Rev. Cynthia Harvey addresses the Kansas East Conference on issues of global health.
Bishop Scott Jones and Rev. Cynthia Harvey talk about Imagine No Malaria.
Rev. Cynthia Harvey, associate general secretary at the General Board of Global Ministries in charge of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, was one of two keynote speakers at the Kansas East Annual Conference June 6-9 at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
Harvey focused on the church’s international health ministries as she spoke to the assembly, which was meeting under the theme “The Church United: Working for Wellness.”
“”When the United Methodist Church launched its global health initiative at General Conference in 2008, it was the United Methodist Church’s commitment to addressing some of the very large problems that we are seeing, as they relate to health around the world,” Harvey said. “The church chose malaria as the entry point into examining these interrelated and very complex issues.”
The global health initiative breaks down the issues in ways that allow communities to develop their own solutions and make a sustainable difference in the world, she said.
“The key there is develop their own solutions and make a sustainable difference in the world,” Harvey said. “UMCOR believes that our heart, mind and soul affect physical and mental health. We also believe that every person has the potential to know and to address their own health issues. We will never do for someone what they can do for themselves.”
Malaria has informed how UMCOR goes about addressing community-based health, she said.
“What we now know, with absolute truth, is that addressing just malaria without addressing nutrition or safe water or the quality of healthcare will not provide a solution to improving health globally,” she said. “It certainly can’t be sustainable.”
Harvey said UMCOR can’t fund improvements to a hospital that cares for malaria patients every day without addressing the need for clean water in the surrounding community.
“People will just keep getting sick, and they’ll be unable to have the strength to ward off a preventable disease,” she said. “If people don’t have enough to eat, friends, they’re likely never to get well.”
Malaria has proven to be the best entry point. In 2006, a person died every 30 seconds from malaria, the majority of them pregnant women and children. Malaria is recognizable by early symptoms of fever, vomiting, and headache, like a really, really bad flu, she said.
Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Thanks to modern medicine, this disease is both preventable and treatable.
Malaria was a good entry point because it was accessible in terms of educating people about the disease.
“Some people felt they had malaria because of some curse or some voodoo something had happened to them and their family.”
Malaria also was a tangible place for UMCOR and its partners to come in and show people a net that was helping prevent the disease.
“It gave us an opportunity to just begin a conversation with people,” Harvey said.
UMCOR also learned that malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are all related.
“These are called the diseases of poverty for a reason,” Harvey said. “Because once somebody has malaria, HIV/AIDS or TB, they can’t work. The entire family is burdened. If they have a farm, whatever they did for a living, if the people cannot work, they cannot feed their family. They continue to live a life of poverty.”
Since 2006, the global malaria effort has moved the time clock back. Today, a person dies every 60 seconds from malaria. Deaths have been cut in half.
Kamina, a rural area in the Katanga Province of the Democractic Republic of the Congo, has been an area of focus in the United Methodist Church’s global health work, particularly the ministry with the poor, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
“We’re making progress to improve the overall health of that area, particularly as it relates to the health of women and children,” Harvey said. “The goal is to cover all of Kamina with nets and educate the people in the community of the steps toward prevention of malaria.”
Harvey said Bishop Ntambo of the North Katanga Episcopal Area, pulled together a roundtable of different groups that are invested in seeing the communities be successful, from the United Methodists to the Muslims, from World Vision to the local government.
“From the first minute of that roundtable, I knew that there was something remarkable going on in Kamina,” she said. “When I saw the commitment there of the entire community of government and all those other partners, I knew the work there has got to be sustainable because everyone is invested and the people on the ground are invested.”
At the newly established Kamina Methodist University, a well was put in. It’s part of Bishop Ntambo’s strategic plan of making clean water accessible within a 5-minute walk of every community. People are moving to the area around the university because the well is there.
“Bishop Ntambo believes that you build the church, you build the school, you bring water and that’s the way you develop the entire community,” Harvey said.
UMCOR is training health boards throughout Africa to take on responsibility for the care and sustainability of their own communities, just as Bishop Ntambo is working in Kamina.
“They’re doctors, the nurses, some community health works, even our traditional birth attendance,” Harvey said. “The health board is actually responsible for the total health an what’s happening on the ground in a community.”
The health board is charged with looking at a health issue and determining what is needed to improve that situation for their communities. The boards can then apply for funds from Imagine No Malaria to work in that particular area, she said.
“So what I want to share with you today is those incremental changes can make an incredible difference,” Harvey said. “We cannot teach someone to hope. We give hope by living out of our own hope. You’re giving hope by living out of your own hope. I think that the seeds of hope are growing wildly right here in your own annual conference.”