The Vincentian Family Against Malaria
- From the Circular Letter from the Leaders of the Vincentian Family
- May 10, 2003
"This year at our meeting in February we also decided, for the first time in our history, to unite our energies as a Vincentian Family in a common "political action" aimed at the eradication of malaria. Besides affecting many members of our own Family in Africa, Asia and Latin America, malaria has devasteding effects in the lives of countless others throughout the word. There are more than 300 million acute cases of maria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. About 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. Malaria is Africa's leading cause of death for those under five years of age. But it is quite possible to combat it actively, to diminish its effect gradually, and even eventually to wipe it out (a success that has already been achieved in a number of countries). What is lacking is the "political will", and the corresponding financial support. In other words, governments often have other interests and establish other priorities for the use of their money.
The goal of a "political action" campaign is to express the views of our Vincentian Family clearly, with a united voice, to those who have power and the economic resources needed to effect a change.
In the concrete, this could mean, on an international level, that our Family would:
- ask our offices at the UN in New York and the European Community in Beligium to identify the appropriarte political groups that should be contacted (the UN itself, the European Community itself, other bodies, various national governments);
- draft a united statement describing who we are and what we ask in regard to the eradication of malaria;
- send this united statement to the appropriarte political bodies;
- encourage all our members to send similar statements.
On the national and local levels, in the concrete this would mean that each branch in each country would devise its own strategy. Such stragies would be relevant even in countries that are malaria-free (e.g., the United States, France, German, Italy, Spain, etc.), since these countries have powerful political inflluence and huge economic resources.
To offer further information about this "political action" to the members of our Vincentian Family and to make practical suggestions about how to engage in it, we have named a committee. Its members are: Fr. Benjamin Romo, C.M., Sr. Marie Raw, D.C., Mrs. Rosa de Lima Ramanankavana, AIC, Mr Maroc Detemps, SSVP, Fr. marc-Andre Couture, RSVP, Edurne Udampilleta, JMV, Mr RamiroGuttierrez Ruiz, AMM, Maria Jesus Cuena, MISEVI. They will be in contact with you during the course of the year.
- Anne Surm, President, AIC (founded in 1617)
- Robert P. Maloney, C.M. Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission (founded in 1625)
- Sr. Juana Elizondo, D.C., Superior General, Daughters of Charity (founded in 1633)
- Jose Ramon Diaz Torremocha, President, St. Vincent de Paul Society (founded in 1833)
- Yvon Laroche, rsv Superior General, Religious of St. Vincent de Paul (founded in 1845)
- Gladys Abi-Said President, Vincentian Marian Youth (founded in 1847)
- Charles Shelby, C.M. International Coordinator of the Miraculous Medal Association (founded in 1909)
- Eva Villar President, MISEVI (founded in 1999)
Report from the Vincentian Family Leaders
Bruno Betemps writes, "The following is the summary of the efforts performed along one year to involve the Vincentian Family in the campaign “Political and concrete actions against Malaria”. Such a campaign has been extended to the 2005 in order to enable the realisation of results not yet obtainable. We are optimistic by saying that we are almost at mid way of our program although malaria fighting will continue over many years as well as the hunger fighting."
We can locate some three phase in our program: - Phase 1- Sensitisation of the Vincentians –assessment of the real situation – preparation of the Political Declaration of the VinFam and delivery to the Governments
- Phase 2 – Education and Formation of local people on sanitary precautions and therapies against malaria and elaboration of projects to be funded.
- Phase 3 – Funds collection and projects financing
From the above let us see where we are, what we have performed and what we still have to do.
The very last questionnaires were received back late March 2004. We mention this fact to highlight the very important recommendation coming from many answers contained in these questionnaires: to provide information and aids to educate local people on attention, prevention, early diagnosis and modern therapies against Malaria. They also suggested to do so by forming educators among local people. We took good note of these suggestions for Phase 2.
In April 2004 we have been informed by Massive Efforts, whom we co-operate with, that the 25 of April was selected as the “Africa Malaria Day”. For that date Massive Efforts prepared a document very similar to our Political Declaration and therefore we decided to jointly forward the two documents to the local Governments where possible. By consequence we sent early April copies of the Vincentian Family Political Declaration to the Vincentian Countries. In addition to what performed by Massive Efforts, only concerning African Governments, we had specially tailored a Declaration to be forwarded also to the European and Western World Governments. Both kind of documents have been sent to the Vincentian Family Co-ordinators, where existed, and to the SSVP National Presidents in all the other cases (See attached Table).
The difficulties of our job, from the point of view of the communication, started here: only three African Countries provided us confirmation of the release of the Political Declaration to their own Governments: the Democratic Republic of Congo, congo Brazaville and M’gascar. We don’t know what happens with all the others. We also don’t know, obviously, the possible reactions of these Governments to our Political Declaration. One thing is deprecable: also the European Responsibles of the Vincentian Family and the European National Presidents of SSVP didn’t give answers! (With very few exceptions), although I sent in July a soliciting letter to all of them. Therefore I deem the communication to be a very serious and important problem to be solved if we wont to work together within the VinFam.
Even if I considered Phase 2 actually started, some few actions belonging to Phase 1 have to be performed:
- in Italy, exactly in this same day, the VinFam has its yearly national meeting and in this occasion they have still to decide about the forwarding of the Political Declaration to the Italian Government.
- In spite of the several attempts I performed to have access to the WHO, I haven’t yet been able to forward to them the Political Declaration the VinFam specifically prepared forthe big International Organisations. If some body is able to give me a hand on this subject, I’ll be grateful!
