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Church World Service Announces International Moringa Conference

              April 13, 2000, ATLANTA, Ga. – Church World Service will announce today (April 13) during the African Health Ministers’ HIV/AIDS & Malaria International Conference here that it is planning an international conference on the Moringa tree – an indigenous resource for fighting against hunger and malnutrition and, quite possibly, to contribute to helping people with HIV/AIDS stay healthier longer. 

            The scruffy looking, fast-growing, drought-resistant Moringa Oleifera tree can be found in every country of West Africa.  The tree is edible, tasty and highly nutritious in all its parts, with leaves, leaf powder, pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark offering a complement of protein, calcium, minerals, iron and several important vitamins. 

            The announcement of an international conference will come as part of the HIV/AIDS & Malaria Conference’s workshop “Partnerships in Research on Traditional Medicines,” being offered today from 2-4 p.m. and repeated Friday, April 14, from 10-12:30 p.m.   

Being held at the Atlanta Apparel Mart, the conference’s chair, Hon. Ambassador Young, has become such a Moringa tree fan that when he was hospitalized for prostate cancer surgery last December, he asked well-wishers to donate Moringa tree seedlings through Church World Service instead of sending him flowers.  “Here is an indigenous nutritional supplement that people can grow in their own backyards,” he commented. 

            At the workshop today and Friday, Lowell Fuglie, a Lutheran and a Minnesota native who heads Church World Service’s West Africa regional office in Dakar, Senegal, will present the results of pioneering research on the Moringa tree’s exceptional nutritional value especially among children and their mothers, conducted by CWS and its Senegalese partner, AGADA, in collaboration with government health services and local health posts.  Because of Moringa’s accessibility at no cost, malnourished children have recovered more quickly than under the “classic” treatments which obliged their parents to purchase what is, for them, expensive items like cooking oil, sugar and milk powder. 

Now Church World Service – the relief, development and refugee assistance arm of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches and working in partnership with indigenous organizations in more than 80 countries – wants to expand cultivation of the Moringa tree and test its potential contribution to good nutrition and thus to improved immunity and longer, healthier life for people with HIV infection. 

The April 13-15 HIV/AIDS & Malaria International Conference is bringing together African government ministers of health, non-governmental organizations, representatives of the World Health Organization and Centers of Disease Control and others to offer a platform for an “African Response” to the pandemic diseases of HIV/AIDS and malaria. 

It is organized by the American Medical Team for Africa, an Atlanta-based not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in Africa by assisting the healthcare sector with medical related supplies, medical training and facilitating partnerships with American healthcare institutions. 

On the eve of the conference, the chair, Ambassador Young – who is National Council of Churches President in 2000-2001 – explained, “Everyone gets together and talks about AIDS and curses the darkness.  We wanted to try to light a few candles and give people a feeling they are not helpless in regard to AIDS.  One thing HIV-infected people must do is maintain as high a basic nutritional standard as they can.  One of the indigenous ways of doing this is the Moringa tree. 

“I’d seen the Moringa tree growing all over Africa and never paid attention to it,” Ambassador Young said.  “Then just last November, at the National Council of Churches General Assembly, I heard about Church World Service’s Moringa project.  Here is an indigenous nutritional supplement that people can grow in their own backyards.    

“When the Minister of Health from Senegal came to my house during the Christmas holidays and said, ‘Can you help us? Everything everyone tells us to do about AIDS, we can’t afford,’ I gave him some of the Moringa literature.”  Ambassador Young added, “We are not pushing the Moringa tree as a cure for anything.  But in terms of the opportunistic infections that HIV-infected people die from, the Moringa is one possible source of strength to the human immune system.” 

The Moringa Oleifera tree is native to sub-Himalayan tracts of northern India but now distributed world-wide in the tropics and subtropics.  In 1997, Church World Service and AGADA undertook a pilot project in Ziguinchor and Bignona (Casamance region, south-western Senegal) that documented the nutritional value of Moringa leaves and dried leaf powder and their usefulness in preventing or quickly curing cases of malnutrition.  Laboratory analysis of the nutritional content of leaves harvested in Senegal provided additional confirmation.  Results are published in CWS’s March 1999 book “The Miracle Tree.” 

Leaves can be cooked like spinach or used for a sauce called Mboum in Wolof and served over rice or couscous.  Leaves also can be easily dried into a powder and stored for long periods.   Young pods can be cooked like green beans.   Older pods, seeds, flowers, roots and bark also are edible, nutritious and tasty.  Even in areas where Moringa trees are scarce, they can be quickly introduced.  Moringa will grow readily from seed and reach 12 feet in a year, flower and produce fruit.   

Just one of the many people who have benefited from Moringa products is Awa Diedhiou, who weighed only 3 pounds, 5 ounces at birth.  Her mother, Maissata, 22, was very weak and dizzy.  Maissata was counseled to add Moringa leaf powder to her meals.  “My dizziness went away, and I started producing enough milk,” Maissata said.  By age 5 months, Awa weighed 11 pounds. 

NOTE:   Mr. Fuglie will be available for interviews April 13-15 in Atlanta and April 20-22 in New York City before returning to Dakar, Senegal.


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