The United Methodist Church has a specific outreach goal for 2015 — end preventable death from malaria in Africa.
It may seem like an impossible endeavor, however, malaria is a preventable disease through the use of mosquito nets, medicines and education. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria was eliminated in the United States in the 1950s, but in Sub-Saharan Africa it continues to kill an estimated half million people, according to the World Health Organization.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills and flu-like illness. Nearly 90 percent of malaria’s victims are children under the age of 5 and pregnant women.
The Methodist Church has long supported malaria prevention efforts through its Nothing But Nets campaign that raised more than $7 million to provide bed nets to families in Africa. In 2008, building on that success, Imagine No Malaria was created to provide a more comprehensive approach, including funding for prevention, education, treatment and communication.
The ability to expand efforts to combat malaria came about in large part due to partnerships with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.
“You are 11 million people armed with the conviction that all the world is your parish. That makes you the most powerful weapon there is against malaria,” said Bill Gates about the United Methodist Church.
The campaign has already seen progress. In 2007, the World Health Organization estimated there were more than 1,000,000 malaria related fatalities. By 2012, the number had been reduced to 627,000.
The UMC set a goal of raising $75 million for this life-saving campaign. Churches across the country and the world have hosted fundraising runs, bake sales, carnivals and holiday giving challenges.
In Turlock, the First United Methodist Church is hoping chili cooks — and those who love to eat a nice bowl of spicy chili — will unite to help the cause in a fundraising chili cook off. The cook off will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at 1660 Arbor Way, in Turlock.
There is no entry fee for chili cooks and first, second and third place winners will be chosen by crowd vote tally. The church is encouraging community organizations, clubs, businesses and individual cooks to enter this 'just for fun' cook off.
Tickets for the cook off are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under and include unlimited chili tasting, salad, bread, drinks and five voting tickets. Tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event. For more information or to register for the contest, call the church office at 668-3000.
Prior to the chili cook off, the church will be presenting information on the Imagine No Malaria program and the disease itself including a guest speaker who contracted malaria while working in the Sudan. The community is invited to this special church service, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8.