Village-based volunteers are to be trained in malaria prevention with support from the Anglican mission and development agency USPG (www.uspg.org.uk). It is a good news story for World Malaria Day (25 April).
The USPG-funded training will be implemented in Namibia and Angola through the health departments of the national Anglican Churches.
David Evans, USPG’s Director for Community Engagement, explained: ‘The church is ideal for delivering health programmes because it can connect people and organisations at so many levels – from international health organisations and government health bodies right through to local rural churches.'
He added: ‘Through the church, the attitudes and behaviours of local people can be changed on a scale that is otherwise difficult to achieve.’
The USPG-supported programme – called TKMI (Trans-Kunene Malaria Cross-border Initiative) – will focus on villages either side of the Namibia-Angola border with training for 150 existing community malaria volunteers in each country.
Through the work of the volunteers, communities will learn simple techniques for preventing malaria, and other conditions, including hand-washing, water treatment, latrine maintenance, recognition of symptoms, and the use of medicines.
Also this week, USPG Chief Executive Janette O’Neill is in America to develop links between USPG and the Nets for Life campaign, which distributes insecticide-treated mosquito nets through national Anglican Churches in Africa. Janette helped to design the Nets for Life campaign while working for Episcopal Relief and Development, in America, before joining USPG last year.
Janette said: ‘There is so much that USPG’s world church partners can do to help tackle malaria and other preventable diseases. The ultimate aim is to give communities tools and knowledge so they have more control of their health. To make this happen, we are also committed to working with churches to develop their capacity so they can have more impact.’
Since 2008, Nets for Life has distributed 5.6 million mosquito nets to 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Some villages have seen deaths caused by malaria drop to zero.
USPG is also helping to tackle malaria in Myanmar (also known as Burma), where we are working with the Anglican Church to train volunteer health workers who will visit villages with little or no access to professional healthcare.
Ma Ko Lei is a health worker for the parish of St David’s, in the Diocese of Sittwe, where malaria is one of the biggest health challenges.
She writes: ‘I am so happy to be doing this work. I take care of nine villages. Whenever I visit a new village in the parish, I always carry out an inspection to see whether they are using mosquito nets, and I particularly urge the children to sleep under the nets.’
Ma Ko Lei also urges the use of hygienic plastic toilets, and has seen diarrhoea eradicated in some villages.
Malaria kills more than one million people each year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five.
Myanmar, Angola and Namibia are just three of the countries where USPG is funding church-run community health programmes that are tackling malaria and other preventable diseases.