Health programming has been a focus of UNICEF’s work since its founding. The agency has made great strides in immunization, the provision of oral rehydration to save the lives of infants with severe diarrhoea, promoting and protecting breastfeeding, and developing appropriate and effective health education. UNICEF has an extensive global health presence and strong partnerships with governments and NGOs, including religious organizations, at national and community levels.
Why partner with religious communities for health?
Nearly every major religious tradition views life as a sacred gift from a divine creator or creating force(s). Promoting and maintaining good health in children is not only a universal priority but also a religious obligation.
Many religious communities directly provide health-care services, ranging from small community clinics to large hospitals, which often emphasize pre-natal, newborn and children’s health services.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa. . .faith-based facilities provide up to 70% of the region’s health care . . . . In other parts of the world, FBOs manage 10–30% of national health sectors.”
What can religious communities do to promote child health?
- Incorporate information about child health care into worship services, religious festivals and childhood religious rites.
- Organize support groups for new parents that provide health education and information about where to seek child health services.
- Challenge attitudes that reject evidence-based health interventions such as hospital-based birth, immunization and breastfeeding;
- Educate medical and social work practitioners about blending appropriate medical, religious, and cultural practices into their work.
- Use religious media to disseminate messages regarding the safety and importance of child health interventions, such as immunization and malaria prevention.
- Provide extensive outreach services for immunization, micronutrient supplementation and other important childhood health interventions by leveraging their moral influence and vast networks.
- Quickly mobilize community networks in emergency situations to provide life-saving first-aid, immunization and cholera prevention and response, among other critical health services.
- Contribute to national health policy development through advocacy and technical assistance and help clarify misconceptions about harmful traditional practices being part of religious teachings.
Additional resources on Health