The statistics surrounding malaria are mind blogging — and terrifying.
Close to 200 million cases occur every year and half a million people die from the disease annually — including one child every two minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Malaria No More.
With half the world at risk every year, it’s hard for many, especially in the West, to believe that one of the most effective weapons — if not the most effective weapon — against this deadly disease is something so simple as the mosquito net.
Those engaged in the war against malaria often hear that skepticism from potential donors.
“People will say ‘why don’t you just do vaccinations?’” said Dean Miller, mission development staff coordinator at the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
That’s one of the responses he and others have gotten during the BGAV’s More Than Nets campaign, which seeks to provide 100,000 mosquito nets to residents in northern Ghana.
“World health experts will tell you that nets are the best way to prevent the spread of malaria worldwide,” Miller said. “They are fairly inexpensive, easy to get a hold of and put into the hands of people who need them.”
And that’s precisely what the Virginia Baptist campaign has been all about. Since January 2012, Virginia congregations, individuals and other organizations have provided enough money for the purchase and distribution of approximately 67,000 mosquito nets in northern Ghana, Miller said.
The campaign, waged through church appeals and social media, seeks $10-per-person donations. Of that, $6 provides the net, $1 gets it to its destination and $2 provides the education and training for its use.
The remaining $1 finances the “more than” in More than Nets — starting new congregations.
More Than Nets is a cooperative effort between Virginia Baptists and the Ghana Baptist Convention. The Americans agreed to raise money and purchase and send the nets, while the Africans promised to work out the details of how, and to whom, the nets are delivered.
“We told the Ghanaians, ‘We’re just going to trust you to do this,’” Miller said.
The same was true for the church-planting part of the campaign.
An evangelist with the Ghana Baptist Convention has been charged with launching new congregations throughout a region populated by 180,000 residents. So far, 400 churches have been planted thanks to More than Nets, Miller said.
The work has also benefitted five BGAV teams which have visited the region where the mosquito-net and church-planting efforts are underway.
But the task is far from finished. Planners are still eager to hit that 100,000-net goal, and they want to do it sooner rather than later, Miller said.
So they’ll be redoubling their efforts timed around World Malaria Day, which is April 25.
“It’s going to be a big push to get churches to recognize how … malaria affects people every day,” Miller said. “We are going to see if we can complete this project.”
Meanwhile, he will be ready to answer questions about why vaccinations aren’t be financed instead.
“Vaccinations are in a trial phase, and, even if they work, they will be too expensive for 95 percent of those who need them.”
Nets, meanwhile, are easy to use and relatively cheap.
“Our people are struggling and dying of malaria and nets are the best remedy,” Miller said.