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Vital role for African church leaders in wiping out malaria

Posted on: May 24, 2019 3:12 PM
Bishops and spouses who participated in the CAPA orientation in Kenya
Photo Credit: Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] According to healthcare professionals, the Anglican Churches in Africa are a “unique, trusted network” with a vital and strategic role to play in the elimination of malaria across the continent. Bishops representing six provinces of the Anglican Communion took part in an orientation for new bishops run by the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in Kenya this week (13-21 May), where they were encouraged to play a strategic role in helping tackle malaria.

Founder of the J C Flowers Foundation and part of a cross-border malaria initiative, Chris Flowers, said: “I am delighted that these CAPA bishops have prioritised malaria, which still kills a child every two minutes. I visited a village in Zambia, and in this very remote place, the only organised institution was an Anglican Church. There was an expected, trusted pastor. These are essential.

“You can have fantastic science, you can have fantastic medicine, you can have nets delivered, but unless they are deployed correctly and people are trained on how to use them and to recognise when to go for treatment, it's all in vain. The church provides a unique, trusted network to get that last mile.”

CAPA’s orientation of new bishops and their spouses revolved around the theme “Transformational Leadership” and addressed topics including sustainable leadership in an ever-changing context, managing transitions, resource mobilisation, and malaria elimination.

Following training from the J C Flowers Foundation in malaria transmission and strategies for prevention, treatment and community mobilisation, Bishop Moses Deng Bol from the Diocese of Wau, said: “in South Sudan, if you want to share any information with a big number of the population, use the church. Few people have radios because people need food more than a radio. Who interacts with the most people on a weekly basis? It’s not the chief. It’s the pastor. Maybe through media the President of the country can reach people, but it’s the pastors who reach the most people.”

The bishops recognised the opportunity that they have as trusted leaders, working in areas with significant malaria burdens. Bishop Vicente Msosa from the Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique, said: “the fact that our communities still have malaria means that we as faith leaders have failed. We didn’t realise malaria elimination was possible. But we can mobilise communities to eliminate malaria, and that is our task. We can do it, and we must do it.”

The orientation included bishops from six Anglican Provinces within the Anglican Communion: the Indian Ocean, Central Africa, Tanzania, Southern Africa, South Sudan and Kenya.

The General Secretary of CAPA, Canon Grace Kaiso, challenged the bishops to take forward what they had learned. He said: “as a church, we are concerned about issues that affect the quality of life of people in our communities. I’m looking forward to hearing which of you begins putting a malaria-free diocese on your agenda.”

The bishops were encouraged to set an example for clergy in their dioceses to follow by working on malaria elimination with the ministries of health in their countries.