'Noisy About Malaria' in Mozambique

Posted by Chris LaTondrese
April 25, 2013
Children Smile From Beneath Mosquito Netting

Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane's message isn't exactly what one might expect from a typical religious leader. Then again, Bishop Sengulane, who has presided over Mozambique's Lebombo Diocese since 1976, is not a typical leader, religious or otherwise. The large cross that hangs from a chain around his neck is fashioned from components of disassembled weapons surrendered by combatants after the Mozambique civil war, a prolonged conflict that he and other religious leaders played an integral role in bringing to an end in the mid-1990s.

Today, Bishop Sengulane is fighting to bring an end to another destructive force in his nation: malaria. The disease steals 650,000 lives around the world each year, devastating entire communities and undermining opportunities for prosperity and growth -- and disproportionately affecting the African continent.

At a gathering hosted by USAID last month in Washington, D.C., Bishop Sengulane was joined by Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), leadership from USAID's Global Health Bureau, and representatives from a number of faith-based and community organizations, including Christian and Muslim groups. The Bishop's message was simple and clear: "[Mozambique] reached peace 20 years ago. But 10 years ago we said there is something else that is killing day and night. Its name is Malaria. Let's stop it. Let's start working on that as communities of faith because we know this is not God's will."

In 2006, the Bishop helped launch a nationwide campaign to end malaria called PIRCOM (Programa Inter Religioso Contra a Malaria) alongside leaders from Christian, Muslim, and Baha'i faith backgrounds. Their ambitious goal: train thousands of religious leaders across the country with basic malaria prevention and control messages, equipping them with the resources and tools needed to bring these messages to their communities.

"People in Mozambique know that I often say, 'Let's be noisy about malaria.' That's actually how PIRCOM started...people heard us saying could we give them a platform to address even more people on their concerns about malaria."

To date, PIRCOM has trained over 27,000 religious leaders and reached nearly two million congregants with basic malaria education, made possible through funding from the President's Malaria Initiative. The PIRCOM network now extends to 36 district councils and six provincial councils across Mozambique where efforts are coordinated. Reflecting on the unique role faith communities can play in saving lives through simple public awareness raising, Bishop Sengulane observed: "If a doctor talks about how important it is for you to have your home sprayed, of course he will talk about those things in those terms, because it is how he will get his salary. But when a leader of a mosque starts talking about health issues, about malaria, then people are ready to listen. [Religious leaders] have got a good audience."

Echoing this theme, Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer added, "No matter what the cause, if you don't have political, or community, or civil leadership behind, it isn't going to go anywhere...these leaders represent a 'flag pole' for the cause."

Still, there is much work to be done, especially in preventing deaths of children under five. Concluding his remarks, the Bishop acknowledged, "At the present moment we continue to have too many children dying of malaria. It's very important that we ensure that with the under-fives, pregnant women and similar vulnerable groups, that we go back and do the very urgent work of providing them with whatever is needed so that malaria doesn't kill, as we see happening too often."

PIRCOM's example reminds us that effective global development not only requires sound public policy and results-oriented programming, it is also a fundamental expression of our values, both as individuals and as a nation.

On this World Malaria Day, let's resolve to be noisy about malaria.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on the USAID Impact Blog. Each year, World Malaria Day (April 25) commemorates the global fight toward zero malaria deaths and mobilizes action to combat malaria. This year's theme is "Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria."

Comments

Comments

Ben
|
California, USA
April 26, 2013

Ben in California writes:

Malaria was almost wiped out in the 1960s through the use of DDT. It is estimated that the people who suppressed the use of DDT caused the deaths of 20 million children.

Janice W.
|
Texas, USA
April 29, 2013

Janice W. in Texas writes:

Recent debates have turned an entire population into arguments, aggression, and strong viewpoints over issues in this country...specifically issues regarding weapons, (guns, funding, etc..) while the priorities is still the same as it always was in my field of social work; HOW TO SAVE LIVES: how to education others to save lives; and how to avoid being a victim to those who are in direct opposition to saving lives; Where is our compassion; there are people in this country who rely on others to keep from dying of starvation; from aggression and from violence; we have become a nation that has turned a blind eye to my forefathers who separated themselves from dictators and tyrants and who did not believe in "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

My work is surviving everyday and so are others' who are not able themselves to study or educate themselves; it is up to us: study all reactions, reasonj and compare....think, review, and remember to never make a claim that cannot be substantiated, be ethical in all things and conduct all affairs in a manner that cannot be misinterpreted; because there are those who do not do so and will "steal your brain" for their own use and abuse: for THEIR CAUSE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A STABLE FOUNDATION OF INTERVENTION (THINKING THROUGH THE SITUATION BEFORE ACTION AND STUDY REACTIONS, THEN ANALYZE....)

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