasting” insecticide treated mosquito nets don’t last forever. Anti-malarial drugs and testing kits need to be continuously resupplied.  What will happen to our partners’ malaria programs in Africa after 2015 (or in other words, when the money runs out)?

    I’m glad you asked!  All along, the ELCA Malaria Campaign and our companions in Africa have been working to make malaria programs sustainable.  That is, we’ve worked to create programs that will bring long-lasting effects, programs that will change lives for good. Programs are providing a lot of supply-based care: prevention, diagnosis, treatment; but always with an eye to what comes next.

    Consider the following ways in which malaria programs supported by the ELCA Malaria Campaign have already begun to make change for good:

    On a structural level:

    • Our companion Lutheran churches and organizations have learned new skills related to malaria and program implementation—skills that will shape and support future projects
    • Advocacy with national and local governments in Africa has created new pathways for flow of resources to clinics with high numbers of malaria cases
    • Strong relationships have been formed on the ground: other local organizations and governments have learned that Lutherans do good work
    • Lutheran health systems have been strengthened and now have more resources to incorporate malaria care into existing programs

    On the local level: Zambia MJ guys net Kapazhi Village

    • Volunteers have been trained to administer diagnosis and treatment at the local level
    • Trained volunteers and staff people have spread malaria knowledge to the household level. This knowledge of malaria prevention and control will endure
    • Families have learned new, healthier behaviors and habits that will continue to protect their health: managing their environment to keep it free from mosquitoes, maintaining clean latrine and garbage facilities,  sleeping under nets, getting help within the critical 24-hour period
    • Children who avoided contracting malaria have been attending school more regularly, which will set them up for future success
    • Parents who avoided contracting malaria have been able to work harder to provide for their families, and to take part in income-generating projects to benefit their households
    • Communities have learned how to manage their money collectively: Village Savings and Loan groups help individuals purchase a new mosquito net, afford transportation to the clinic, pay for health care fees
    • As the worldwide death rate from malaria continues to slow, we wonder: how many children are alive today because they had access to good malaria care?

    IMG_0561But still, there are some moving parts—some consumables—that are crucial to malaria prevention and control in communities: supplies like nets, diagnostic equipment and medicines.  A well-educated public will create even more demand for these materials.  And so, after our fundraising campaign ends in 2015, future malaria work will continue (as long as it continues to be a priority for our companions in Africa).  This future malaria work will be supported by gifts to ELCA World Hunger, which already supports many health-related projects of our companions.

    I’m grateful for all of the members of the ELCA who have grown to care deeply about the impact of malaria on God’s children in Africa and all over the world!  I know that your care and concern–and our work together with our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Africa– will last far beyond 2015.

    “Here I am, Lord…”

    Posted on August 27, 2013 by jessicanipp
    ELCA staff person Rachel Claman practices accompaniment in Northwest Zambia

    ELCA staff person Rachel Claman practices accompaniment in Northwest Zambia

    I like to say that the ELCA Malaria Campaign is a wonderful opportunity for ELCA members to walk alongside our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Africa as they prepare and implement life-saving malaria programs–in other words, to practice accompaniment.

    For the most part, the “walking alongside of each other” that I’m talking about is metaphorical. We pray for each other. We learn from each other and tell stories about each other. ELCA members donate money to fund malaria programs, and African Lutherans use those funds diligently to educate, treat, prevent, and save lives. It’s a relationship that brings concrete results– but the “accompaniment” part can sometimes feel a bit… abstract.

    Well, here’s one opportunity for some more literal “accompaniment.”

    ELCA Global Mission is now offering a new short-term volunteer opportunity for medical professionals. The Lutheran Global Health Volunteer program is a new initiative that matches ELCA health care professionals with short-term medical mission opportunities with our companions across the world.  The opportunity can be for practicing or retired health care professionals who want to serve in the areas of health education and medical services. Most assignments will last between one and three months.

    As the program begins, volunteers will be matched with opportunities in Liberia, India and Tanzania.  We hope that the Lutheran Global Health Volunteer program will become wildly popular– and then the program could grow to include other companions in other countries.

