Engaging Faith Leaders for Healthy Families and Communities in Uganda

October 2nd, 2020 | News

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We are excited to participate in USAID’s first Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement, to be held virtually starting October 5, 2020. Hosted by USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, this four-day event will convene academics, development practitioners, and U.S. government staff to discuss ways to engage communities of faith in health- and development-promoting initiatives.

Religion is an essential part of life in many parts of the world. Our team in Uganda notes that churches and mosques are many people’s social support system, and their leaders provide spiritual and emotional guidance to individuals and families through times of strife. We work with faith leaders to convey important health information, such as the life-saving benefits of family planning and HIV services.

At the summit, Michael Odong will present our work through the USAID RHITES-North, Lango project that built the skills of Ugandan faith leaders to facilitate dialogues to reduce social and cultural barriers to improving health. The 20 trained leaders, who represented five religious denominations, engaged their members through more than 60 structures, including women’s, youth, and community outreach groups. Fora included Bible study meetings, couple and family counseling sessions, and sermons on gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies, family planning, and other health-related topics.

Since the interventions started in 2018, we have supported the faith leaders to organize more than 2,400 counseling sessions in the community, including during religious events. The leaders helped 1,345 families develop household improvement plans, established monthly village meetings to promote male participation, and mapped 95 percent of pregnant women, leading to a 20 percent improvement in the number who attended antenatal care visits.

At the summit, our staff look forward to learning more engagement strategies with faith-based organizations (FBOs), which provide 25–50 percent of all health services in many African regions, and in some places are the sole providers of clinical and community-based health services. In partnership, JSI and FBOs will maximize skills, community presence, and trust to meet the health needs of people in Uganda and around the world.

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