April 25 is World Malaria Day. Earlier this year my 14-year-old son developed malaria after an out-of-country mission trip. Thankfully he was infected by the most benign species of the parasite which causes malaria, so we didn’t have to worry about him dying. But you know what? A child dies every two minutes around the world from malaria. Seventy percent of malaria deaths are children under 5. Another twenty percent of malaria deaths are pregnant or nursing women.
After my son began having a strange pattern of high fevers we took him to our family physician, who ordered blood work and other tests. His blood went to the Mayo Clinic. When the results came back positive for malaria, within hours our physician made it possible for my son to see a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the WVU hospital. Because that specialist had the results of the bloodwork, she could prescribe the right medicine for the particular species of the Plasmodium parasite with which he was infected. When we couldn’t get his vomiting under control and we weren’t sure that the prescribed medicine was being absorbed, the specialist worked very quickly to direct-admit him to the WVU hospital. Thankfully, it was only an overnight stay. Two months later he is ALMOST back to his normal energy level.
I tell you the details of this to make plain something we take for granted in the US: quality health care. Many people living in parts of the world in which infected mosquitos are abundant are not able to get to a doctor, let alone know exactly which species of Plasmodium has infected them – information which would yield targeted meds and an accurate prognosis. Five years ago at Annual Conference, I had a great time getting to play the part of Jezebel the Mosquito in skits to raise awareness about malaria and promote our Conference’s participation in the “Nothing But Nets” campaign to raise money to buy bed nets – a major part in preventing the spread of malaria. Nothing But Nets and the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria Campaign reduced the death rate of children from malaria by half worldwide. The statistics in the first paragraph were twice as bad a decade ago. Playing a mosquito in humorous skits and making people laugh was really fun, but malaria is no joke. If what my son went through was mild, I can’t imagine being the parent of a child who has a severe case.
Being part of a connectional church, whose apportionments fund important ministries such as global health initiatives, allows us to do so much more together than we could on our own. Click here to read how far the Imagine No Malaria campaign has come in just a few short years.
Rev. Jenny Williams is pastor of Avery United Methodist in the MonValley District.