UNICEF and the African Council of Religious Leaders discuss Immunization take up across Eastern and Southern Africa

03 March 2023
An infant receives an injection into the thigh
UNICEF Kenya/2021/Nyaberi

NAIROBI, 2 March 2023 – UNICEF and the African Council of Religious Leaders - Religions for Peace (ACRL-RfP) this week convened an Interfaith virtual meeting to advocate for the continued take up of COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunizations for children across the Eastern and Southern Africa region. 

The event was a follow-up to the two-day Faith and Science in Conversation Conference on the Faith and Technical/Scientific Response to COVID-19 in Africa which was held virtually in March 2021. This brought together stakeholders from 9 countries in the region, including multi-faith religious leaders, theologian scholars, civil society organizations and technical experts. The 9 countries involved were: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In total, about 40 high-level participants joined the online discussion. 

UNICEF and ACRL-RfP are concerned about the prolonged effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which started in 2020 and resulted in the disruption of the delivery of essential health services, including maternal, child and newborn health care, causing the worst continued decline in reported routine immunization coverage in 30 years. Globally, 25 million children were un or under-vaccinated in 2021, 2 million more than in 2020 and 6 million more than in 2019.   

As we transition from the vertical COVID-19 vaccination acceleration to integrating COVID-19 vaccination into routine immunization and primary health care services, participants deliberated about future collaborations between faith communities, development practitioners and governments, with the aim of generating demand for essential health services, including promoting routine immunization.  

UNICEF and the ACRL-RfP highlighted the vital role faith communities play in tackling health emergencies such as COVID-19, Measles, Polio and Ebola and particularly how they can identify solutions to address the needs of communities across the region, including those with high numbers of zero dose and partially vaccinated children.  

UNICEF and ACRL-RfP agreed on the importance of building further knowledge of vaccination amongst religious leaders as well as ensuring more work is undertaken to build trust at the community level. The need for accurate information on vaccination on social media channels was raised as an important consideration going forward particularly given the amount of disinformation and rumour generated digitally.  

Media contacts

Alicia Jones
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa
Tel: +254724322162
Dr. Francis Kuria
Secretary General African Council of Religious Leaders
Religions for Peace (ACRL-RfP)
Tel: +254 717 685949


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