Rebecca St. James Joins Fight Against Malaria

Grammy-award winning artist Rebecca St. James joined the fight against one of the deadliest killers in Africa by hosting a special Christian radio program that was released on Friday, World Malaria Day, to raise awareness on the disease.

St. James, who has been a spokesperson for the Christian children ministry Compassion for more than a decade, participated in a half-hour radio special, "Malaria: A Plague of the Poor," where she talked with Compassion experts on the preventable disease that has ravaged Africa.

"My hope is that caring believers who hear the radio special will understand the plight of the poor when it comes to malaria," St. James said in a statement.

"Here in the United States, we don't even think twice about malaria or its effects on us," she said. "Mothers and fathers don't go to bed every night worrying about whether something as small as a mosquito will change their lives or, even worse, steal life from their babies. Families living in developing countries deserve that same kind of assurance."

Malaria, a preventable mosquito-borne disease, kills about 1 million people a year with about 75 percent of the mortality being children, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Malaria kills more each year in Africa than HIV/AIDS.

Nine out of 10 cases of malaria can be prevented by mosquito nets treated with insecticide that costs only $10, according to Dr. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International.

"The real tragedy of malaria is it's completely preventable and completely treatable," he said. "A lot of poverty is overwhelming. This is something we can win, if we have the heart, if we have the will."

Stafford is the son of missionaries and grew up on the Ivory Coast.

"As a little boy, I had malaria two or three times a year," he recalled. "I was one of the lucky ones. I survived it. A lot of my little friends didn't survive."

The special is featuring stories of African families affected by the disease.

Other Christian groups active in malaria prevention and treatment include the United Methodist Church and World Vision.

UMC and its partners have raised more than $18 million through its anti-malaria campaign Nothing But Nets. Donations are used to purchase insecticide-treated sleeping nets and distribute them to families with young children in Africa.

More than 700,000 nets have been distributed by Nothing But Nets in the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Chad, Mali, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Compassion works with more than 65 denominations and more than 4,500 indigenous church partners. It helps more than 1 million children in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 1952, Compassion has improved the lives of more than 1.8 million children.

Statistics from UNICEF:

- Each year, 350 million to 500 million people get malaria
- Nearly everyone in tropical Africa has a malaria episode each year
- Malaria kills more than 1 million people every year