    Now I don’t know whether any of these opportunities might involve malaria education or treatment– but I do know that people who support the ELCA Malaria Campaign also care deeply about the effects of extreme poverty, and HIV and AIDS, and tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases, and maternal health, and other health concerns that impact the lives of God’s people all over the world.

    If you’re interested in becoming a Lutheran Global Health Volunteer, you can apply through the ELCA Job Board.

    P.S. God does not call everyone to travel internationally to practice accompaniment! Donating to the ELCA Malaria Campaign is an effective and concrete way to support the efforts of our Lutheran companions in Africa whose malaria programs are making a huge impact in rural communities. :-)

    Safari Supper raises awareness in Connecticut

    Posted on August 24, 2013 by jessicanipp

    Many thanks to Arlene Cresswell for sharing this story with us.  St. Andrew is supporting the ELCA Malaria Campaign in many ways.  In addition to their “Safari Supper” and other giving, St. Andrew has been collecting cans and bottles to recycle, and donating the proceeds to the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  They are working toward a cleaner, more sustainable and healthier world.

    The St. Andrew Outreach and Mission Committee held a “Safari Supper” fundraiser for ELCA’s Malaria Campaign. Transformed with netting and paper mosquitos, the fellowship hall was decorated in animal print, complete with stuffed giraffes and leopards!

    Members of St. Andrew enjoy their African-themed dinner as they learn more about the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

    Members of St. Andrew enjoy their African-themed dinner (in the company of stuffed monkeys and elephants!) as they learn more about the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

    “Supper” consisted of traditional foods from African areas affected by malaria – areas for whom malaria still poses a threat, although a decreasing one thanks to the efforts of the ELCA and others.  Parishioners volunteered to prepare the food for the evening with the recipes supplied by the committee. Each dish was easily crafted using food items from the local grocer. Many stews and rice dishes were enjoyed (the chicken Moambe was awesome– here are two recipes!) and even some fruit dishes and breads were made. Tickets to the dinner were sold in advance and at the door; more than 50 people attended.

    A goal of the committee was to educate our congregation about malaria.  We utilized the resources available from the ELCA to show a video and give a brief presentation on malaria and the efforts to eradicate it.

    Our Safari Supper was one way for St. Andrew to support this important effort. With the amount raised by the dinner, and some matching funds from Thrivent Care Abounds in Communities, we raised nearly $1000 in one night!

    Uganda Program Update: off to a running start

    Posted on August 22, 2013 by jessicanipp
    This couple received an insecticide-treated net from the LWF malaria program in Katakwi District, Uganda.

    This couple received an insecticide-treated net from the LWF malaria program in Katakwi District, Uganda.

    In April of this year, ELCA congregations celebrated World Malaria Day by giving generously to the ELCA Malaria Campaign! More than $300,000 was given, and an additional $130,000 in matching funds was added to that total.  This was more than enough to fund the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) malaria program in Uganda through the end of 2013.

    The program is off and running in Katakwi, one of the poorest districts in Uganda.  In Katakwi, malaria is the number one illness and the leading cause of death in children under the age of five.

    The LWF malaria program is working with Village Health Teams to spread the word about malaria prevention and treatment, and to encourage healthy behaviors such as removing areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed.  The program is distributing educational materials and long-lasting insecticide treated nets.  Village Health Teams are educating communities through workshops, song and drama.

    Program participants learn to keep their environments clean in order to discourage mosquito breeding.  This photo shows a rack that was devised to hold dishes upside-down and keep them dry.

    Program participants learn to keep their environments clean in order to discourage mosquito breeding. Here you see a rack that holds dishes upside-down and keeps them dry.

    To increase the effectiveness of the program, the Lutheran program is developing relationships and sharing ideas and materials with other agencies and organizations. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had been sponsoring a malaria program in Katakwi.  Funding for this program has come to an end, and USAID program staff have donated their unused educational materials to the LWF malaria program. Additionally, local government health workers who are passionate about malaria control in Katakwi have been volunteering their time on weekends, staffing “open clinics” organized by LWF.  The government workers volunteer their time, and the LWF program organizes transportation and supplies. This year, the Lutheran malaria program is planning to train Village Health Team members in malaria diagnosis, so that they are able to diagnose and treat patients during home visits.

    Materials donated by a former USAID program will aid the Lutheran World Federation malaria program in spreading the word about malaria prevention and treatment.

