Working to end African malaria deaths

Every 60 seconds, malaria claims a life in Africa. It kills an estimated 655,000 people each year, most of them pregnant women and children under five years old.

Asbury United Methodist Church in Webster City is taking part in a statewide pancake breakfast in partnership with the Imagine No Malaria program, which is run through the United Methodist Church. The breakfast will be held on Saturday at Webster City Middle School from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. to support the goal to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa.

This is the first benefit Asbury Methodist has held for the program, according to church member Arlo Van Diest. Asbury Methodist is holding the pancake breakfast in coordination with about 120 churches in the state in late April and early May. Van Diest said the breakfast offers an opportunity for them to help a worthy cause.

“It takes about $10 to buy a net so a person isn’t attacked by mosquitoes at night,” Van Diest said. “The cost to value is overwhelming when you consider that it might save a life. We take so much for granted when you look at the problems other places in the world deal with and it’s good to recognize how blessed we are.”

The Imagine No Malaria program’s approach to ending malaria deaths includes four facets. The first is prevention. The organization says insecticide-treated mosquito nets are the best way to prevent malaria infections. Other measures include draining standing water where mosquitoes breed, trimming foliage and proper sanitation.

The group also trains health workers in African communities to share facts about malaria, such as identifying symptoms and dispelling myths about the disease. That ties into another facet of the organization, which is communication between health workers and families.

The United Methodist Church has worked to treat malaria in hospitals and clinics across Africa for 160 years. Funds raised toward the Imagine No Malaria program will also help those medical institutions afford rapid diagnosis kits and life-saving medicines to treat people infected with malaria.

Malaria, a parasitic disease, changes so rapidly that an effective vaccine has never been developed for the disease, according to the organization. Symptoms of the disease include headache, nausea and fatigue which progresses into vomiting, chills and a fever that can be as high as 106 degrees. A fever that high can lead to a coma.

However, one trial vaccine that is in the human testing phase could reduce cases of malaria by half in children under the age of five, according to the organization. Malaria is entirely preventable, treatable and beatable, according to the organization, which points out that malaria was eliminated in the United States through the creation of the Centers for Disease Control. The disease was almost entirely wiped out in the U.S. through a comprehensive effort from 1947 to 1951.

All funds donated during this free will offering pancake breakfast will go towards the Imagine No Malaria program. The organization received a $5 million grant from the United Nations Foundation that Imagine No Malaria says covers all campaign and overhead costs. Funds will not go through local governments in Africa, but instead will be granted through in-country health boards who will help ensure accountability of the funds used.