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UNICEF launches guide on partnering with religious groups to advance immunization

Experts meet in Geneva to address role of religious groups in immunization

GENEVA - 13 May 2004 - Partnering with religious groups is crucial to the successful implementation of vaccination programmes worldwide, UNICEF said today, launching a guide that outlines effective methods of establishing and continuing such partnerships. The guide highlights the increasing importance of community organizations in global public health initiatives.

“There are many communities without schools, health facilities or sanitation but there is hardly any community without a place of worship,” said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director. “The active participation of religious groups is therefore crucial to the success of any community-based initiative.”

The guide was launched to coincide with an unprecedented two-day meeting in Geneva of experts on immunization which was focused on the growing importance of the participation of religious groups in grassroots immunization initiatives. Over fifty public health and religious community insiders attended the conference, “Building Trust: Religious Groups, the Media and Immunization,” Jointly organized by UNICEF, the World Conference on Religion for Peace (WRCP) and the Communication for Social Change Consortium, the conference is the first in a series of meetings geared at integrating religious communities in immunization efforts. 

The conference and the immunization guide underscore UNICEF’s practice of and commitment to partnering with community organizations like religious groups to ensure effective vaccination of all children at risk. The conference featured in-depth discussions about the challenges and successes of working with religious communities in Nigeria, Iran, the Philippines and India. 

The guide also includes extensive case studies of lessons learned and success stories from Sierra Leone, Angola and India: 

  •  After just two years of activity in Sierra Leone, a UNICEF-led social mobilization team, in collaboration with Christian and Muslim organization, raised the immunization coverage of children under one year of age from 6% to 75%.  
  • In Angola, UNICEF partnered with churches in a campaign to end polio, which was essential during the period of civil war as social mobilizers were needed who were respected from both sides of the conflict.  
  • Muslim leaders in India are working with UNICEF to counter resistance to polio vaccination in their communities, through informal discussion as well as public talks

As a global leader in reducing vaccine preventable diseases, UNICEF believes that community involvement is integral to the success of immunization and public health programmes. UNICEF will continue to engage community and religious leaders in vaccination programmes through hosting a series of regional meetings, the next of which will take place in June in Dakar, Senegal and will focus on religious community involvement in Africa. In the end, this initiative will help expand community involvement and protect the health of children world wide. 

“UNICEF has had a long relationship with faith-based organizations in working to improve the health and wellbeing of children,” said Bellamy.  “We will strengthen this relationship to build a world where all children will have the opportunity to realize their potential.”

Visit https://www.unicef.org/immunization/index.html for more.

For additional information, please contact:
Marc Vergara, UNICEF Geneva, 41 22 909 5718, mvergara@unicef.org
Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF New York, 917 459 8183, mjalloh@unicef.org
Sam Heitner, CLS, 202 777 3546, vaccines@clsdc.com






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14 May 2004: Watch video on UNICEF's conference in Geneva.

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