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Weekly Prayers from CCOW

For your prayers this coming week 20 July

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As we write this email, the negotiations around the "Sustainable Development Goals" are - in the customary fashion of global environmental summits - going on through the wee hours of the night. In a week which has been dominated by the horrors of conflict, a meeting about global goals may seem a bit of a sideshow. But as the selection from Romans in the Revised Common Lectionary readings reminds us, it's all creation, not just particular areas of conflict, which is awaiting reconciliation. The goals have the potential to provide leverage for good in countries throughout the world. Pray for the process of shaping and implementing the SDGs ... and give thanks for the hope that in Christ all things are reconciled.

Links to Prayers for People Affected by Conflict

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and please do let us know about further resources. But we thought it might be helpful to offer the following links to formal prayers and lists of prayer points.

Good News from Commonwealth Countries

July 23 sees the start of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. An estimated 6,500 competitors from 71 countries will take part in 11 days of sport, with a fully integrated Para-Sports programme.

The celebratory and positive nature of the Commonwealth Games offers an opportunity to share some reasons for thanksgiving and praise from a few of the countries that will be represented. Given the link between sport, health and well-being, the focus is on improvement in health – especially that of children.

 Progress against Malaria

In May 2010 I (Elizabeth) met Eddy In the village of Chipungo in Eastern Zambia. Eddy proudly showed me the insecticide-treated mosquito net under which he now slept.  Sarajere, a Malaria Control Agent from the village trained by the Zambia Anglican Council, had shown Eddy’s Aunty Dorothy how to use it, returning  periodically to check it was still intact and being used correctly. Eddy was perhaps one of the estimated 3 million children in sub-Saharan Africa whose lives have been saved between 2000 and 2012 by malaria interventions such as these. Certainly in Chipungo childhood deaths from malaria used to be commonplace but were now few and far between. Eddy stood a much greater chance of reaching adulthood, and his full potential.                                          

The 42% reduction globally in the mortality rate from malaria is a remarkable achievement, and attributable to concerted intervention measures. The widespread distribution of insecticide treated nets has been vital: between 2004 and 2013, more than 700 million bed nets were delivered to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This does not mean that usage is sufficient yet (only an estimated 36 per cent of the population living in malaria-risk areas in sub-Saharan Africa were sleeping under an insecticide treated net in 2013), but some countries are making good progress: in Tanzania, over 70 per cent of children under age five were estimated to have slept under an insecticide treated net in 2012.

But while bed nets are the best-known intervention, they're not the only one. In Malawi the under-five mortality rate has fallen from 244 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990 to 71 in 2012, a 71% reduction. The World Health Organization's African Health Observatory suggests this decline may be attributable to the way that the Government of Malawi, working with development partners, has increased investment in essential health care services and implemented specific strategies aimed at reducing childhood mortality, and especially the number of cases of - and deaths from - malaria. These strategies include not only distribution of bed nets, but also preventive therapy for pregnant women and better management of malaria in children.

Mobile phones and computer technology are also being used in the fight against malaria and other infectious diseases.  In Tanzania, a partnership involving Novartis, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, IBM, Vodafone and the Ministry for Health of Tanzania created SMS for Life, a programme that used mobile telephones, SMS messages and electronic mapping technology to ensure that health centres - including very remote ones - got the anti-malarial medications that they needed on a timely basis. The programme cut the proportion of health facilities with "stockouts" from 78% to 26% in just 21 weeks.  Building on the success of SMS for Life, Novartis has just launched the 'eHealth for Africa' initiative in Lagos State in Nigeria - a programme that tracks a range of infectious diseases, provides information about stock levels of vaccines and test kits,  and offers training for health workers by means of tablet computers.

How effective can concerted action be? Mauritius and the Maldives have been successful in actually eliminating indigenous cases of malaria. Botswana and Namibia are making huge strides towards achieving elimination whilst South Africa reduced malaria cases by 89%  between 2000 and 2012 and has developed a malaria elimination plan, with the goal of ending local transmission by 2018.

No one is underestimating how much work remains to be done: for all the progress, malaria claimed an estimated 627,000 lives globally in 2012. And there are concerns for the future of progress in fighting it. Continued funding is essential (funding for prevention dropped in 2011-12), and scientists are working to overcome the threat that resistant strains will render treatment more problematic. But the progress is amazing, and there is potential for it to continue.

Good news is often not seen as "news", and "this person is still alive" hardly makes a headline. But the precious lives saved are very real and wonderful achievements and have prevented much heartache.

As the Commonwealth Games begin, please:

  • give thanks for the progress made against malaria in so many Commonwealth countries
  • give thanks for all those who have worked and are working to protect children and adults from malaria  
  • give thanks for those who continue to search for more effective ways of protecting people
  • remember those who still suffer the consequences of malaria and pray for their healing
  • remember those who have lost family, friends, and colleagues to malaria, and pray that God will comfort them in their grief

 Fighting Tuberculosis

About this time last year, I (Maranda) was visiting a group of caregivers in a South African township. One woman told about an occasion when she and her work partner were approached by members of the local community who were very worried by a neighbour. They feared that he had drug-resistant tuberculosis, but he refused to seek medical help. In a crowded area, they worried that this was a threat to everyone. The two caregivers went to the man in question and were able to convince him to go to the hospital ... a small success, but an important one for him and for the community.

