July 14, 2016 | 7:34 am
When an epidemic or health crisis occurs, faith leaders are generally not the first people the government consults. However, as an epidemic persists, often these are the very people that can most influence behavior in a country.
This was very evident during the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. As Ambassador Eric Goosby wrote at the time, "40% of healthcare services are provided by faith-based organizations, many of which serve the most rural areas and the most marginalized people. They have long histories and strong community roots, and a deep reservoir of trust."
As a result, during the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, faith leaders and their communities became the primary distributors of prevention education and anti-retroviral treatment. They were also the main group helping to care for orphans and vulnerable children.
The latest example of this came during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone — where 75% of the country hear from their faith leaders at least once a week.
Ayeshata Turay, chair of a Muslim women's association in Bo, Sierra Leone, explains this well: "Early radio alerts announced that Ebola kills and had no cure. Fear gripped everyone. However, when our faith leaders began to teach us about Ebola, they helped us take it seriously."
Here were four methods the faith community used, that could be used as best practice for future outbreaks.