UN and WHO Failed to Recognise Vital Role Played by Faith Leaders on Ebola Outbreak, Says Christian Agencies

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Christian Today report- The critical role played by faith leaders in the response to Ebola was “overlooked” and must be taken into account  in future, three Christian agencies have warned.

In a statement released yesterday, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund said that global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN failed to take into account the role of faith leaders in stemming the crisis.

“There was a significant missed opportunity in not involving faith leaders further at the very start of the outbreak,” the statement reads.

“The role of faith leaders has often been overlooked and in many cases their potential contribution to the Ebola crisis is still not being fully realised.”

Christian Aid Country Manager for Sierra Leone Jeanne Kamara highlighted the “unique position of trust and influence” held and used by faith leaders across the country to educate people on the virus and help stop its spread.

“They have offered comfort and solace to the sick, the suffering and the bereaved,” she said. “In a country characterised by a deep sense of faith, religious leaders have been a source of support at a time of fear, confusion, loss, suffering, financial hardship and trauma.

“We hope the international community acknowledges and validates their vital role in the response to Sierra Leone’s outbreak and integrates them fully in future plans to help rebuild the country.”

The latest figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) put the death toll at over 9,100 in West Africa. Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund are urging policy makers to ensure that faith leaders are given a “pivotal” part to play in recovery and prevention programmes going forward.

“As Ebola recovery plans are developed, it is of the utmost importance that faith leaders are fully involved and represented in high-level decision making processes at an international, regional and country level. Faith leaders should be involved in the drafting process,” the statement said.

A parliamentary event hosted yesterday by the three agencies highlighted this call. Two Sierra Leonean clergy – the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Freetown the Rt Rev Edward Thamba Charles and the Director of Caritas in Freetown the Rev Fr Peter Conteh – addressed MPs, peers and policy makers on how religious groups have engaged with the health crisis.

In a joint briefing, sent to MPs, Lords and UK NGOs, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund say that the influence of religious leaders “can be a crucial part of the countries’ recovery and healing”.

“Faith leaders and faith-based organisations must be allocated dedicated funding for training and related materials, and on-going mentoring, particularly in counselling,” they added.

Source: Christian Today