Joint Statement from the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief & Development for World Malaria Day on April 25

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Dr. Bonnie Anderson, 
President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church

Dr. Robert W. Radtke, 
President of Episcopal Relief & Development

[April 7, 2011] 

For the current triennium, NetsforLife® is the centerpiece of our Church’s prophetic response to the Millennium Development Goals.

Indeed, dioceses, congregations and individuals throughout the Church have taken up the call of the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund and are working to distribute long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets throughout Africa.

There are some stunning program accomplishments about which we can all be very proud:

  • More than 6.3 million nets have been distributed
  • Over 48,000 malaria agents have been trained
  • Almost 35 million beneficiaries have been reached, either directly or indirectly

To learn more about these accomplishments, please join Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development, Stephen DzisiNetsforLife® Technical Director, and Meg DeRongheNetsforLife® Acting Executive Director for a conference call on Tuesday, April 12. You’ll be able to learn and ask questions about NetsforLife®‘s accomplishments, innovative methodology, and unique interfaith partnerships.

While we give thanks for these accomplishments, this is not time to rest on our laurels.

According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • It is estimated that 42% of households in Africa owned at least one ITN (Insecticide Treated Net) in mid-2010, and that 35% of children slept under an ITN. 
  • The percentage of children using ITNs is still well below the WHO target of 80% partly because up to the end of 2009, ITN ownership remained low in some of the largest African countries. 
  • Low rates of use reported in some surveys are primarily due to a lack of sufficient nets to cover all household members; household survey results suggest that most (80%) of the available ITNs are used.

There is currently a huge effort to ensure that malaria nets reach those who need them the most, and recent measures indicate that progress is being made. According to the WHO report, a total of 254 million ITNs were delivered to countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 2008 and 2010 – enough to cover 66% of the 765 million people at risk. Eleven countries showed a reduction of more than 50% in either confirmed malaria cases or admissions and deaths in recent years, and overall malaria deaths have been reduced from 1 million annually to 781,000.

However, as the report points out:

  • While the rapid scale-up of ITN distribution in Africa represents an enormous public health achievement, it also represents a formidable challenge for the future in ensuring that the high levels of coverage are maintained. 
  • The lifespan of a long-lasting ITN is currently estimated to be three years. 
  • Nets delivered in 2006 and 2007 are therefore already due for replacement, and those delivered between 2008 and 2010 soon will be.

In fact, this is exactly what we are seeing amongst our NetsforLife® partners in Africa, and it is the challenge we face until malaria is eradicated – something that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Furthermore, we know from our program monitoring and evaluation that net distribution only gets you part of the way to prevention. What matters most is proper net usage, by the right people, every night.

So we have a three-fold challenge in malaria prevention:

  • Ensuring universal Insecticide Treated Net coverage 
  • Sustained proper usage of those nets
  • Net replacement after three years of use

The Episcopal Church, through its award-winning NetsforLife® program partnership, is rising to this challenge every day. Through the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund, we are engaging Episcopal congregations, clergy, students and seminarians in raising awareness and funds for malaria prevention and education.

In closing, we want to share a story from a parish priest in one of our NetsforLife® partner dioceses:

“Before NetsforLife® came to this area, community members used to wake me up in the middle of the night at least four times every month to baptize and anoint a sick child—only to bury him or her the next day. Since the program started, such midnight calls have ceased … NetsforLife® is saving lives.”

Join us in the fight against malaria.

For more information, visit the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund page.

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development rebuilds after disasters and empowers people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

NetsforLife® is a partnership of corporations, foundations and faith-based organizations working to eliminate malaria in Africa. The program partnership, which has benefited more than 35 million people, includes ExxonMobil, Standard Chartered Bank, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Starr International Foundation, the J.C. Flowers Foundation and Episcopal Relief & Development.