Dr Jenny Kerrison (left) at a meeting with the National Manager Maria Mota, National Malaria Program (middle). and The Rotary Foundation Cadre Auditor (right) Timor Leste, Dec 2019.
Rotarians Against Malaria: Our International Service to open doors into the hearts of Rotarians and non-Rotarians
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. The parasites live to wreak havoc in their human / animal / bird hosts. While the parasites are relatively harmless to the mosquitoes, it can be deadly to humans. Both types of hosts are needed by the parasites to procreate and survive.
In contrast to COVD-19, there are far more malaria infections but fewer deaths each year. Globally, in 2018, an estimated 228 million people were infected with malaria and 405,000 deaths occurred, mainly in Africa. An estimated 1,109 deaths occurred each day. The most at risk for malarial deaths were children under five who made up 67% of the deaths in 2018. The social and economic burdens of malaria are phenomenal. The sick are unable to work and children are unable to go to school. The poor become poorer.
In the 1990s, Rotarians in Australia established a national group called Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) to fight against the scourge of malaria in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Since then, Rotarians have helped to reduce malaria in Vanuatu, PNG, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. RAM is governed by Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) Ltd. In addition to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, our partners include Vanuatu and West Timor (NTT Province, Indonesia).
The primary focus of RAM is malaria control and elimination. We work closely with the Ministry of Health authorities in each country and complement the work of other malaria organisations, most notably the World Health Organisation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund). We assist countries in malaria vector control using insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying of insecticides. We also offer a PhD scholarship every five years. To sustain our international humanitarian service, we need sustained support from Rotarians across Australia.
Our success story: Zero indigenous malaria in Timor Leste
Rotarians Against Malaria first commenced support for Timor Leste in 2006. In that year, Timor Leste was considered a 'post-conflict' fragile nation following independence in 2002 from Indonesia. In 2006, malaria was wide-spread in Timor Leste with an estimated 223,002 malaria cases. By 2019, over a period of 15 years, malaria was reduced to zero with only nine (9) imported malaria cases. The great success story in malaria elimination was due to several factors, and one of which was the leadership of the National Malaria Program, and the continuing financial support from the Global Fund, World Health Organisation (WHO), and Rotarians Against Malaria. Rotarians' actions have averted many malaria cases with several illnesses and deaths. We have given Timorese a chance for a better life. The elimination of malaria was critical to the prosperity and peace in the country.
By 2019, Rotarians across Australia had donated a total of 112,000 bed nets to Timor Leste. Specific to District 9830 (Tasmania), the Rotary Club of North Hobart is also part of Timor Leste's success story. In 2017, PP Dr. Jenny Kerrison, the Rotary Club of North Hobart, took a small team of RAM Volunteers to Timor Leste. Her trip highlighted the dedication and good work of the National Malaria Program and the WHO Consultant. Upon her return to Tasmania and with support from her club and help from PDG Peter Murfett D9830 The Rotary Foundation (TRF) Chair, and Rotarians Against Malaria Australia, Jenny applied for a Rotary Global Grant for Timor Leste. The Grant galvanised wide-spread support in Australia for Timor Leste. A total of 15 of 21 Rotary districts donated their District Designated Funds to the project. In addition, 13 Rotary clubs in D9800 and two Rotary clubs from across Australia donated towards the Grant. The final result was a total of USD251,334 matched Grant from TRF was raised.
Assisted by the host partner Rotary Club of Dili Lafaek in Timor Leste D9550, the Rotary Club of North Hobart in D9830 commenced the Grant project in 2018. Rotarians should be proud of the Grant's outputs. The project has donated a total of 40,000 long lasting insecticidal nets to pregnant women throughout Timor Leste. In addition, we trained 107 Community Health Volunteers, and strengthened Timor Leste's indoor residual spraying (IRS) program through a donation 80 sprayer machines. Rotarians have contributed to maintaining zero malaria in Timor Leste.
The enormous support from Rotarians for Timor Leste reflected our mindset that 'Rotarians can and will make a difference' in our International Service. Rotarians Against Malaria has provided opportunities for Rotarians to meet their international service obligations and in doing so, RAM has opened doors into the hearts of Rotarians and non-Rotarians.
Malaria on Timor Island (West and East Timor)
Our work continues on Timor Island. In February 2020, Dr. Jenny Kerrison, RC North Hobart, led a small team of RAM Volunteers to conduct a Community Needs Assessment at two border districts in West Timor. The emphasis is to eliminate malaria from the whole of Timor Island. West Timor shares the Timor Island with Timor Leste (East Timor). While malaria is eliminated from Timor Leste, the disease remains endemic in West Timor (Indonesia). Funding for the Community Needs Assessment was from Rotary District 9830 District Grant and Rotarians Against Malaria. Since our visit, D9830 has pledged District Designated Funds towards a Rotary Global Grant application for West Timor. If successful, Rotarians in D9830 will contribute to malaria elimination in West Timor and eventually, the whole of Timor Island.
Call to Action
To continue our work to end malaria in our partner countries, we need help from Rotarians. Please donate to the Rotarians Against Malaria via this link https://ram.rawcs.com.au/
Alternatively, you may wish to volunteer your time with us, in the following positions: Deputy National Manager, Newsletter Editor, Speaker, Fund-raising volunteer.
Jenny KERRISON PhD, DEd, RN, RM
Rotary Club of North Hobart & RAM Project Manager, Rotary Global Grant for malaria elimination in Timor Leste 2018-2020
National Manager for Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) Australia - ram.rawcs.com.au
Past President Jenny Kerrison, National Manager for Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) Australia, pictured with Past President Howie Oh, National Treasurer for RAM. Howie is the current Director of International Service at the Rotary Club of North Hobart.
More photos of the RAM projects in Timor-Leste and Indonesia are available on the PROJECTS page of our website.