Two Million People Reached
15 May 2014
Our malaria prevention programme, Faiths Act Sierra Leone, has reached two million people through household visits by Muslim and Christian volunteers.
This significant achievement was reached this month in Buedu Town, Kailahun District.
The programme, Faiths Act Sierra Leone, works by training faith leaders in five key messages about how to prevent malaria. These key messages are then passed on to congregants who carry out household visits delivering the simple, practical advice.
The volunteers ensure that messages about the use of the mosquito nets, and other malaria prevention measures, are fully understood by the people they speak to. Since 2011 the programme has supported 680 Muslim and Christian leaders in Sierra Leone, training over 15,000 members of their congregations and volunteers within their communities.
Tony Blair, Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said:
"Malaria is a preventable disease and World Malaria Day 2014 is a chance for all of us to demonstrate our commitment to eradicating it. We must continue to work together and make sure we are supporting prevention programmes.
"As well as committing funds to provide bed nets and other preventative measures we must encourage grassroots activity to make sure these nets are used properly and that other malaria prevention messages are spread.
"I have seen first hand in Sierra Leone how Muslims and Christians have joined together as part of a programme to deliver malaria prevention advice throughout communities. If the international community can sustain a global campaign there are no reasons why we cannot eradicate this disease in Africa and other endemic malarial areas permanently. That must be our objective."
Charlotte Keenan, Chief Executive of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said:
"I believe this collaborative model, with different groups working together to achieve sustainable and cost-effective change on the ground, could be adapted and replicated elsewhere.
"Recent UNICEF figures for Sierra Leone show that it costs around $6 to distribute a mosquito net. In 2013, the cost per person reached by Faiths Act Sierra Leone was only 50 cents. This is a small price to pay for a lot of additional value if it means the nets are more likely to be used in the right way.
"As we mark World Malaria Day, Sierra Leone's experiences using the power of faith communities to prevent malaria could provide an important lesson to other countries."
Josephine Muhairwe, a medical doctor and head of Faiths Act in Sierra Leone, discusses how Faiths Act helps communities collaborate around a common challenge:
Independent research, by international polling organisation Ipsos MORI, undertaken in areas that had received visits by volunteers shows there has been a higher use of mosquito nets – the number of people not using them has halved. People are also using the nets more effectively, with fewer children showing symptoms of malaria and parents better understanding that they have to seek medical help if symptoms show.
Faiths Act Sierra Leone is run with the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone with dedicated staff who implement the programme throughout the country. An expert advisory committee with Muslim and Christian members, as well as health experts, offer assistance and guidance where necessary.
The programme works in direct partnership with the National Malaria Control Programme and the Inter-Religious Council, who have been extensively involved in the development of all aspects of the work. We also continue to work in partnership with local NGOs and civil society organisations such as the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the World Bank.
GSK and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation have agreed a partnership, with GSK providing financial support to secure the future of the programme. This will support the target of reaching 80% of the population with malaria prevention messages through house visits by 2015.