Last year, our 25th Anniversary Appeal raised more than $145,000 to benefit Women of the ELCA and the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Half of these dollars will support the Malaria Campaign’s work in three areas – medicine, advocacy and water.
The water projects came to mind last Friday when I listened to the morning news. An NPR story told of new research exposing how the U.S. eradicated malaria in Alabama and the American South in the early 1900s. Here’s an excerpt:
The findings were surprising. It wasn’t getting people to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, or getting better medications to people who do get infected….Instead, the parasite left the U.S., in large part, because the government destroyed mosquito breeding grounds.
“The primary factor leading to the demise of malaria was large-scale drainage projects, which were backed up by the creation of local public health infrastructure,” he says. Sledge and his colleague described their findings this September in the American Journal of Public Health.
A few days earlier on the ELCA Malaria Campaign blog, Jessica Nipp Hacker reflected on Christmas and wrote about the brokenness of the world that needs the light of Christ. As an example, she called attention to the current power struggle in South Sudan that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes. “Many are hiding in swampy areas,” she said, “where the risk of malaria skyrockets.”
The treatment and removal of standing water is a top priority for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. In earlier posts, Nipp Hacker wrote about projects the Campaign supports in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, for example, where churches are educating children and adults to get rid of potholes and puddles near houses, churches, and schools. In those communities, there are now fewer opportunities for mosquitoes to breed, and it is making a difference.
I spent the week of Christmas in coastal South Carolina, where malaria was a serious threat into the 1940s. I didn’t give it one thought. Seventy years ago, my government had sufficient infrastructure, resources and political will to dig 30,000 miles of ditches, nearly eliminating the standing water that bred malaria-carrying mosquitoes. These ditches put an end to the cartoons, films, and other media that were used in the early 1900s to urge Americans to use mosquito nets, take malaria medicine, and avoid standing water.
There’s a significant political gap between the civil society that dug those ditches and a war-torn country where power struggles send children fleeing towards malaria-infested swamps. It’s a gap into which hundreds of millions of people wake up every day, just like Americans did 90 years ago, threatened by malaria but acting boldly to lessen its impact on their lives.
Emma Crossen is director for stewardship and development.
Photo via Morguefile.com.