The fight against malaria touches many people. Health workers, families caring for loved ones and the ill themselves are the first many might imagine. But malaria affects whole communities. As a result, entire communities band together to help prevent this deadly disease.
I am honored to be part of a United Nations Foundation delegation beginning a four-day observation trip across Tanzania today to see the critical work of these communities in action. We’ll be meeting with local Lutheran parishes–the UN Foundation is a committed supporter of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, a partnership to mobilize U.S.-based Lutherans to help end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. And the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania is a network of 6,000 congregations with a health care system that provides 15 percent of the nation’s rural medical care; they’ve helped spread malaria education and programming to some 2 million people.
Local programs like these strengthen the UN Foundation’s work to connect American communities with communities around the globe to solve the world’s most challenging problems.
Our Lutheran partners are truly rolling out the welcome mat, with celebrations, choir performances, a Sunday School play about malaria, worship services, and visits to local health facilities and homes. And they have much to celebrate: More than 600,000 life-saving bed nets were distributed across the country in recent years, enabling more Tanzanians than ever to sleep protected under nets. Communities like Arusha, Moshi, and beyond are working to educate local people about the threat of malaria and ensure that they get the tools, such as bed nets, and medical care needed to stay healthy and safe. The UN Foundation’s faith-based partners are a critical piece of the malaria prevention puzzle.
We’ll wrap up the trip with a visit to the island of Zanzibar, a true malaria success story. The National Malaria Control Program has helped reduce deaths from the disease by more than 75 percent in less than a decade. Soon, experts believe, malaria will be eliminated on the island. Amazing results like that give us hope that, together, we can end malaria in this generation.
Check back here and with @NothingButNets on Twitter for the latest on our delegation’s travels across Tanzania.