By Deborah White
More than 100,000 insecticide-treated bed nets will be delivered to Nigeria in November as part of a new malaria prevention campaign called Nothing But Nets.
Partners in Nothing But Nets include The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, Sports Illustrated, the National Basketball Association, Millennium Promise and the Measles Initiative. The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications are coordinating the church's participation in the campaign, which will include a major initiative for youth groups.
The goal is to raise funds to eradicate malaria in Africa, where the mosquito-borne disease causes the death of one-fifth of all children under 5 years old. Hanging nets over children while they sleep is a simple, inexpensive way to kill the mosquitoes or keep them from biting.
The idea for Nothing But Nets came from Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, who encouraged readers to donate money to the U.N. Foundation after he learned that 1 million children die from malaria each year and that bed nets could save lives. In a May 5 column, he wrote, "If you've ever cut down a net, jumped over a net, watched the New Jersey Nets, worn a hair net, surfed the net or loved fishnets, send 10 bucks and maybe you could save a life."
In just a few months, more than 17,000 people sent $1.2 million. Reilly plans to join a delegation from Nothing But Nets to distribute nets in Nigeria and to meet children who will benefit from them.
The U.N. Foundation asked the United Methodist Church to join Nothing But Nets because of decades of work through the Community-Based Malaria Prevention Program of the General Board of Global Ministries. The most recent project, started in Sierra Leone this past December, focuses on community-based primary health care, education and creating a "net culture."
"All of this work makes the denomination a natural partner for the Nothing But Nets campaign," said Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the Commission on Communication, which governs United Methodist Communications. "Not only do we want to eradicate malaria, but we also want to get our young people involved in mission work."
United Methodist youth
United Methodist youth groups that raise money for Nothing But Nets will be eligible for prizes at Youth 2007, an international event for United Methodist youth in Greensboro, N.C., July 11-15. Fund-raising awards will include a trip to Africa to distribute bed nets, a trip to New York to tour the United Nations and a variety of NBA gear.
A cell phone text-messaging network will provide campaign updates to youth. They can send a text message to 47647, type "Nets" in the text field and hit "send" to be added to the network.
"One of the benefits of being a partner in Nothing But Nets is that we're giving a tool to congregations that may be struggling to reach youth. This is an avenue that will speak to youth," Bickerton said.
"In sports, we're always dealing with nets. It struck me as the simplest way to save lives," Reilly said in an interview. "I think it's so cool the church is involved."
Deborah White serves as associate editor of Interpreter magazine. This report first appeared in slightly different form in the magazine. Both Interpreter and United Methodist News Service are ministries of United Methodist Communications.