The first case of COVID- 19 in Kenya was detected on 13 March 2020. The number of cases steadily increased before the nation’s first two deaths were recorded on 2 April 2020. In an effort to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19, the Kenyan government imposed drastic lockdown procedures, including: introduction of dusk to dawn curfews, closure of all places of worship, schools, hotels and bars. In addition, restrictions were implemented on inter-county movement especially locking any movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera counties.
Religious and traditional leaders, as often in crises, serve as valuable sources of comfort, support and sources of information for local communities. As such, these leaders are well positioned to address potential concerns, fears and anxieties regarding COVID-19.
In understanding the value of religious actors, the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers (NRTP) together with consortium partners led by MUHURI, Tangaza University College, SUPKEM & Islamic Relief Kenya, are implementing the NORAD-funded consortium project, “’Religious Minorities in Kenya: Overcoming Divides, Respecting Rights” (RMP Project).This project was created to address the problems affecting the full enjoyment of rights by the Muslim minority and the African Traditional Religions (ATR) communities in Kenya, arising from mistrust and malpractice by the State authorities, misunderstandings with other faith-communities, and limited knowledge of constitutional rights, including gender equality.
As Kenya saw significant impact arising from COVID-19, the project quickly re-allocated resources in order to better support COVID-19 response in Kenya.
COVID response interventions include:
SOCIA MEDIA CAMPAIGNS
Social media and other forms of technology serve as an innovative platform for religious leaders and faith-based organizations to communicate with congregations while adhering to social distancing and restriction of movement measures. The communication campaign was implemented in part to support faith leaders in disseminating health and safety guidance for reopening and attending houses of worship. The messaging addressed potential concerns, fears, anxieties and the “dos and don’ts” surrounding safety measures and accurate information on the COVID-19 pandemic. The social media campaign also played important role in championing attention to religious minorities in plight of the pandemic.
LIVE TV TALKS SHOW
In this global crisis, the issue of communicating and receiving accurate information has come to the forefront. Religious leaders and faith-based organizations, as well as pastoral, health, and social care workers, are some of the most trusted sources of information in communities – generally even more so than governments. Religious leaders also have a special responsibility and opportunity to counter and address misinformation, misleading teachings and rumors, which can spread rapidly throughout a community and potentially perpetuate stereotypes and hate speech. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NRTP is supporting religious leaders, traditional peacemakers, women youth and other stakeholders in organizing online discussions event providing religious guidance on COVID-19 through use of TV. Religious leaders were able to share health information alongside relevant religious teachings, offer pastoral spiritual support and psychosocial support.
As part of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers #SociallyDistantTownHall, the Network engaged three National Muslim COVID-19 Response Committee members during a virtual webinar. The panel looked at how religious leaders and faith-based organizations have been diligently working on several initiatives to spread factual information about the virus, implement support mechanisms and resources as well as adjust religious practices to comply with health guidelines.
SUPPORTING THE CAPACITY AND RESPONSE OF RELIGIOUS ACTORS DURING THE CRISIS
A rise in the number of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients has made it less tenable to isolate all patients in hospital-based care treatment facilities, especially as Kenya implements a home-based care model to cushion its health system from being overrun by the disease. However, the lack of sufficient objective information and skills for management of successful home based care remain an issue. NRTP collaborated with National Muslim COVID-19 Response Committee for a training of religious leaders on COVID -19 Home based Care (HBC). The activity contributed in building capacity of Imams, community workers and madrassa teachers to help families and community members around them take full control of the COVID 19 patients in terms of infection prevention, health promotion and general care.
The project has ensured the capacity of women are strengthened to enable them to participate effectively in COVID-19 response. This has also been realised through integration of gender and the inclusion of youth in many of the COVID-19 response engagements. Inter-faith collaboration between both majority and minority faiths is crucial, particularly through the sharing of knowledge, resources, and best practices where possible, especially during this global pandemic.
The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers builds bridges between grassroots peacemakers and global players in order to strengthen the work done for advancing sustainable peace. The Network strengthens peacemaking through collaboratively supporting the positive role of religious and traditional actors in peace and peacebuilding processes. For more information, please visit