In the global movement to fight malaria, we often hear the phrase “nothing but nets.” It’s catchy and alliterative and makes the containment of malaria sound oh-so simple; really it’s everything a catchphrase ought to be.
And mosquito nets, especially long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), are truly wonderful instruments. They’re one concrete way to help households and communities prevent the bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes. Nets are cheap and effective, and through the efforts of many of our colleagues in global health ministries, they’re becoming widely available in Africa and in other areas where malaria impacts lives. Plus, they make great visual aids for a congregation that chooses to tackle the important task of raising awareness and funds to fight malaria.
But it would be a misnomer to apply the phrase “nothing but nets” to the work of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Nets are definitely one part of the efforts our Lutheran companions are mounting to prevent and treat malaria in Africa, but they are just that– one part of the larger efforts. Our companions in Africa have created malaria containment programs that are creative, multi-faceted and sustainable, and respond to the specific needs and cultural dynamics of their contexts. These programs take advantage of the most current medical and epidemiological insights about how to prevent and treat malaria, such as:
- indoor residual spraying
- up-to-date diagnostic equipment and testing
- artemisinin-based combination therapies
They also provide education to help individuals lower the impact of malaria in their lives. They teach:
- the efficacy of spraying
- how and why to implement mosquito nets in their household
- preventative measures for pregnant women
- the elimination of environmental conditions that encourage mosquito reproduction
- how to recognize the symptoms of malaria and when to seek medical attention
Our companions have many creative plans to impart these lessons, from training an advocacy choir in Zimbabwe to sing about malaria prevention and treatment, to purchasing bicycles for members of village health teams in Malawi.
In this newspaper article, Bishop Bvumbwe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malawi weighs in about the ELCM’s approach to malaria work. He says what’s needed first in his context is education; nets come later. And so the ELCA Malaria Campaign will be there, leveraging your donations to supply what’s needed most (nets and more!), accompanying our companions as together we equip households to keep themselves safe from malaria.
– Jessica Nipp, ELCA Malaria Campaign