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Co-mingling Faith and Health:

Alarmed by the health statistics of Nigerians, Christian and Muslim faith leaders are advocating for improved and accessible health services for all and contributing to the actualization of universal health coverage. Leveraging on faith leaders influence and networks remains a veritable approach to mobilize and engage community or congregational members in a sustainable way. Faith influence has also been recognized as a key element in the community health and social justice response. Therefore, Christian Aid is continuing to work closely and in partnership with NiNERELA+ and its network of faith leaders to use their influence to address critical issues that affect the poor and marginalized. The drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is essential to improve access to quality health services. Being a strong influence even on the health choices of their followers, faith leaders in Benue State and the FCT are being equipped to play an active role in ensuring better health outcomes for citizens. Through a 2-day technical meeting held with selected leaders in the FCT, advocacy priorities and plan for faith leaders on universal health coverage was developed. It also provided the opportunity to sensitize 22 religious leaders on UHC and the opportunities faith communities can take advantage of in supporting indigent members. The media advocacy campaigns focused on pushing for the actualization of UHC and community health insurance financing by faith leaders lends effort to reach beyond their immediate congregation. Using radio, it faith leaders explore how faith congregations can support attainment of UHC. Christian Aid is working in partnership with NINERELA to ensure that the influence of faith is harnessed to achieve improved and quality health for all.

Christian Aid Nigeria’s Covid-19 response actions

Tackling the infodemic of COVID-19 The nature of the Covid19 pandemic has brought on an infodemic that needs to be tackled as urgently and seriously as the clinical symptoms of the disease itself. In the light of this, it is critical that the public is informed by credible experts, however, in some of the states where we work, awareness creation on the virus has been pre-dominantly urban-based, thereby leaving out those in rural areas with limited access to information channels. This has presented a huge opportunity for misinformation, myths and misconceptions to drive people’s actions and reactions such as the refusal or unwillingness of some citizens to comply to the standard preventive procedures. Information equity is therefore very crucial at this point along with the promotion of health-enhancing behaviours such as proper handwashing. Given this and our niche of reaching the unreached; especially the most vulnerable and those in the most hard-to-reach areas, Christian Aid in Nigeria is bridging the information gap by targeting those with limited access to information, either because of barriers such as language or lack access to information sources or those with little or no contact with the government or other external bodies. We have adapted and continue to disseminate official COVID-19 messaging on prevention, symptoms, transmission and key facts about the virus to bridge the language and access barrier that has been identified, creating awareness and improving the knowledge of the target population on prevention measures. Produced in a variety of formats suitable for different groups such as non-English speakers (7 local languages) and non-literates, we are also targeting the elderly, pregnant women, children, people living with disability, traditional rulers, Faith groups and actors. They include audio-visuals, animations, print materials (posters and handbills) and radio jingles for varying information channels. Given the nature of the communities, efforts are concentrated on using radio, church and mosque public address systems to provide accurate information in accessible ways. Working with INERELA+ Nigeria through its state chapters and networks, we are also leveraging on the huge influence of faith leaders by facilitating the use of theological teaching on radio to guide congregation response on covid-19 and address myths and misconceptions.   Existing community platforms and networks such as Community Disaster Management and Mitigation Platform (CDMMP), Disaster Management and Mitigation Platform (DMMP), media agencies, Community Based Monitors (CBMS), partner organizations, Town Unions and COMEN have also been used for information dissemination. These already established community structures have gained the trust of their communities over the years and are key influencers in promoting new behaviours such as physical distancing and frequent handwashing.  Christian Aid and partners have also leveraged on activities such as food distribution and others to sensitise and integrate messaging. Capacity building and Social Mobilisation Through the difficult times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian Aid Nigeria is supporting vulnerable households to stay safe and maintain/increase their source of livelihood.  This has been done through the strengthening of communities’ capacity for covid-19 preparedness and response in Benue State. 75 community front liners constituting of social mobilizers, Community Spokespeople, Faith Leaders, Primary Health Care contacts amongst others were selected and trained for preparedness and response actions. The preparedness training was extended to build the resilience capacity of 100 caregivers and 100 household heads by training them to produce home-made handwashing liquid soaps and sanitizers as a strategy to cushion economic hardship of the lockdown policy and to promote hygiene practices within the households. Internally Displaced People (IDP) and members of host communities in Maiduguri, Jere and Dikwa were also trained to produce soap and face masks as a livelihood boosting activity.   Adapting emergency interventions In Northeast Nigeria thousands of households still suffer from food shortage and depend on supplies from development agencies. While we continue to deliver life-saving food assistance to IDPs across different camps in Borno State, we are fully committed to the safety of those we serve even in this difficult time and in the changing context.   This is demonstrated by key mitigation strategies that have been employed. One of such is the introduction of double rationing since April. This strategy ensures that distribution exercises are reduced from a 1-month to a 2-month basis as it provides beneficiaries with food for 2 months. In addition to the adherence to social distancing during community engagements and distributions and the provision of PPE for staff and volunteers, hand washing stations have been established at distribution sites.    Long term commitments Christian Aid remains committed to ensuring that marginalised and vulnerable populations can survive the secondary impacts of the pandemic with dignity and that it does not erode the huge strides made towards drawing people out of poverty. Actions with more long-term effects have therefore include data collection and analysis of the effect of covid-19 on the livelihood of marginalised groups to influence decision-making. This was done in Anambra and Kaduna States through the Evidence and Collaboration for Inclusive Development. The C19 NALPER project also provided the opportunity for facility and household assessments, providing key data for covid-19 interventions in Borno, Benue and Kaduna States. 

Week 2: Lent reflections – Sunday 25 February

Philip Galgallo, Christian Aid’s country manager in Burundi, who grew up in Northern Kenya, provides a powerful reflection for the second week of Lent. He leads us into a deeper understanding of the wilderness of devastating drought. 

Week 3: Lent reflections – Sunday 4 March

In this third week of Lent we journey with those who have had to flee from violence in Nigeria.

Week 1: Lent reflections – Sunday 18 February

Our first Lent reflection, written by Christian Aid’s programme communication manager in Kenya, David Mudachi, leads us to reflect on the wilderness moments of our lives. It considers how, as societies, we can find inspiration to respond from Jesus’ wilderness sojourn.

Rohingya Crisis Appeal church poster

Downloadable Rohingya Crisis Appeal poster to print out and display in your church.

Week 4: Lent reflections – Sunday 11 March

Written by Bob Kikuyu, who is from Kenya and is Christian Aid’s Deputy Head of the Africa Division. He is formerly a church minister who has worked over many years with the poor in the slums of Nairobi.