By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – In 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for an International Mother’s Day to honor all mothers, especially those who had lost sons in the Civil War. More than a century later, families in the United States still celebrate mothers and other nurturing women on the second Sunday of May.
This year, on May 12, United Methodists will honor the mothers who have lost children to malaria through a special Mother’s Day campaign.
Imagine No Malaria, a ministry of The United Methodist Church, is launching the campaign so that mothers in Africa will be able to fight malaria and see their children grow into thriving adults. Eighty-five to 90 percent of deaths from malaria are women and children under five.
The Rev. Eunice Musa Iliya, a United Methodist pastor, understands all too well.
She lives and works in Jalingo, Nigeria. When she traveled to the United States in March, she had just recovered from malaria. She has lost track of the number of times she has had the illness.
She recalled taking her brother to the Zing General Hospital, a government facility, in Nigeria several years ago.
“I looked at the environment of the hospital,” she said. “It really wasn’t good. It wasn’t safe for me. The windows and doors were broken. Most of the beds had no (insecticide-treated) nets. After I was there for several hours, I started feeling mosquito bites on my legs. And I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I will end up having malaria in this hospital.’ I couldn’t stand it, so I left.
“This is where my relatives, my friends, my children, most of the people in my community go,” Iliya continued. “I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do about this?’ A hospital is supposed to be a safe place. When you go there, you should get healthy. You don’t go to the hospital to get sick. But this hospital looked like if you went there, you would get sick before you went home.
Health-care system ‘vital’
“That’s when I decided I was going to be a part of Nothing But Nets.” At the time, Iliya was a student at Claremont School of Theology in California. She recruited her friends to contribute 100 insecticide-treated bed nets for Zing Hospital.
And when she returned home to Nigeria, she enlisted the community to improve the hospital.
“We cleaned the area together. We talked about sanitation and what it means to have safe windows and doors and to have nets on the beds.” She stressed the importance of teaching people to install the bed nets correctly – and to keep using them.
Building on the success of Nothing But Nets, The United Methodist Church launched the Imagine No Malaria campaign in April 2010. Imagine No Malaria puts faith into action to end preventable deaths from malaria in Africa. The first expression of The United Methodist Church’s Global Health Initiative, Imagine No Malaria has become a model for collaboration among annual conferences, local churches and multiple general boards and agencies.
Today, The United Methodist Church operates more than 300 hospitals, clinics and health posts throughout Africa.
“This health-care system is vital to saving lives and overcoming this preventable disease,” said Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who chairs the United Methodist Global Health Initiative.
“Your gifts provide these facilities with resources such as rapid diagnostic tests and malaria medication that will help mothers who are trying to nurture their children as they suffer from the effects of malaria.” To give, text the word MOM to 27222 or go to ImagineNoMalaria.org/sharethelove . There are also three special Mother’s Day cards and posters for sale on the website. The cards feature photos of African mothers with their children.
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.