Tuberculosis has been a leading cause of death for thousands of years and at a global level is still second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer  due to a single infectious agent, causing over 1 million deaths in 2012.  However, impressive gains have been made in the fight against tuberculosis in recent years. Globally, between 1995 and 2012, tuberculosis treatment is estimated to have saved 22 million lives. The United Nations attributes this success to the intensive implementation of the Stop TB Strategy launched in 2006 and its predecessor, the Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS).

Rwanda stands out for the success it has achieved, with the incidence of tuberculosis falling by 68% between 1990 and 2011 and the death rate by 70%. Harvard professor of public health Dr Paul E. Farmer, speaking to The Guardian in April this year, said, ‘"In the last decade death rates from AIDS and tuberculosis have dropped more steeply in Rwanda than just about anywhere, ever ... In the 30 years that I've been involved in the provision of health-care services to the poor and marginalised, I can think of no more dramatic example of a turnaround than that achieved in Rwanda."  

Reasons for this success, according to a study for which Dr Farmer was a lead author, include strong government planning with a constitutional commitment to ‘the right to health’, a system of community health workers to bring health care into every community and the rigorous use of monitoring and evaluation.

In Southern Africa, government ministers from Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland, all of whom are on the board of the Stop TB Partnership, succeeded in prioritising the issue of the TB epidemic among mineworkers. Mine workers in Southern Africa have the highest TB infection rates in the world. The ministers' work resulted in a formal declaration signed by fifteen Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) heads of state, which committed their countries to addressing the issue of TB among present and former mine workers, their families and affected communities.

As the Commonwealth Games begin, please:

  • give thanks for the progress made against TB in Rwanda and other Commonwealth countries
  • give thanks for all those who have worked and are working to fight TB and pray for the success of initiatives to tackle TB in particular places and sectors
  • give thanks for those who continue to search for more effective ways of protecting people
  • remember those who have TB and pray for their healing
  • remember those who have lost family, friends, and TB colleagues to , and pray that God will comfort them in their grief

 Protecting Children from Measles

Measles is another infectious disease that remains a leading cause of death among young children globally. However, widespread vaccination programmes have had a major impact on reducing deaths from the disease. Since 2000, more than one billion children in high-risk countries have been vaccinated - about 145 million of them in 2012. This meant that by 2012, about 84% of the world's children had received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000. In the period from 2000 to 2012 global measles deaths decreased by 78% from an estimated 562,400 to 122, 000. The decline in deaths from measles is even more impressive over a longer time period. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

Oceania (which includes Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand) made even more impressive advances against measles than the global averages: between 2000 and 2012 deaths from measles decreased by an estimated 89 per cent.

As the Commonwealth Games begin, please:

  • give thanks for the progress made against measles in Commonwealth countries, and especially for the successes in Oceania
  • give thanks for all those who work to immunise people against measles
  • pray for adequate funding and access for immunisation programmes, especially in conflict areas and refugee communities. Pray especially for refugees and displaced people from the CAR, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.
  • remember those who have measles and pray for their healing
  • remember those who have lost family, friends, and colleagues to measles and pray that God will comfort them in their grief

A Legacy of Protection

Part of the vision of the 2014 Commonwealth Games is to leave a lasting legacy, especially for children. Thousands of tickets for the sporting events have been set aside for children and young people in Scotland facing poverty and social exclusion, offering them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the excitement of the Commonwealth Games for themselves.

 The 2014 Glasgow Games also aim to leave a lasting legacy for children throughout the Commonwealth through its Put Children First appeal. In partnership with UNICEF, Glasgow 2014 and the Commonwealth Games Federation are using the opportunity of the Games to raise money for UNICEF’s Children of the Commonwealth Fund, which will be used to help protect children from poverty, disease and exploitation, provide life-saving food and vaccines, and give millions of children the chance to take part in sport – many for the first time.
As the Commonwealth Games begin, please pray:

  • That the values they enshrine will prove an inspiration to many
  • That the coming together of diverse nations and cultures, and the full integration of the Para-Sports, will lead to greater appreciation of the difference
  • That the hopes for a positive legacy in Scotland and around the world will be realized.

Short Notes:

Girl Summit

Please pray for the Girl Summit, which the UK Government will be hosting on Tuesday, 22 July. It's designed to build domestic and international support for an end to Female Genital Mutilation and child/early/forced marriage. Pray for its success.

Religious Persecution in Chhattisgarh

Please also pray for the Christian communities of Gaiya and Parapur in the Bastar District of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. There has been an upsurge in discrimination and attacks: dozens of village councils have reportedly banned "non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages" and refused entry to non-Hindus. Christian families and communities have also been threatened,  attacked and, apparently, denied access to basic amenities.

Pray for safety and spiritual strength for the Christians of that region, that the Chhattisgarh government will act to protect the constitutional rights of religious minorities, and that the hearts of all will be turned towards peace.



Download prayers here
CCOW Year Planner for Churches - 2014

Do you have expertise in any of the areas touched on in this week's prayers ? If so, we'd love to hear from you with comments, thoughts or suggestions! Please do email us.