The United Methodist Church joined NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated, and the United Nations Foundation for the global launch of the Nothing but Nets anti-malaria campaign on Thursday in New York City.
Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of United Methodist Communications, joined NBA legend Sam Perkins, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly and others at the event.
"For decades, the denomination has been working in African communities to combat diseases of poverty through education, prevention and treatment," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, in a statement released Thursday.
"Now by partnering with other organizations, we are able to reach more people and have a greater impact. Mosquito bed nets are a simple and cost-effective way to prevent malaria."
Nothing but Nets partners have teamed up to raise funds to purchase and distribute insecticide-treated bed nets in Africa. A $10 bed net can protect a family of four for up to four years by reducing nocturnal mosquito bites – the primary mode of transmitting the disease.
Malaria, a preventable disease, kills a million people each year and accounts for up to half of all hospital admissions and outpatient visits in Africa, according to the campaign. Moreover, the disease kills one in every five African children under the age of five. The combination of the malaria illness and death cost Africa about $12 billion a year in lost productivity, reported the United Methodist News Service.
The Nothing but Nets campaign announced at the launch event that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave a challenge grant of $3 million for the purchase and distribution of bed nets.
"Coming so soon after the Christmas season, this is great news because bed nets represent the gift of life," said Bishop Bickerton, according to UMNS.
A featured participant at the launch was Katherine Commale, a 5-year-old United Methodist who has raised $10,000 for bed nets with the help of her mother through community fundraising presentations.
Last month, President George W. Bush recognized the United Methodist Church as well as the Episcopal Church’s efforts against Malaria at the White House Summit on Malaria.
Nothing but Nets began by a Sports Illustrated column by Rick Reilly calling readers to donate $10 for a net and save a life. The campaign has raised more than $2 million – enough to buy 220,000 nets. The campaign has already distributed 150,000 nets in Nigeria.