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With Global Fund, church fights malaria

With The United Methodist Church nearing its fundraising goal in the fight against malaria, the denomination on Dec. 3 committed to fulfilling its $28 million pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Global Fund draws together leaders from national governments around the globe and large private donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat the diseases of poverty.

If you’ve bought products with the (RED) label, then you have helped support the Global Fund. Your gifts to The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign also are helping the effort.

“Our goal is to raise $75 million for this fight against malaria,” Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton said at the Global Fund’s Fourth Replenishment conference. “Part of the proceeds from this campaign is going to strengthen our United Methodist hospitals and clinics in Africa. Another portion is going to the Global Fund.”

On Dec. 3, the bishop announced The United Methodist Church would contribute another $19.9 million dollars to the Global Fund over the next three years. This money would complete the $28 million pledge the denomination made to the Global Fund in 2010.

The United Methodist Church is the first faith-based group to work in partnership with the Global Fund. The denomination already has contributed $8.1 million to the effort, said Bickerton. He leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference and chairs the denomination’s Global Health Initiative.

During its Dec. 2-3 gathering in Washington, the Global Fund received $12 billion in pledges from 25 countries, the European Commission and private donors. By far, the biggest donor is the U.S. government, which committed at least $4 billion to the cause. The U.S. government also pledged $1 for every $2 committed by others through September 2014, up to $5 billion.

While not on that scale, The United Methodist Church’s contribution is no mere bug zap in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease.

“Our pledge was equal to and even surpassed the pledges from smaller countries across the world,” Bickerton told United Methodist News Service.

Bickerton was one of three United Methodist leaders representing the denomination among the ambassadors and business leaders at the conference. The Rev. Larry Hollon, the top executive of United Methodist Communications (which includes United Methodist News Service), and Jim Winkler, the top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, also attended.

“It is written into our agreement with Global Fund that United Methodist contributions will go to malaria programming only,” Hollon said. “And we are also allowed by Global Fund to name those countries where the money will be used.”

Need for collaboration

Bickerton’s announcement came just as The United Methodist Church has crossed $60 million in gifts and pledges in its effort to eradicate malaria in Africa. The United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million for the effort by 2015.

Imagine No Malaria is funding a number of strategies to fight a disease that still kills someone every 60 seconds. The strategies include providing insecticide-treated bed nets and help for United Methodist hospitals, clinics and health boards across Africa that work to prevent and treat the disease. Those ministries provide “health services without regard to race, religion, or political creed,” Bickerton told the Global Fund gathering.

United Methodist leaders see collaboration with the Global Fund as complementary to the Imagine No Malaria campaign and essential to wiping out the disease. “Combatting pandemic diseases is beyond the capacity of a single nation, much less beyond the abilities of a single denomination or individual,” Hollon said. “The Global Fund through its scope and scale saves 100,000 lives every day. United Methodists have joined this partnership by working with the Global Fund on the ground, identifying nations where we can work together." One example is United Methodist and Global Fund collaboration in Sierra Leone, Hollon said. How the Global Fund uses money The Geneva-based Global Fund is the world’s largest funding source for health programs that fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In 2012, the Global Fund was responsible for 50 percent of the world funding for anti-malaria programs covering more than 50 countries. “We fund programs in any eligible country that can demonstrate effectiveness in fighting malaria,” said Seth Faison, the director of communications for the Global Fund. “The main tools are insecticide-treated nets, which both protect those underneath and deter the spread of malaria by killing infected mosquitoes; indoor residual spraying; and ACTs (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies), currently the most effective medicine against malaria.” According to the Global Fund, only 5 percent of homes in Africa had insecticide-treated bed nets in 2000. Now more than 53 percent own them. “This scale up is only possible through partnerships that have broad reach,” Hollon said. “No single organization could achieve this by itself; it required a global partnership with extensive reach.” The Global Fund also has found that in strengthening health systems around the world to tackle one disease of poverty, it also strikes against the other two. “Our response has to be comprehensive,” Faison said. “Good health begets good health.” The United Methodist Church is the first organization to be both a grant recipient from and donor to the Global Fund, Bickerton said. But even with its Global Fund partnership, the bishop stressed that the church still has a key role to play in the anti-malaria fight. “In the Imagine No Malaria campaign we like saying that, as a church, we go to places where the road ends,” he told UMNS. “We are the ones providing the personal relationship that better ensures the effective distribution and use of bed nets and prevention drugs. We are the ones providing rural clinics, traditional birth attendants, and clean water wells. We are the ones who establish the relationships that translate into the trust necessary to convince people that bed net usage and treatment can save their lives.” *Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Tim Tanton, executive director of content for United Methodist Communications and United Methodist News Service, also contributed to this report. News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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