We carefully thought about the request for education coming from several African Countries and on how to reach this objective. We came to the conclusions that Vincentians operating in the Territories would be the best ones to train local educators: I’m thinking to the Missions of the Daughters of Charity, of the Sisters of Charity, the Fathers of the Mission, but also to sisters and brothers of AIC and SSVP. Therefore we started the preparation of a short Handbook containing information on Malaria, the need for prevention, for early diagnosis using modern simple and accurate instrumentation which are now cheep enough, modern therapies now oriented toward the ACT (Artemisine combined therapy) , but also including general hygienic rules to be followed in good house and land keeping. Furthermore one section is fully dedicated to the retreatment of the nets which has to be performed quite often.
All the information contained in this handbook, are coming from qualified web sites like those of RBM, Massive Efforts, Bayer Industry and by the courtesy of Médecins sans Frontières. This last organisation also took care of a final overview of the complete handbook from a medical point of even if we strongly pointed out in the Foreword section, that for everything concerning therapies, a doctor has to be always consulted.
The communication problem appears here again at this point: the handbook is ready in the English version and we hope that the French one will be available in very short time: after that we have to send it to the different operating groups working in Africa: how? I wrote again in October to ask for vincentian Groups addresses in Africa. I only got answers from the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of S.te Jeane Antida which provided me with the list of their Main Houses. Only two National Presidents of SSVP sent me the list of their Conferences! (see the annexed Table where the SSVP addresses are taken from the Web site).
What shall we do? To go through a centralised distribution hold by the Council General of each of the VinFam branches? Through the National African Head Offices of each of the VinFam Branches? Or by directly sending it to the major working groups at their local addresses, where available? An other question: in which form? A printed copy sent by usual mail or an informatic version sent by e-mail? (Many people I contacted in Africa by e-mail have difficulties in opening long annexes).
At this point a new problem is facing, never touched before: the financing!
Until now the costs encountered to perform the above described activities were low enough to allow SSVP to support them when exceeding the voluntary working level, but now we have to face the translation of some 40 pages at least in one language (but if we extend the distribution of the handbook in the future to Latin America, Spanish and Portuguese translations will also be needed) as well as the costs of mailing. I think we have to agree on the creation of a suitable fund.
Let us speak now about projects. Some of them are ready since more or less one year and have already been presented at least for what I know to the SSVP Council General: from Congo Brazaville for about 84.000 Euros, from M’gascar for 29.000$ and from Mozambique for 6.400 $ ( Part of them could be already funded). Before calling for more projects, I personally preferred to launch and perform the educational campaign. This is why by properly knowing what is needed to face malaria, many new ideas can sort out to be inserted in a project. I think we could leave some two months after the receipt of the Sanitary Handbook and then start to call for projects.
At that moment we will have to face an other important problem: financing the projects! I’m speaking about an important problem because if in the past it should already be so, after the Tzunami tragedy the problem becomes even greater: may we plan to collect additional money among our members to fight Malaria after having so strongly push them for the South East of Asia? This is the very first point. If our answer is yes, well, then some operational, but not minor problems, have to be solved, like when we start the collection, in which way, how we will manage the funds, who will evaluate the several projects and perform the classification, etc.
If up to now, at a managing level, I worked more or less alone, at that point we really need to have a staff and possibly to delegate some activities to some working group to be established here in Europe. Handling money, and mainly money of the poor, is something always involving great responsibilities. Marco Bétemps
Report in Word Format
For more information on the campaign click on the "Malaria" link on the left side of each famvin page.
Declaration to the Government of Italy
- At their meeting last February the leaders of the Vincentian Family addressed the following letter to the Italian government.
Political Action Declaration Against Malaria
To the Italian Government
The Vincentian Family is present almost everywhere in the world and in particular in some 130 countries in the area below the equator with at least one of the following Associations, which comprise a total of more than one million members:
International Association of Charities (AIC) Congregation of the Mission (CM) Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (DC) Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVDP) Vincentian Marian Youth (JMV) Sisters of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret Association of the Miraculous Medal (AMM) Religious of St. Vincent de Paul (RSV) Lay Vincentian Missionaries (MISEVI)
The Vincentian Family has, therefore, direct knowledge of the enormous number of victims and the huge damage, even economical, still caused today by malaria, especially on the African continent.
So it launched, for the year 2004–2005, a concrete Political Action Campaign Against Malaria, in order to sensitize governments to this problem, which is very underestimated but technically solvable through appropriate, mainly political, choices, as can be deduced in the attached note.
Therefore, knowing the great commitment that this Government has already shown, and confiding in its sensitiveness and in its deep humanitarian sense, we respectfully address to it the following further requests, which we consider of utmost importance:
- To increase the funds destined to help developing countries struck by the scourge of malaria; - To promote research and development of specific new medicines, even if their production will not be “cost effective”; - To provide special fiscal terms for supplying products destined for the struggle against malaria, such as drugs, diagnostic instruments and mosquito nets soaked in insecticide; - To encourage further, with financial subsidies and other special terms, Italian medical and nursing personnel to volunteer their services freely for limited periods of time in the zones struck by malaria; - To strive, from within interested international organizations of which this government is a member, to facilitate the conditions of approving patents on drugs against malaria on the part of the large western pharmaceutical companies. The global objective cannot be attained except by a substantial effort on the part of various governments, both those of the countries most directly concerned and those of the countries situated principally in the north western area of the world, as well as on the part of the large international organizations, each, however, from its specific jurisdiction. It is with this conviction that we have addressed similar appeals both to other governments and to the organizations cited above.
This document was approved by the leaders of the International Vincentian Family at its meeting of 21 February 2004 in Paris and confirmed by the Italian Leadership in Rome.
We trust that our requests will be taken into due consideration for the well-being of entire populations.
Malaria Wikipedia article