Lutheran World Relief (LWR), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the United Nations Foundation announced on Monday an unprecedented partnership to mobilize Lutherans in the United States in the fight against malaria in Africa.
The campaign, called the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), aims to raise $45 million to contribute toward the global goal of eliminating malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, continues to devastate communities and perpetuate a cycle of poverty. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 million people die of malaria each year and every 45 seconds a child dies in Africa. In many communities where LWR and the LCMS work, extreme poverty creates conditions that allow malaria to take hold and spread with deadly consequence.
At a news conference held Monday at Detroit’s Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, leaders of the LMI partnership joined representatives from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), to announce the campaign and discuss the crucial role of churches and faith-based institutions in the effort to end malaria deaths.
Rev. John Nunes, president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, opened the news conference. “I am excited to be here today with the LMI partners,” Nunes said. “This is a day that has been years in the making, and for which millions around the world have been waiting.”
Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, spoke next. “The Lutheran footprint for providing care and mercy to those suffering is enormous,” Harrison said. “For decades, we have been working with partners and fellow Lutherans at the ‘end of the dirt road.’ Today, we are delighted to come alongside the LMI partners to take a huge bite out of this horrid disease.”
Gloria Edwards, co-chair of the LMI National Campaign Cabinet, offered insights on her inspiration for becoming involved in the initiative. “My husband and I believe in saying yes to the open doors God places before us,” she said. “We went to East Africa not long ago and saw a young woman in a malaria-induced coma. We also saw other young children who demonstrated how to use a bed net, and how to let their parents know when they are not feeling well so that they can be taken to the doctor. We are excited to be a part of helping more children and families know how to prevent malaria as well as what to do when they get sick with the disease.”
In closing the news conference, Nicolas Demey, corporate partnerships officer with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, “It is an honor to work with LMI to help end malaria deaths in Africa. We have the tools and know what we need to do to end these needless deaths. We can do it.”
Following Monday’s news conference, Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation, added: “Between 40 percent and 60 percent of health care in developing countries is provided by faith-based organizations, like our Lutheran partners,” Calvin said. “It is inspiring to see how the Lutheran community in the U.S. can help the UN reach families in rural villages on the other side of the world.”