In collaboration with Religions for Peace (RfP) and Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), a series of guidance documents to advise religious leaders and faith communities on how to address challenges brought about by COVID-19, was released by UNICEF on Saturday. According to the international body UNICEF, the guidance documents are designed for local adaptation and to be used by the religious leaders, faith-based organizations at national and community levels and faith communities.
The release of these documents is part of the Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative which was launched in April 2020 in an effort to raise awareness of the impacts of this pandemic, and on the youngest citizens across the globe.
So far three sets of guidance released include:
Adapting how we gather, pray and practise rituals:
There are specific recommendations for how religious leaders can interact, congregate, worship and perform religious rites. With the focus on ensuring the safety and the well-being of their communities, it also talks about death and mourning rituals.
Communicating to end misinformation and discrimination and to instill hope:
It guides the religious leaders on how to help people to tackle the negative effects of misinformation, rumours, fear, hopelessness, stigma, and discrimination.
Helping those who are at risk:
This set outlines the specific needs and how to provide assistance to the elderly, homeless, migrants, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children are at greater risk of complications and death due to COVID-19. And how to encourage the values of solidarity, hope and community.
More guidance documents expected from the UNICEF
These are expected to focus on supporting the recovery of social services, promoting child and youth participation and preventing violence against women and children.
What do the agencies involved in these guidance documents say?
With countries gradually lifting lockdowns, Professor Azza Karam, Secretary-General of RfP, says, “The pandemic poses crippling secondary effects especially for households hardest hit by the loss of income and resulting strains. The guides will help provide faith leaders with advice on helping communities to deal with some of these effects.”
“To advance the cause of families and children the UNICEF has been working with the faith based organizations and faith leaders for a long time. And this partnership has become more critical due to the pandemic,” Dr Kerida Mcdonald, UNICEF Senior Advisor for Communication for Development, says.
Adding, “COVID-19 is a child rights crisis. We all need to work together to re-imagine a better and safer world for every child.”
‘Coping with COVID’ mini-series featuring Bijita and Sangamithra from Assam and Tamil Nadu in India! has been released. This has been developed by the New York-based UNICEF HQ. It is a series of 5 short films which are depicting stories of teenage girls between 13-16 from nine different countries (Bangladesh, Chad, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal and Niger). They have highlighted through their cell phones their day to day challenges they face in terms of gender inequality, harmful practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation.