AFRICA: Scourge of malaria can be prevented, say church leaders

April 24, 2009

One child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in sub-Saharan Africa and church leaders say this dire reality needs to be addressed immediately.

"The cost of preventing and treating malaria is only a fraction of what the disease costs us in terms of lost lives, lost income, lost productivity, lost learning," Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has said. "The world must get its priorities right in tackling this preventable and curable disease, which claims a million lives a year."

He was speaking on the eve of World Malaria Day, April 25. "With half the globe's population at risk from malaria, including within substantial areas of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa ... we must continue to pray for all those infected, affected, and at risk, but we must also act wherever we can to defeat the menace of malaria."

The Rev. Hielke Wolters, chairperson of Geneva-based ACT Development, said in a statement, "Malaria is preventable, yet so many young and mainly African people are losing their lives to it. Our commitment to work together against malaria will have a massive impact and the initiative aims to save tens of thousands of lives."

Practical ways to eliminate malaria include getting rid of stagnant water wherever possible, and ensuring that everyone in malarial areas has mosquito nets.

For his part, Makgoba said, "People must understand that swift medical treatment can make all the difference in saving lives and limiting the effect of the disease. Do not delay in getting yourself, or your children, to the clinic, if you think you may be infected."

He also urged the international scientific community to make fighting malaria a far higher priority.

Makgoba added, "It is unacceptable to see malaria merely as a 'disease of the poor' and for medical research, and those who fund it, to focus disproportionately on diseases largely in the developed world, which impact on far fewer people globally."

Noting that in some areas of Africa and elsewhere, steady progress was being made, the archbishop nonetheless urged greater urgency in pursuit of the goal of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's 2010 target for delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria.

Further information on Act Development is available here.