    Materials donated by a former USAID program will aid the Lutheran World Federation malaria program in spreading the word about malaria prevention and treatment.

    The open clinics, which provide resources for diagnosis and treatment of malaria at the local level, have been more popular than expected. Huge lines have developed, some lasting as long as two days. As the program grows, volunteers will need to be trained in patient flow and event organization!  At a recent open clinic, approximately 30% of patients tested positive for malaria. Test results gathered at open clinics are carefully recorded and will be reflected in national malaria statistics.

    When someone tests positive for malaria, the health worker shows them the medication, carefully explains how to take it, and may quiz the patient to make sure she has learned the correct details. This is a good way to ensure that medication will be used correctly and that the patient will be successfully cured of malaria.

    A government volunteer tests a young girl for malaria in Katakwi, Uganda.

    A government volunteer tests a young girl for malaria in Katakwi, Uganda.

    Donors to the ELCA Malaria Campaign: thank you so much for making this work possible! Our partnership with the Lutheran World Federation in Uganda is bearing fruit.  Communities are becoming more educated about malaria prevention and control, cases are being diagnosed and treated, and the Lutheran malaria program in Uganda continues to grow and serve. 

    So far, the ELCA Malaria Campaign has raised 60% of it’s total goal– we just hit the $9 million mark in our $15 million campaign. Thank you for your generosity, and for your vision of a world without malaria!  Together with our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Africa, we are coming closer to that world every day.

     

    Community members in Katakwi District, Uganda, wait in long lines to be tested for malaria by LWF malaria program staff and volunteers.

    Community members in Katakwi District, Uganda, wait in long lines to be tested for malaria by LWF malaria program staff and volunteers.

     

    A Village Health Team member trained by the Lutheran malaria program in Uganda  records malaria test results at an open clinic in Katakwi.

    A Village Health Team member trained by the Lutheran malaria program in Uganda records malaria test results at an open clinic in Katakwi.

     

    Through open clinics, adults and children can be tested for malaria in their home village.  Those who test positive will receive medication immediately.

    Through open clinics, adults and children can be tested for malaria in their home village. Those who test positive will receive medication immediately.

    2013 Churchwide Assembly — the malaria perspective!

    Posted on August 20, 2013 by jessicanipp

    Last week, I had the honor of attending the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly as a representative of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  I was impressed and pleased by the enthusiasm and support for the work of the ELCA Malaria Campaign that was displayed by voting members and visitors alike. Almost every day of the Churchwide Assembly brought highlights related to malaria. Here are a few of those:CWA photo

    • On Monday, the worship service offering was designated for the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  Worshipers gave more than $9,000.
    • On Tuesday evening, there was a hearing for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Three presenters gave some background information on the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and then we opened the floor to questions.  I shared information about our fundraising progress and highlights of program impact. Bishop Liz Eaton talked about how their malaria focus energized the Northeastern Ohio Synod, which served as a Pilot Synod in 2010.  ELCA Church Council member, Pastor Elizabeth Ekdale talked about her congregation in San Francisco and their creative efforts to raise money.  Following the presentations, we had a delightful and energetic conversation peppered with great congregational ideas, laughter and applause. My favorite new idea came from the pastor who assured me that the bugs he publically ate when the congregation reached its fundraising goal were “ordered from a scientific supply store—so they were totally sanitary!”Hanson Eaton
    • On Wednesday, Bishop Liz Eaton was elected the next Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.  As a member of the ELCA Malaria Campaign National Leadership Team, Bishop Eaton has been a vocal supporter of the great work that we do together with our companions in Africa—much as Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has been. We have been, and will continue to be, blessed by the leadership and support of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.
    • On Thursday evening, we gathered some ELCA World Hunger Leaders and ELCA Malaria Campaign Synod Coordinators for dinner and networking. I loved witnessing that spirited exchange of stories and ideas!Jess CWA
    • On Friday morning, I gave the ELCA Malaria Campaign report. To view the report, click here, and scroll down to “Plenary Eight.” The report begins at 59:20 with a short introduction from Bishop Hanson.  For me, the highlight of our report was a new 2-minute video that demonstrates the impact of malaria programming in Zambia.  This video, along with a similar video reporting on progress in Malawi, will be available on our website very soon!
    • On Friday afternoon, the assembled body voted to begin the 25th Anniversary Campaign to strengthen the ministries and the mission of the ELCA! I’m excited that the ELCA Malaria Campaign will be a part of this five-year, $198 million campaign. As a part of the 25th Anniversary Campaign, the goals and the timeline of the ELCA Malaria Campaign will remain as planned. We will raise our $15 million by 2015, and I believe this success will demonstrate to our whole church that we are a generous people who care deeply about ministry at home and around the world.  Through the ELCA Malaria Campaign, we can meet (and exceed) the first goal of the 25th Anniversary Campaign in just two short years! Let’s do it!

