Faiths Act in Sierra Leone reaches 100,000 homes
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s groundbreaking interfaith programme to tackle malaria in Sierra Leone has reached 100,000 homes and over 600 thousand individuals. Sierra Leone has only 102 medics but a huge network of churches and mosques. The Foundation’s programme, Faiths Act in Sierra Leone, is utilising these networks to disseminate key preventative health messages on malaria and the results have abundantly surpassed expectations.
Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said: “Integrating faith communities into national malaria plans in Sierra Leone has been incredibly effective. The 100, 000 homes reached in just six months by faith leaders and their networks tells its own story. The great strength of churches and mosques are not so much their bricks and mortar – though their hospitals and dispensaries play a vital role in many areas - but their communities, networks and leaders. Faith leaders work through compassion and a theological responsibility to do good, and are able to pass on simple but vital health messages to their communities.”
The programme in Sierra Leone is creating a pyramid training structure - a small number of faith leaders are trained in malaria prevention; these vital health messages are then passed onto congregants who carry out household to household visits delivering simple, practical advice throughout the country.
The depth and value of the contribution of faith communities to health in Africa has been so far difficult to measure due to a lack of data. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is working to help change this. Each aspect of the work in Sierra Leone is evaluated. Every week the number of households who have been taught about malaria prevention is recorded. More importantly, the number who are now are using bed-nets properly, or making timely visits to clinics where children show symptoms of malaria, is also recorded.
Banke Adetayo, Faiths Act Fellow, helping lead the programme on the ground recently said, “As we celebrate reaching this key milestone I have been reflecting on two things: the deep commitment of faith communities in Sierra Leone to work together to rid their society of this devastating disease and the realisation that despite the success of the programme so far we need to continue our work and strive even higher if we are to achieve the UN’s target of zero deaths from malaria by 2015.”
In tandem, the Foundation is also working to highlight the effectiveness of faith communities in health messaging. In collaboration with the Berkeley Center at Georgetown University, Washington DC, the Foundation has recently published “Global Health and Africa” - a report on faith communities’ work in the healthcare world. It details what we know about how much faith communities contribute to health care, what we don’t know and what we ought to know. Research is also underway to find out just how effective religious leaders are at giving health messages in their communities.