37 – Faith and the drive for equity in immunisation

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Speakers presented about the unique contributions of faith based organizations, faith institutions and faith leaders, to achieving the promise of vaccines in health services delivery, community mobilization and advocacy

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Copyright UNICEF/2009/Shehzad Noorani

Speakers presented about the unique contributions of faith based organizations, faith institutions and faith leaders, to achieving the promise of vaccines in health services delivery, community mobilization and advocacy.

Workshop participants and presenters expressed strong interest in working together as a FBO community around the final push towards reaching the 5th child.

Dagfinn Høybråten opened the session making the case that in order to reach the 5th child it is critical that donor countries understand the value of vaccines. He acknowledged the significant role of FBOs to reach the most marginalized populations and their power to advocate with donor countries on behalf of the poor and act as a watchdog.

Dr. Madili spoke about the FBO contribution in Tanzania. He said that 42% of health facilities are run by FBOs and that 56% of rural health care is provided by FBO facilities. FBOs also work with faith leaders to help sensitize worshipers and communities where health experts may encounter challenges of traditional beliefs and attitudes.

Dr. Clemmer highlighted that FBOs are cost effective and focused on partnership and results. He reminded participants of the fact that immunisation coverage in South Sudan was only 6% in 2010; coverage is now at 45%, but many challenges related to access remain. FBOs will continue to play a crucial role in South Sudan.

Khobaib Vahedy spoke about FBO accessibility to and familiarity with communities, which enables them to conduct awareness campaigns, using novel means such as theatre shows. The contribution of inter-religious councils was also emphasised.

Mark Brinkmoeller stressed that USAID chooses to work with FBOs because of their personal commitment and resolve, the level of trust they enjoy in their communities, their ability to reach all populations.

FBO networks are also important because they think about the welfare of the “whole child”.

UNICEF also promoted its partnership with FBOs.

When WHO launched EPI in 1984, UNICEF cultivated alliances with religious leaders because they command respect and a great following. This continues today and lessons are now even actively shared across countries. For example, Islamic scholars from Malaysia shared experiences with Islamic leaders in Northern Nigeria.

UNICEF summarised its lessons learned as the following: do your homework, know your audience, know the issue, start small, speak to each group separately before bringing them together, stay neutral and show respect and humility.

Fred Riley shared that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints’ LDS Charities have funded measles and rubella initiative with $16.6 million and 64,000 volunteers have provided 809,400 hours of service in 37 countries.

He concluded that social mobilisation is hugely important and that FBOs need to remain central to collaborative efforts to achieve universal immunisation coverage in the coming years.

64

As of the end of August, 64 out of the 67 co-financing countries had fulfilled their commitments for 2012.

GAVI Alliance

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