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Focus 1,000 engages religious leaders on Ebola

Focus 1,000 engages religious leaders on Ebola

Focus 1,000 on Wednesday 15th October 2014 organized a social mobilization workshop on Ebola at the conference hall of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone on King Harman Road, Brookfields in Freetown.  (Photo: Participants during group work discussions)

Alhaji U.N.S. Jah, Chairman of the Board of Focus 1,000 revealed that the forum was to consult and plan with religious leaders to end the Ebla pandemic underscoring that religious leaders have a vital role to play to end the disease by sensitizing their members to change their behavior.

According to Alhaji U.N.S. Jah, religious leaders, especially Muslims, should persuade their members to desist from washing the corpses of their loved ones and disseminate other messages that would fast-track results to end the virus including agreeing on the language of communication.

The Chief Executive Officer of Focus 1,000, Alhaji Mohamed B. Jalloh underscored that any development program has supply and demand sides enlightening that Government has provided treatment and holding centers, burial teams and other facilities that must be utilized to the maximum by the public (demand side).

He recalled 1986 when religious leaders mobilized for children to be immunized that resulted to the increase in the immunization rate from 4%-75% in four years (1986-1990) which resulted to the World Health Assembly commending Sierra Leone for the success.

Alhaji Mohamed B. Jalloh also revealed plans to revive the Christian and Muslim Action Groups to learn from their past experiences in the success of the immunization that can be applied to eradicate Ebola and highlighted the outcome of the recent survey conducted on people’s Knowledge, Attitude and Practice on Ebola which requires a shift from awareness raising to positive action.

He also quoted the survey as discovering that 80% of respondents said that they get information on the Ebola from the radio while the second source of information is from religious leaders (churches and mosques).

The Chief Executive Officer continued that the main source of Ebola infection is the touching of corpses and stressed that now is the time for Sierra Leoneans to unite to end the outbreak.

The Head of the Health Education Department in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mr. Lansana Conteh revealed that the Ministry recognizes the role of religious leaders in the fight against the pandemic adding that Government has approved the Standard of Procedures for the burial teams and that Government has also contracted the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to assist in the burial of the dead.

He informed that people are still organizing public markets at Waterloo inspite of the ban imposed by Government while the police are supervising wedding ceremonies intimating that Bombali District has the highest number of children orphaned due to Ebola as well as the deaths of both parents.

Other speakers at the ceremony included the President of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, Sheik Abu Bakarr Conteh on Reflection of the Christian and Muslim Action Groups and Reverend Christiana Sutton-Koroma of Focus 1,000 on the Roles of Religious Leaders to Contain Ebola.

Highlights of the workshop were the group work discussions, presentations and action plans while the vote of thanks was rendered by Sheik Fomba Swaray of the Islamic Voice Radio Station.

Some of the recommendations included offering help to victims of Ebola, empowering Imams, establishment of Task Forces at District level, representatives of religious leaders in burial teams, sensitization of members on Ebola and its preventive measures, participation of religious leaders in contact tracing, surveillance and psychosocial support.

Sumner Kongbap

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