FOUR Southern African Anglican bishops visited the UK earlier this month to press the case for an increase in the part played by faith leaders in combating malaria.
The Bishop of Lusaka, the Rt Revd David Njovu; the Bishop of Matabeleland, the Rt Revd Cleophas Lunga; the Bishop of Namibia, the Rt Revd Luke Pato; and the Bishop of Angola, the Rt Revd André Soares, met a government minister and other politicians, besides holding a round-table discussion at Lambeth Palace.
Bishop Njovu said: “We came to talk about the role of the religious community in eliminating malaria. We are trying to say that the faith community is one of the parts that is required to combat malaria at the grass roots.
“We have the tools to mobilise the grass roots in the fight against the disease, like teaching people how to use mosquito nets and insect repellent. The Church has the trust from people that allows them to go into homes and teach people — it is not easy for other organisations to gain that trust.”
Speaking to the Church Times from the Houses of Parliament, Bishop Njovu said that all of the delegations’ meetings had been “very positive”. They met a minister from the Department for International Development, Alistair Burt. Bishop Njovu said that Mr Burt appreciated the work of the Church in Southern Africa.
The visit was hosted by the J. C. Flowers Foundation’s Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative, which is attempting to tackle malaria by “shrinking the malaria map”. This means fighting the disease in the “last mile”, the cross-border areas of Zimbawe, Angola, Zambia, and Namibia, where the disease is hard to track and contain.
The four bishops were joined by Nanlop Ogubereke, the Global Program Adviser for Health for Christian Aid, based in Nigeria, which has the highest malaria burden in the world.
Malaria claims the lives of about 445,000 people a year, of which 91 per cent are in Africa. Deaths from the disease halved, however, between 2007 and 2017.
“Faith leaders have an enormous role to play in the fight against malaria in Africa,” Bishop Lunga said. “We have a strong reach into some of the most remote and rural areas, and are saving lives every day through our important work raising awareness about prevention and helping to provide treatment. We are doing what we can to ensure political leaders don’t take their foot off the pedal in their vital efforts to eliminate this disease.”
Bishop Njovu continued: “The Church are the foot soldiers. Now we are at the stage where we can track individual malaria cases; so the fight is there to be won.
“We met with other faith groups at the United Nations, and visited a hospital in New York to see how malaria is being tackled. The meetings went very well: we were talking about global funds for fighting malaria, which are going to carry on past 2019.”