According to WHO (World Health Organization) about 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. Malaria is preventable and curable, and increased efforts are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk (the rate of new cases) fell by 37% globally. In that same period, malaria death rates among populations at risk fell by 60% globally among all age groups, and by 65% among children under 5. Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 88% of malaria cases and 90% of malaria deaths.
There is some good news and some hope. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted globally since 2001—good news indeed. However, last year alone there were still over half a million reported deaths, the vast majority infants, young children, and pregnant women. Half a million funerals, half a million families shattered, half a million communities in pain, so malaria is still an active evil in our world, especially here in Africa.
WHO is still actively fighting malaria. The WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 – adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015 sets ambitious but achievable global targets, including:
Reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90% by 2030.
Reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030.
These are wonderful goals, yet achieving them completely still means that over 50,000 infants, children under five, and pregnant women will still be dying every year of a preventable disease. The more lives saved is certainly fantastic, but until there are no deaths—as there are in many countries right now, the fight should never be abandoned.
The United Methodist Church has greatly assisted in the fight against malaria with its “Nothing but Nets” campaign and its “Imagine No Malaria” campaign. At the General Conference 2016 just a few weeks ago, “The United Methodist Church celebrated the culmination of the Imagine No Malaria campaign and the launch of a new initiative called Abundant Health. As we have been working to combat the preventable disease of malaria, we will now cast our vision wider.” There can be no question that saving children’s lives is of supreme importance to Christ and His followers. Personally, I am saddened that what has proven to be such an incredible good result in the fight against malaria has ended in celebration when there is still such a long way to go. I am so proud of all the church has done and so grateful for all the mosquito nets distributed and the lives saved, but the battle has not been won, and the war is not over. I pray that all members of the church and individuals in the world will remember those of us who suffer and watch while loved ones, neighbors, and members of our churches and communities still die every day of this dread disease will continue to join in the fight in whatever form is available. It is just my opinion, but I suspect the celebration was a bit premature while still applauding the effort and results that have been achieved. Don’t call in all the lifeboats while there are still hundreds of thousands drowning. We need your help, you have proven what good work you can do—please continue.