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Nigeria: religious leaders advocate for more health workers

One of the innovations brought by Save the Children’s Every One campaign in Nigeria is the engagement of influential figures, notably religious and traditional gatekeepers, to corroborate our advocacy efforts and campaigns.

Given the firm religious embodiment by people in the Muslim-dominated north where most of our advocacy works are centred, the application of religious grounds for initiatives makes them more compelling and acceptable.

Religious clerics in the region play a significant role in influencing the decisions of policy-makers in policy change and implementation. They also have great influence when it comes to mobilising community members to demand and accept conventional health services.

Engagements with the Muslim clerics

To prepare Muslim scholars to contribute consistently and effectively on the advocacy for an improved health system in the northern states, a two-day workshop was organised in October 2012 where the clerics identified specific and strategic activities that they can do in support of this cause.

In Zamfara State, the Every One advocacy team held a meeting with state-based religious leaders and traditional gatekeepers in November 2012, during which specific advocacy issues on health, nutrition and routine immunisation were presented.

The use of the state’s weekly preaching platform

Zamfara State has a unique advantage of having a popular preaching assembly administered by the state’s Ministry of Religious Affairs every Friday before the usual Muslim congregation. The preaching session is usually attended by policy-makers, including the state governor who also preaches occasionally, and is transmitted live via state radio.

Motivated by the facts presented during the meeting in November 2012, two religious leaders have embarked on advocacy for improved health worker policies in the state using the weekly preaching platform and Friday sermons during Muslim congregational prayers.

In the state weekly preaching on 4 January, Malam Ahmad Ibrahim spoke about the responsibilities of policy-makers to address the lingering human resource challenges in the state’s health facilities, and called for the introduction of better policies that will guarantee the availability of adequate and qualified health workers needed in the state.

Another participant, Imam Kabiru Umar Maru, in his Friday sermon on 11 January at Salih Uthaimin Mosque, Gusau, emphasised the need for the state government to pay more attention to its health training institutions and asked parents to encourage their daughters to pursue health-related courses due to health care’s significance to the development of the society.

Here are some points stressed at the preaching sessions:

  • Islam has made a strong emphasis on the responsibility of leaders to take good care of the physical and psychological wellbeing of their subjects.
  • Less than 65 medical doctors and 120 midwives taking care of a population of 3.9 million people in Zamfara State is worrying.
  • Parents should encourage their daughters to study health courses so as to have more qualified female health workers to take care of the female patients.

The advocacy team in the Zamfara state is seeking for the authorisation of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to allow the trained Muslim clerics to contribute more to the weekly preaching platform.

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