    I am grateful to all of you who have supported the ELCA Malaria Campaign thus far—let’s keep up the good work—two more years!

    - Jessica Nipp Hacker
    Coordinator, ELCA Malaria Campaign

    Hope on the horizon: New malaria vaccine performs well

    Posted on August 9, 2013 by jessicanipp

    Yesterday, some very exciting news was reported in Science magazine: a new kind of malaria vaccine is showing unprecedented results in an initial lab study.

    Fifty-seven volunteers participated in the study. Subject groups received varying numbers of doses of the new vaccine, with a control group remaining unvaccinated. Three weeks after the vaccinations, subjects were deliberately infected with malaria through the bites of five infected mosquitoes. The results were unexpectedly conclusive: 

    • 6 subjects, each receiving 5 doses of vaccine: 0 cases of malaria
    • 9 subjects, each receiving 4 doses of vaccine: 3 cases of malaria
    • 12 subjects, each receiving 0 doses of vaccine: 11 cases of malaria

    In this study, subjects receiving 5 doses of the vaccine were 100% protected from the malaria parasite– an unprecedented result in the history of malaria research. 

    The quest for a malaria vaccine has been a long and frustrating one. The complicated life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite has allowed it to elude scientists’ best efforts for decades, and previous vaccine trials have resulted in limited success.  A goal of the World Health Organization is to produce a malaria vaccine with 80% efficacy by the year 2025.  This study represents the first time a sufficiently high level of protection has been demonstrated.

    The new vaccine, named PfSPZ (for “Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite”), uses a whole, weakened Plasmodium parasite to induce human T cells to attack the invading parasite. This technique is similar to that used in the oral polio vaccine, which has brought polio to the brink of global eradication.   The PfSPZ vaccine was developed by irradiating  mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium falciparum to weaken the parasite, harvesting the parasite from the mosquitoes’ salivary glands, purifying and freezing the parasite in its sporozoite stage, and injecting the sporozoites into humans intravenously and in high doses.  The PfSPZ vaccine has been deemed safe, and was well-tolerated by experimental subjects.

    Experts are cautiously optimistic about the promise of the new vaccine. There are several limiting factors at the moment that make PfSPZ still a few steps removed from the sought-after “silver bullet” of a simple, effective and easy-to-deliver malaria vaccine:

    • This study involved a very small test group.  Sanaria is planning to stage much broader trials in Africa, beginning at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania six weeks from now.
    • This trial only tested the vaccine’s short term results.  In order to be useful in malaria-endemic areas, a vaccine would need to demonstrate long-term efficacy.  So far the long-term results of the PfSPZ vaccine are untested.
    • The PfSPZ vaccine must be injected multiple times, intravenously.  IV injection is more complex and time-consuming than oral or subcutaneous injection, and requires more training.
    • In its present form, the PfSPZ vaccine must be kept frozen with liquid nitrogen.  This could greatly limit the possibilities for distribution to rural and less-developed areas.

    Even amidst these challenges, this new vaccine brings undeniable hope for the eventual elimination of malaria. Here are several news stories about the PfSPZ vaccine:

    • The original study published in Science, entitled “Protection Against Malaria by Intravenous Immunization with a Nonreplicating Sporozoite Vaccine” (abstract available; must subscribe to read full article)
    • From NPR’s health blog (with podcast)
    • From CNN (with video)
    • From Nature science journal

    What do you think of this news?

    - Jessica Nipp Hacker,
    Coordinator, ELCA Malaria Campaign