ELCA Malaria Campaign
Make Malaria History
Many thanks to the Rev. Arden Strasser, an ELCA Missionary serving with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia, for this interview. Arden works primarily with leadership development, and is very familiar with the work of the Lutheran Malaria Prpgram in Zambia.
ELCA Malaria Campaign: Tell us about the logistics of the Lutheran Malaria Program in Zambia. Take us behind the scenes.
Arden Strasser: In order to run a program, you need people and resources and communications. Zambia is a big country, and the Lutheran congregations are far apart. And the congregations and communities that are served are far from urban centers. So a lot of the work—a lot of the resources—are applied to getting the trained malaria workers, materials and coordination to the areas that are in need.
So a lot of time and effort is spent on traveling; mobilizing vehicles and equipment and fuel. This—a public health campaign, in areas that are far from urban centers—requires a lot of mobilization. And that costs money. It’s not as simple as just giving somebody a net. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into making a program effective in a rural location. And a lot of the money goes to the work behind the scenes.
To get to to Zambezi in Northwest Zambia, it’s a 17-hour drive from Lusaka, which is the capital of Zambia. And then to get to our rural locations it’s another couple of hours on roads that require a 4×4. And the malaria workers don’t have 4x4s. So normally they have to find other ways. Most of the malaria workers are given bicycles from the malaria program. But to ride this trail [from Zambezi to the Lutheran congregations in the Dipalata community] on a bike is a daylong ride, and it’s an exhausting one. We are getting motorcycles this year, for some of the malaria workers. The motorcycles will require a lot of maintenance, and registration, and training to drive them properly, and taxes. So the mobilization of resources is a significant investment.
Pastor Collins is a malaria worker out here. And if he comes out here to these congregations to do his church work, and/or malaria sensitization and malaria assessment, he’s got to think, “How am I going to get out here this week?” And he’s got to plan. Now, a bicycle’s great if it’s close, but out here the congregations are 40 kilometers apart, so that’s a long bike ride on sand. In fact, it’s brutal on sand. You can do it, but it’s just brutal. So he’s got to figure out, “What can I find for transport? Can I get a lift? Can I borrow a motorcycle?” Sometimes you can borrow motorcycles, sometimes you can’t—because the program doesn’t own any motorcycles yet. This year there are malaria motorcycles coming in the budget, and the Country Coordinator will decide how they are applied out here. So a malaria motorcycle would help mobilize Pastor Collins, for sure. When he can come out, that’s when the congregation would have communion, or confirmation or baptism, or the sacraments, or special malaria programming. But [when Pastor Collins is not available], they organize themselves locally.