Covid-19 Pandemic: Faith & Science In Conversation 2022

Online (Zoom)

From: Mar 23, 2022 | to: Mar 25, 2022

Moderator: -

1.0 Introduction

COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic by WHO due to the high levels of spread and severity. The outbreak of new Covid-19 disease is causing respiratory illness worldwide prompting WHO to declare the condition as a global pandemic. The virus has spread to more than 150 countries since the first case was discovered. While governments try to navigate the fine line between being prepared and setting off panic, the economic costs are growing as countries and communities try to control the spread of the disease. As the world begins to open up, NGO’s around the globe are stepping up efforts to tackle the problems arising out of this contagion by ensuring continuous livelihood access to the poor communities and spreading mass awareness on prevention and reducing panic at the community-level.

Increase in vaccination hesitancy due to misinformation and lack of education emphasises a need for education especially among the faith based system. Since vaccines became available, developed nations have increased and implemented a significant number of vaccination programmes. The growing realization that formation of mutations like the highly virulent delta variant in mostly unvaccinated parts of the world and the growing availability of the vaccines have made it possible for LMIC countries to roll out large vaccination campaigns.

Up to 40% of Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) health systems are made up of the Faith based sector which is not considered in the national campaigns. To ensure large coverage of this sector, EPN, in collaboration with Christian Health Associations in Africa (CHA’s), Drugs Supply Organizations (DSO’s) other Faith Based Organizations among them All African Conference of Churches and likeminded stakeholders has planned to advocate for Faith Based health sector and communities strategic involvement on relevant platforms.

There has been emerging collaborations between faith actors, states, development agencies, PEPFAR and UN organizations in the messaging interventions for COVID-19 prevention. There are already existing initiatives such as the AACC fraternity, Faith Community Initiative for COVID-19 which have produced resources and materials that are being used by faith actors to join in the fight. It is against this background that Ecumenical Advocacy Network (EPN) and her membership in collaboration with All African Conference of Churches (AACC), Africa Christian Health Association Platform (ACHAP) have planned virtual consultations, on XX March 2022 to further stake stock of initiatives within the faith sector and health systems in Africa in addressing COVID 19 vaccines uptake and develop a joint declaration on the issue.

2.0 The Need

There exist gaps in understanding of how vaccines work within faith communities and dispel the myths and misconceptions. There is also a need of enhancing direct partnership between the African faith sector health system and African governments in order to identify factors influencing a community’s vaccine response, facilitate trust, and guide vaccine communications and provision.

To best facilitate community involvement in vaccine campaigns, there is need to advocate as one voice at global level, the voice of the church health system, for Covid-19 vaccines accessibility to communities our networks are serving. The unification of one advocacy voice will be best addressed through a joint declaration, thus the webinars to build consensus between faith leaders, CHA’s and DSO’s, followed by creation of awareness and disseminate information to local communities

3.0 Strategy

EPN in collaboration with AACC, ACHAP and DSO’s are proposing to convene a webinar of Faith and Science in response to COVID-19. The plan is to have a platform of engagement between scientists and African based Faith Leaders, CHA’s and DSO’s drawn from EPN member networks. The scientists will be drawn from WHO, various MoH experts Africa/CDC among others and will help explain and outline the core areas of COVID-19, breaking them down for faith leader. Platform will also be used to review a COVID 19 declaration done earlier by AACC and partners by faith leaders drawing from scriptural reflections, teachings and texts and the CHA’s and DSO’s from scientific knowledge and health systems response to COVID 19. These will provide faith specific resources and tools for religious and congregational leaders to help in engaging their communities and other actors in the COVID-19 response.

4.0 Date, Approach and Participants

We propose to hold 3 days; four hours each multi-stakeholders dialogue webinars, from 23rd - 25th  March 2022 starting from 9am – 1pm. This will be attended by 300 participants who will be mobilized and supported to participate through the virtual platforms. The following is the categories of prospective participants: Faith leaders from Christian Faith drawn from different affiliations, Christian Health Associations and EPN members, Drug Supply Organizations (DSO’s), MoH representatives and development partners.

5.0 Expected Outcome

The participants will release a strong compelling statement on COVID-19 vaccines calling the Global community and African Governments to translate good will in action to address the challenges by faith actors and the demystification of the COVID-19 vaccinations.