Support for Collaboration
How it Works
The Foundation has brought this strategy to life in Sierra Leone, where a group of faith leaders and their congregations are spearheading a revolutionary new way of combating malaria – the biggest threat to children under five and pregnant women.
By working together on a common cause faith communities are fighting a deadly disease and strengthening their country's health system. Equally importantly, the model requires them to increase interfaith dialogue, leading to far greater understanding and tolerance and reducing tensions.
Faiths Act in Sierra Leone utilises a cascade model for health prevention messaging. It identifies a common cause and faith leaders willing to collaborate. It trains faith leaders, faith leaders train community volunteers and volunteers visit households, providing key messages of malaria prevention.
One faith leader is able to train 20 community volunteers at a time, who in turn are able to visit 40 households each. Which means, just one faith leader can empower volunteers to reach up to 2,400 families with live-saving malaria prevention messages.
In Sierra Leone malaria kills more people than any other disease and the country's public health infrastructure is overwhelmed, with around just 240 medical practitioners covering a population of almost 6 million.
In December 2010, a nationwide campaign distributed treated nets throughout the country. However, many households did not know how to use them or how to treat a sick child when they got malaria.
What was needed was a way to disseminate information on how to use these nets all across the country. It was clear that malaria prevention education was a common cause around which faith communities could collaborate in Sierra Leone.
Faith leaders, our Malaria Faith Ambassadors, are trained to recruit and train congregants and community volunteers, their Malaria Faith Champions, and facilitate malaria discussions and activities.
They, in turn, train these Champions to deliver house-to-house education on malaria prevention. The training is comprehensive. The sessions examine the role of a Malaria Faith Champion, Muslim and Christian perspectives on volunteerism, learning about malaria, developing communication and behavioural change skills, house to house advocacy and monitoring and data collection.
Each of them is trained to deliver five key messages on malaria. The training also includes the introduction to easy-to-use tools and resources, like our picture storybook.
These vital messages are then taken by the Champions out into their communities. They go house-to-house delivering this simple but vital advice throughout the country. Each Champion visits at least 20 families at home to raise awareness of how malaria is caused, prevented and treated using a picture story book and to encourage families to put their new knowledge into action. Champions return to the households they have visited one month later to assess and motivate families to continue to follow key malaria prevention messages.
In addition to the direct household visits, faith leaders and their trained volunteers conduct community activities to reach entire communities. Faith leaders' deliver sermons or khutbahs in their church or mosque dealing specifically with malaria. Working together, leaders and volunteers host community events and activities, such as community theatre, and organise group discussions on malaria. Media outreach is an equally significant part of our work where messages via mass media supplement the household visits, reinforcing the message.