Anglican religious leaders in Africa advance the fight against malaria

Bishop Cleophas Lunga, Anglican Diocese of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, delivers a sermon on Ash Wednesday as part of the fifth annual Isdell: Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative Round Table meeting held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Photo: Justin Schroeder for Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative

[J.C. Flowers Foundation] On March 1 – 3, bishops from Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe called for increased commitment to malaria elimination during a round table meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The meeting, hosted by the Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative, provided a platform for religious leaders to emphasize the critical role of the Anglican Church in the fight against malaria.

Bishop Cleophas Lunga of the Anglican Diocese of Matabeleland, Bishop David Njovu of the Anglican Diocese of Lusaka, Bishop Luke Pato of the Anglican Diocese of Namibia, and Bishop Andre Soares of the Anglican Diocese of Angola were joined by government officials from several countries, including Dr. Elizabeth Chizema, director of the National Malaria Elimination Centre in Zambia.

While significant progress has been made towards malaria elimination in the region, those living in remote, impoverished communities along the countries’ four borders remain at risk and continue to die from malaria. Many of these communities lack access to health care and basic infrastructure, yet the Anglican Church is present and continues to implement malaria programs that provide malaria education, testing and treatment and bed net distribution.

Chris Flowers and Neville Isdell, co-founders of the Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative, lauded the work of the bishops, and emphasized the need for collaboration across borders – a sentiment echoed by Zimbabwe’s minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. David Parirenyatwa.

General Dr. Kaka Mudambo of the Southern Africa Roll Back Malaria Network (SARN) delivered Parirenyatwa’s remarks during the official opening of the Round Table on March 1.

“The Zambia-Zimbabwe (ZAM-ZIM) cross-border malaria initiative is unique because of the role of the Anglican Church, which is mobilizing grassroots and community-based participation in the planning and implementation and evaluation processes,” said Mudambo on behalf of the minister. “We are all determined to see [malaria] elimination in the ZAM-ZIM districts and our strong collaboration with the Zambia Ministry of Health will ensure maximum support from the two governments.”

Throughout the three-day meeting, the bishops took part in discussions surrounding cross-border collaboration. Of particular importance, the bishops and other attendees disused the need to reduce or eliminate border tariffs – as they create added barriers for malaria elimination, including burdensome fees for the transport of bed nets and other commodities used to fight malaria.

The conference, which began with an Ash Wednesday service at the Church of the Resurrection in Victoria Falls Town, served as a rallying call for communities of faith, particularly the Anglican Church, to continue its important work in the fight against malaria.

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