BY VANESSA GUZHA
THE United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Health and Child Care ministry yesterday partnered with Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET) in interfacing with religious leaders from across the country to mobilise support for the country’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
The faith leaders were drawn from prominent religious groups including Christian, Islamic and African traditional.
Unicef communications specialist Elizabeth Mupfumira said faith leaders were critical partners in addressing many known barriers to the uptake of health and other essential services, including vaccines.
“Through the partnership with AWET over 850 interfaith and community leaders have been trained to support, engage and mobilise their communities about integrated COVID-19 prevention and continuity of essential health, nutrition, education, child protection and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services,” she said.
“The initiative aims to reach five million people across all provinces of Zimbabwe.”
AWET national director Tendai Gudo said participants reflected on misinformation, distrust and barriers including social, religious and cultural barriers contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
“Understanding and addressing these barriers is key for our partnership with local faith actors in increasing their abilities to counter false claims or address religious questions or other sensitive topics,” he said.
The religious leaders also noted with concern that the spread of unfiltered information and misinformation had undermined people’s trust in the COVID-19 vaccines.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches director for research, innovations and programme development, Ronald Nare, said faith leaders had a responsibility to provide fresh understanding and insight about these vaccines.
“We must mobilise faith groups to take direct actions to promote the well-being of children, families and the communities they serve,” he said.
Supreme Council of Zimbabwe president Sheikh Ishmael Duwa said he was the first Islamic leader in Zimbabwe to receive the vaccine in public and encouraged congregants and the wider population to get vaccinated.
Phyllis Manungo, from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, said she was going to play a leading role in challenging misinformation circulating through the congregation platforms and social media space by promoting trust in accurate information sources.
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