Fighting Malaria in Angola
In Florida, mosquitoes are annoying; in East Angola, they are killers. The Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr. has seen firsthand the devastation that mosquito-borne diseases like malaria can inflict during his many visits to the former Portuguese colony in southwest Africa.
Rodriguez, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Bartow, and his wife, Icel Rodriguez, director of the Florida Conference’s Global Missions, have been visiting East Angola since 2006 and lived there for a year in 2009. During their most recent two-week visit in September, they delivered 1300 pounds of medicine and supplies. As part of its mission partnership in the African country with the East Angola Conference, the Florida Conference is providing medical supplies, support and training, much of it targeting malaria.
“Malaria attacks families with few resources. They must choose between feeding the family or buying medication. And many of them think ‘I will save the rest of the family with food and let this one die,’” Rodriguez said. “Many of the kids are orphans because their parents had malaria.
“The doctors showed us their records. From June through August this year, they tested 600 children for malaria, 500 tested positive,” Rodriguez said. “It’s endemic, and it’s killing them, especially children.”
Malaria, a parasite, enters the bloodstream and reproduces in the liver. Its most common symptom is high fever, but it also can attack the brain, causing permanent damage. Angola has had more than 260,000 cases of malaria in the past year and more than 700 deaths, according to the Africa Times.
Rodriquez stated that the malaria epidemic is a byproduct of political and economic instability.
Florida Conference’s Global Missions visits the country two or three times a year. They take the medicines and supplies in carry-on luggage. In September, they took 26 50-pound bags, which cost them $3,000 in fees. (Expensive, but worth it, Rodriguez said.)
The government has been supportive of the United Methodist effort, providing mobile medical units and nurses. “We have to bring the fuel and the medicine,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to anti-malarial drugs, Florida Conference teams bring antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medicines, vitamins, skin medication, ringworm drugs and other medical supplies like birthing kits, gloves, and bandages.
Teams travel to remote areas where they test villagers for malaria, distribute drugs to treat it and educate them about how to prevent it, including the use of mosquito netting.