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The Call

Vol. E15, Number 6

updated: March 16, 2015

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Husband-and-wife doctor team fights malaria in South Sudan

By Annette Spence

<p>Sharon and Lynn Fogleman are family physicians serving with The Mission Society in South Sudan.</p>

Sharon and Lynn Fogleman are family physicians serving with The Mission Society in South Sudan.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (March 19, 2015) – Two years ago, Holston churches worked hard to raise more than $1.2 million for "Imagine No Malaria."

This month, congregations will have the opportunity to hear from two family physicians who fight malaria in South Sudan.

Lynn and Sharon Fogleman, a husband-and-wife medical team, have lived in South Sudan and served with The Mission Society since March 2012.

Now back in the United States until July, the Foglemans began their homeland visit by speaking at First Broad Street United Methodist Church’s “Missions Celebration” on March 13-16.

They’re available to speak at Holston churches until March 29 and will also appear at the Holston Annual Conference, June 7-11 in Lake Junaluska, N.C., according to the Rev. Mike Sluder, missions director.

“Most people in the U.S. have heard of malaria, but it is difficult to comprehend the impact of this disease on communities unless you have lived in Africa a while,” Sharon Fogleman told workshop participants in Kingsport last weekend.

“In Africa, one person dies every minute from malaria. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem,” she said.

Since 2006, the United Methodist Church has focused on saving lives at risk from the preventable disease through the “Imagine No Malaria” program. In the past nine years, the denomination has helped cut the death toll in half, raised $65 million of its $75 million goal, distributed more than 11.3 million bed nets, and trained more than 11,600 health workers, according to United Methodist Communications.

Since late 2013, the Foglemans have helped UMCOR use some of the "Imagine No Malaria" funds, raised by annual conferences, to fight the disease in the Lasu Payam region of South Sudan. They trained government health workers and communities on the risks of malaria, diagnosis and treatment, and prevention methods.

Anti-malaria medicine was made available for prevention in pregnant women and treatment for all patients. “Death from malaria is particularly high in pregnant women and children under five years," Sharon Fogleman said. "If they don't get testing and treatment early, these vulnerable groups can die."

UMCOR-Yei trained 200 volunteers and sent them door-to-door to educate residents and distribute insecticide-treated bed nets in Lasu Payum. By fall 2014, 20,388 mosquito nets had been distributed, Sharon Fogleman said.

The couple also leads community-awareness trainings, and Lynn Fogleman speaks frequently on radio talk shows about malaria prevention and other topics.

“Often people in Africa don’t believe that mosquito bites are the only thing causing malaria,” Sharon Fogleman said. They ask questions like, “Is malaria caused by being drenched by rain? Is it caused by eating leftover food?”

“If you don’t believe that malaria is caused by mosquitoes, you won’t be motivated to use the net,” said Lynn Fogleman, who dresses up like a mosquito during community training to drive the point home.

The Foglemans hope that additional "Imagine No Malaria" monies will be provided to help reach other parts of South Sudan. The last census showed that in Yei alone -- where the Foglemans work with Holston missionaries Fred and Libby Dearing – the city population is 250,000, Sharon Fogleman said. Yei River County has an estimated population of 460,000.

In the meantime, the Foglemans continue their work in community health, focusing on education about nutrition; malaria; diarrhea, sanitation, and hygiene; maternal and infant survival; and HIV/AIDS. They came to South Sudan with 10 years of experience at Maua Methodist Hospital in Menru, Kenya, and 14 years at Red Bird Mission and Henderson Settlement in Kentucky.

The physician couple became interested in serving in South Sudan after hearing about Holston Conference’s work in East Africa and attending a “Sudan Summit” at First Broad Street UMC in 2010.

“As we approach the twilight of our careers, we wanted to have more of a lasting impact in a place like South Sudan,” Lynn Fogleman said. “What better place to work on education with a population who had little or no education on how to stay healthy.”

The Foglemans spoke at First United Methodist Church in Marion, Va., on March 18. They are scheduled to speak at Jones Memorial (Chattanooga) on March 22; Christ (Knoxville) on March 24; and New Hope/Philadelphia and Strawberry Plains on March 29. To schedule a visit, contact Mike Sluder at (865) 690-4080 or [email protected].

To help the Foglemans and Holston’s health ministry in South Sudan, write a check to your local church with “South Sudan HEAL Advance #3021298” on the memo line or give online.