Faiths Act Sierra Leone (FASL)

Partnership objectives

 To reach at least 80% of the population in Sierra Leone with 5 key malaria prevention key messages by mid-2015.

Faiths Act Sierra Leone, is a practical solution through which leaders from different religious backgrounds come together to address the need for positive social change. Faiths Act Sierra Leone, is a practical solution through which leaders from different religious backgrounds come together to address the need for positive social change. Copyright Tony Blair Faith Foundation

What are the health needs and challenges?

Malaria kills more people in Sierra Leone than any other disease and with only 240 medical practitioners covering a population of almost 6 million, access to malaria prevention information is limited.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

Over the next year and a half GSK will contribute financial support of £780,000 to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF) towards the cost of engaging faith communities to deliver education around five key malaria messages to 80% of households in Sierra Leone. The longer term aim will be to expand the innovative model to other countries in Africa.

Malaria kills more people in Sierra Leone than any other disease and with only 240 medical practitioners covering a population of almost 6 million, access to malaria prevention information is limited. However, Sierra Leone does have an extensive network of Muslim and Christian faith leaders who are at the center of everyday life, respected and listened to by their communities. 

TBFF’s innovative program, Faiths Act Sierra Leone, is a practical solution, through which leaders from different religious backgrounds come together to address the need for positive social change. It uses the social capital of faith communities to spread messages to even the most remote places – where there is almost always a church or mosque but not necessarily a medical clinic.

Since its launch in 2011, the Faiths Act program has already proven itself to be a cost effective and sustainable solution. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has supported more than 529 Muslim and Christian leaders in Sierra Leone to train over 13,000 members of their congregations and volunteers within their communities. Nearly one third of the population (2 million people) have now been reached with malaria prevention advice through household visits.

Research by Ipsos MORI based on data between 2011 and 2012 found that the number of households that said they used nets frequently rose by 10%, the number of people storing away mosquito nets was reduced by 50% and fewer children are showing symptoms of malaria. While not only attributable to the Faiths Act program, this shows significant progress.

Lessons learned

The main challenges that have affected the FASL program over the past six months have largely been a result of the challenging infrastructure of working in the Sierra Leone context. These include limited access to some areas of operation due to bad roads and weather conditions, poor network coverage, fluctuating Internet access and lengthy travel periods to reach areas of operation. This has affected the program in the following ways:

  1. Communication:  Challenges in reaching volunteers in some areas of operation, as the program expands to more rural districts. In addition, the ability to conduct comprehensive quality checks after the training is affected by the fact that some community volunteers (Malaria Faith Champions) do not own personal mobile phones. This has highlighted the need for a more hands on approach to monitoring the volunteers. The team have started doing spot checks to assess quality of work during their upcountry trips and stay for slightly longer periods to assist volunteers with any problem or issues that may arise.
     
  2. Monitoring and evaluation: Challenges in collecting timely data from rural and remote areas and those outside routes of current areas of operation. Since January 2014, the program has expanded to include the southern regions of Sierra Leone and this has affected the ability for the team to collect data at normal collection points, as travel is already extensive. The team have addressed this challenge by encouraging volunteers outside the current travel routes to send the data to the main office using various routes.
     
  3. Heavy workload: In the last quarter, the 3 dedicated program staff have been implementing the program in more hard to reach areas, i.e. the easternmost district of Kailahun which has meant longer travel times during working hours. Piloting the doubling of trained faith leaders has also highlighted the challenge of heavier workload for the FASL team, as this includes creating and transporting of a greater number of training materials to areas of operation. The team are currently working at full capacity to train and support faith leaders and their volunteers working in 5 districts across Sierra Leone.

To mitigate against some of the challenges mentioned above, a proposal is being developed to recruit and train co-ordinators who can collect data, ensure the quality of training and support given by the faith leaders. The coordinators will then pass on the collected data directly to FASL team in a timely manner. This will ease some of the pressure on the FASL team by creating a system for data to be collected from areas of operation in a systematic way and ensure quality of the training given by the MFAs. 

Summary of impact and forward looking information

Since the beginning of GSK’s support (October 2013),  FASL has successfully achieved the following:

  • Trained 151 faith leaders as Malaria Faith Ambassadors to spear head public health messaging about malaria prevention in their communities (75 faith leaders in the northern districts of Sierra Leone and 77 in the South-Eastern District of Kailahun).
  • The Malaria Faith Ambassadors have in turn been supported to train over 4,430 community volunteers across Sierra Leone to conduct house to house visits, reaching over 450,000 people with lifesaving messages of malaria prevention through household visits.
  • A further 13,598 reached through other MFA led community activities.
  • This brings the total population reached since FASL began in 2011 to over 2 million people.

Impact of the program

  • Of the houses revisited, over 90% were found to have demonstrated positive behaviour change to promote malaria prevention as certified internally by volunteers.
  • In this reporting period, the program reached 7.5% of the total population of Sierra Leone with the life-saving messages of malaria prevention through household visits alone.
  • Recognising the vital role faith communities play in promoting positive behavioural change, the National Malaria Control program (NMCP) has agreed for our trained faith leaders to be present at distribution outlets and communities to conduct messaging on importance of ownership and proper use of treated nets in preventing malaria during the proposed June 2014 national bed net distribution campaign.

Videos

About Faiths Act, Dr. Josephine Muhairwe

Partnership information

Company(ies) GlaxoSmithKline

Partner(s) Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Type of Partner(s) NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Infectious Diseases, Women and Children's Health

Disease(s) Children's Health, Malaria

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - Outreach & Medical Services, Health System Infrastructure - Provision of Insecticide Nets, Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Awareness & Outreach

Targeted Population(s) Children, General population, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Men, Mothers, People with low income, Women, Youth

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) Sierra Leone

Start Date 2013

More information Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF)

Anticipated completion date Ongoing