The broadcasting tycoon Ted Turner announced yesterday a new partnership between his United Nations Foundation and two religious organizations to fight malaria in Africa.
The effort, organized by the U.N. Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lutheran World Relief, and the United Methodist Church, aims to raise $200-million to prevent deaths from the disease, which kills more than 1 million people each year.
“The battle against disease and poverty go hand in hand,” said Mr. Turner. “We can only do this by all of us pulling together. We need the educational community, the help of governments, philanthropy, and certainly the world’s great religions.”
Over the next several years, the churches will help educate their members, who number more than 20 million, about malaria and other diseases aggravated by poverty. The money they raise will go toward the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and to strengthen the churches’ ability to provide care to people in Africa.
Chad Amour, youth leader with Lutheran World Relief, said the partnership will help connect the tiny communities his organization works with in far-flung parts of Africa, with government officials, advocates, researchers, and other people working to stamp out malaria.
“You can reach very rural areas in the context of the church network, but there’s a disconnect between that and the global perspective,” he said. “This is giving those folks who are doing that work in the rural areas a seat at the global table helping to address malaria.”
‘Moment Is Right’
Since its founding 10 years ago, the U.N. Foundation has led a number of partnerships to help fight poverty, disease, and other issues tackled by the United Nations. Its Measles Initiative, which involved the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, has helped reduce deaths from measles in Africa by more than 90 percent.
The announcement came as many organizations are galvanizing around the battle against malaria. The Gates Foundation, which has poured $1.2-billion into fighting malaria since 2000, has publicly called for its eradication.
“The moment is right for this to be a successful campaign,” said Kathy Calvin, executive vice president of the U.N. Foundation. “The individuals involved will be part of a winning story, and everyone wants to be part of something that brings the next great success to the world.”
However, the Gates fund’s call for eradication has sparked some criticism. Arata Kochi, who directs the World Health Organization’s malaria program, has said eliminating malaria is unrealistic and fuels false hopes among African governments.
For his part, Mr. Turner stressed the simplicity of solutions to the disease.
“We may not be able to eradicate it completely, but we certainly can practically eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard for anyone, a good soul, not to be in favor of a program that, for $10, can save a child’s life.”
At a press conference to announce the partnership, Mr. Turner was asked why he was working with religious charities, given his past criticism of religion.
“I’ve been in and out,” he said. “As I get older, I get more tolerant.”