JOINT STATEMENT FROM UNICEF AND WHO LEBANON Engaging religious leaders in the fight against COVID-19

Faith and positive change for children, families and communities

Beirut, 23 April 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented challenge, touching every community in every nation of the world. The pandemic is causing systems of work, education, finance and domestic lives to grind to a halt, affecting nearly every aspect of people’s lives. Religious observances are also affected, and WHO and UNICEF Lebanon are supporting partners working with religious leaders to ensure that the preventive measures against COVID-19 will continue to be implemented by the communities.      

WHO and UNICEF are joining forces with partners in Lebanon in line with the global Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative to raise awareness of the impacts of this pandemic on the citizens. Today, as many prepare for Ramadan, religious leaders play the very relevant role to raise awareness, enhance the protection measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission and emphasize the value of solidarity within the communities.

The transmission of COVID-19 is facilitated by close contact between people, as the virus is spread through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. To mitigate the public health impact, physical distancing measures are being implemented in many countries, including Lebanon, aiming at interrupting transmission by reducing interaction between people. These measures are fundamental mechanisms to control the spread of infectious diseases, particularly respiratory infections, associated with large gatherings of people. Physical distancing, the closure of public spaces such as religious temples, monitoring of public gatherings and other restrictions on movement, have direct implications for the social and religious gatherings central to Ramadan.

WHO and UNICEF support partners in the communities and encourage religious leaders to continue adopting and promoting the national health authorities guidance’s on physical distancing, promoting hygiene and healthy behaviours, protecting and caring for the most vulnerable, promoting solidarity and social support for the most in need, encouraging positive parenting, preventing violence and reducing stigma and discrimination.

As reflected in the global Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative, the world needs religious leaders to join forces to:       

ADAPT:

International and national health authorities’ guidance on public gatherings, physical distancing and other critical matters of public health related to faith community gatherings, and group prayers in temples, as well as services and rituals such as funerals, marriages and births, for the health and safety of religious followers while developing alternative pastoral approaches.

PROMOTE:

  • Hygiene and sanitation in keeping with religious teachings and sacred texts that emphasize cleanliness as an element of holiness.
  • Listening, to children and families, through organized spaces for dialogue on-line, through media
  • Intergenerational dialogue to give voice to girls, boys together with parents and communities to find solutions to issues surrounding the epidemic.
  • Voices of faith and wider community engagement to inform local responses as well as national policymaking and programmes.
  • Care and attention for the most vulnerable people, especially children, women, persons with disabilities, orphans, and persons at risk of violence and neglect.
  • Encourage solidarity, cooperation and social solidarity to support poor people and families, especially those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the state of emergency.
  • Promote positive parenting, family dialogue, protection from violence

COUNTER:

All forms of stigma and discrimination associated with transmission of the disease with active promotion of attitudes and behaviours to uphold the dignity and rights of all people.

PROVIDE:

  • Active engagement of networks of religious communities including women, and youth, in collaboration with municipalities , to provide organized voluntary services in:
  • Spiritual and emotional care and support for parents, children, the elderly and those experiencing disruption and distress in order to provide a source of support, peace, comfort and hope.
  • Positive age-specific and gender-responsive parenting guidance and support to families in relation to the health, development, protection and social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people, particularly those in low-income families and those most vulnerable and hardest to reach.
  • Youth-friendly communication and engagement including their support with more systematic use of technology and social media as a connective communication platform for communities during periods of physical distancing and beyond.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children and young people in Lebanon, please visit www.unicef.org/Lebanon.

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About WHO

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations. Our aim is to improve future health prospects for people everywhere. WHO works in coordination with its 194 Member States in six regions, through more than 150 country offices, with a single-minded commitment to improve universal health. Together, we aspire to fight communicable diseases such as influenza or HIV, and noncommunicable diseases such as cancer or heart disease. We help mothers and children to survive and prosper, so that they have every chance of reaching a healthy old age. We monitor the safety of air, food and water, and of medicines and vaccines too. Learn more about us at www.who.int

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