Faith leaders and J.C. Flowers Foundation partners are advocating for malaria elimination this World Malaria Day. Read statements from The Right Revered David Njovu, Sheikh Dr. Shaban Phiri, and The Right Reverend Andre Soares below.
Statement from Rt. Rev. David Njovu and Sheikh Dr. Shaban Phiri
This statement originally appeared on Zambia's End Malaria Council webpage.
"Today, in celebration of World Malaria Day, we call on all Zambians to join us in praying for the sick, caring for the afflicted, and protecting those whom are vulnerable to malaria.
Malaria affects more than 5 million Zambians each year. It weakens our families and kills pregnant women and our children. Defeating it must be a priority and a spiritual necessity.
Our faith teaches us that even the smallest things can be powerful and are worthy of our attention. In the Quran, Allah is “not ashamed to set forth any parable, even that of a mosquito” (Holy Quran 2:25). Although mosquitoes may be very small, they are the deadliest creatures on Earth because of the even smaller diseases they transmit. When we ignore the mosquito and malaria, we weaken our faith and our health.
Faith also demands that we care for ourselves (“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20); our families (“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8); and our communities (“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2). Luckily, fulfilling our spiritual duty is easy: (1) sleep under a mosquito net every night, (2) go to a community health worker or clinic if you or your family member has a fever, and (3) make sure that your neighbours are aware of the risks of malaria and take precautions too.
If you do not do these things, then remember the proverb: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 27:12).
We also call on faith leaders across the country to ensure that all Zambians are protected against malaria. We have a weekly platform to promote prudent behaviours amongst our flock. We also participate in pivotal moments, such as baptisms, when we can educate parents about the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net. If they do not have a net, there will be a nationwide campaign to distribute them this year.
Along with our fellow members of the End Malaria Council and all Zambians, we declare that 'malaria ends with me.'"
Statement from Rt. Rev. Andre Soares
"On this World Malaria Day 2020, we remember the memory of our beloved and fellow countrymen, lost by malaria disease, a preventable and curable disease.
With good reason, and with the hope of avoiding unnecessary deaths while this possibility still exists, the world is paying attention to COVID-19's raging and violent illness.
And in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, we must pay equal attention to a disease that kills even more people annually: malaria.
Everyone is taking action to prevent COVID-19, and if we had a treatment, everyone would rush to get it. But we already have ways of preventing malaria, and we already have a cure for malaria, but we do not facilitate and enjoy sufficient access to these precious resources.
Each of us has to take our responsibility to avoid this malaria disease that is devastating us. For us in positions of responsibility that decide how to invest our resources, we must prioritize the response to this vicious disease. For those of us who have mosquito nets, we must sleep under it daily, even in the heat. For those of us who have a voice of influence, we must encourage those we lead to take appropriate action. For those of us who manage health systems, we must establish efficient input distribution systems. The motto for World Malaria Day is “Zero Malaria Starts With Me” - and truly, each of us has a role.
We serve a God who desires life in abundance for his people. As Moses urged the people of Israel: CHOOSE LIFE, NOT DEATH!
For a malaria-free generation!"
-Dom André Soares, Bishop of the Diocese of Angola, Anglican Church
Responding to Malaria Outbreaks During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Anglican Cross Border Malaria Initiative in Zimbabwe Continues to Fight against Malaria
It was the first week in March when Shepherd Mahlahleni, a field officer for the Diocese of Matabeleland’s Anglican Cross Border Malaria Initiative (ACBMI) in Zimbabwe first heard news of a possible malaria outbreak in the Negande area of Kariba District. Mahlahleni received phone calls from three village health workers (VHWs) – Tiller Mpofu, Simuguka Siamwiriyo and Sekai Zandu – alerting him of the malaria cases.
VHWs like Mpofu, Siamwiriyo, and Zandu are trained by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to carryout essential malaria education, rapid testing, and treatment for those who test positive for malaria. Because they are selected by and live in the communities they serve, they are often the first to detect emerging malaria outbreaks.
While it is not uncommon for areas like Negande to experience an increase in the number of malaria cases during March and April (the rainy season), the number of new cases in Negande was a cause for concern for Mahlahleni and the Kariba District Health Office.
As the district began dealing with the urgent needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, it became difficult to maintain the normal level of prioritization for malaria activities, Shepherd noted. Routine malaria education and sensitization were not occurring with the same level of intensity as past years, and health staff that typically focus on malaria-related activities were conducting other activities such as food aid distribution.
As fears of COVID-19 spread among rural communities, so did malaria.
In response, Mahlahleni and Muchenje Oswell, the District Environmental Health Officer in Kariba District, visited Negande in March to investigate the malaria cases. They discovered mosquito breeding sites in stagnant bodies of water, which are also a source of water for the nearby communities for household use. They also discovered a shortage of rapid malaria tests in the Negande health clinic because so many more people than normal had presented with fevers.
Those most affected by the malaria outbreak were adults who engage in farming activities along the river soon after the rains, Mahlahleni and Oswell reported. These farmers leave their permanent houses to stay in temporary structures in order to guard their crops from wild animals, therefore exposing themselves to mosquito bites.
Following the trip to Negande, Mahlahleni prioritized the redistribution of rapid tests from a local pharmacy near his office to Negande so that all of Negande’s VHWs and the health centre were fully equipped to test all those who needed a malaria test. VHWs intensified their community education, including encouraging increased prevention measures, such as wearing long sleeves.
Like many countries across Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is under lockdown orders with the goal of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Under the supervision of Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Programme and ACBMI, which works in partnership with the J.C. Flowers Foundation’s Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative (IFCBMI), VHWs in Negande have continued to conduct malaria education within the community while observing COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. They are sharing messages on malaria prevention and encouraging those with fevers to go to a VHW or their local clinic for testing. The number of malaria cases has decreased.
Despite these efforts, Mahlahleni worries that the progress made by ACBMI, in partnership with IFCBMI and Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Programme in reducing cases in Kariba district, could be reversed.
Unfortunately, Negande is one of many communities in Zimbabwe that is experiencing additional challenges during what is already peak malaria season.
As the world struggles to respond to COVID-19, there is a significant risk that prevention and treatment programs for malaria will be disrupted, despite guidance from the World Health Organization that states malaria activities should continue.
As we celebrate World Malaria Day on April 25th, it is important to acknowledge that current investments in malaria are saving almost 600,000 lives and preventing nearly 100 million cases a year. Efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect health systems, enabling them to continue to serve the population throughout the crisis. At the same time, these efforts must continue to preserve access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services or threaten to reverse decades of hard-fought progress against malaria.