By the Rev. Gary Henderson*
I often refer to malaria as a disease of poverty. It is language that I have become comfortable using. It is descriptive language and people understand it. It is not difficult to make the connection that people often have malaria because they are poor and do not have access to resources. As a United Methodist, I am absolutely convinced that our determination to see the elimination of death and suffering from malaria is a holy calling. We heard the cries of those most affected by this disease and responded with Imagine No Malaria.
Malaria really is a dreaded disease of poverty. And this week I looked poverty in the face. Poverty again became for me more than just descriptive words. Poverty wore the face of beautiful children play acting cooking in the dust and the dirt and the sand, near the Kwanza River in Bom Jesus, Angola. I stared poverty in the face of a toddler contently playing while suited in a soiled diaper that appeared to be days old. I witnessed the visible connection of malaria to poverty. Malaria as a disease of poverty is real.
The grim grip of poverty was intruded upon as an Imagine No Malaria volunteer stooped down in the dirt and the sand and the dust to offer kind attention to children at play. For me, the moment was almost angelic — because a messenger of hope paused for a moment to care.
Malaria as a root cause of poverty was assaulted as Imagine No Malaria volunteers called ”activist” moved through Bom Jesus teaching about malaria and giving instruction on the care and hanging of insecticide treated bed nets. The use of these nets will save lives. These nets will be the source of a more abundant life.
Jesus said: “I have come to give you life that you might have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Imagine No Malaria is one tangible way that our church is offering abundant life.
*Henderson is the executive director of the Global Health Initiative at United Methodist Communications.