Inter-Religious Council of Kenya Advocates For Child Immunization among Resisting Faiths in Nyanza.

Am Mr. Charles Oketch, Migori District Health Promotion officer and during the first round of polio campaigns there was a lot of resistance from these groups and that time we used provincial administration who coerced and threatened the resisting people that if they do not allow their children to be vaccinated, they will  be arrested. Unfortunately, this proved to be the wrong approach to address the resistance on the basis of faith for this approach back fired and it was during the planning meeting for the second round, we considered bringing on board Religious Leaders who addressed the issue of resistance using scriptures. This really helped to convince the resisting faith groups to accept the vaccinations…it was a great success”.
“On the first day of second round of polio campaigns, there was resistance from some households who come from “Roho Israel Church”…they said that they solely depend on God for healing, the next day, with a religious leader from IRCK Network, we attended the Bishops church service. The Religious leader took time to sensitize them on why they should allow their children to be immunized as well helping them to interpret the Bible differently. They wholly accepted his explanations and their bishop made an announcement at the church and instructed all the pastors to pass the message, this was a remarkable success as the response rate was very good and immunization coverage was high. All we needed was a dialogue and involvement of Religious Leaders from local interfaith network that bridged the gap between technical knowledge of health workers and faith of the resisting groups”.
Another case of resisting faith group was that of “yemari yesu”; this sect is not indigenous to the area, and it’s only found in around five households. With the support of Religious Leaders from the interfaith, the group easily accepted our Biblical interpretation of immunization and accepted vaccinations.

 

Child Immunization among Resisting Faiths in Kisumu – Kenya

My name is Pastor Joshua Odhiambo of Normiah church. (The resisting faith group) I attribute the success of round two polio campaigns to religious dialogue and education. I remember the dialogue process it was on a Friday and we were invited by Homa bay interfaith network members to the SDA church, there we talked about the importance of immunizing our children, Biblical interpretations, myths and misconceptions surrounding the vaccinations among others. We were given IEC materials bearing our leader immunizing a child and during our Sunday service we urged our members to take their children to be vaccinated. I personally participated in the door to door campaign for the same after I was convinced by the religious leaders. It was a great success!

Bishop Jotham Jalando, Normiah Church during F4L training
From where we stand, with proper and consistent engagements with the resisting faiths, this challenge can be eliminated in Kenya. Local Interfaith networks play a critical role in bridging the gap between health workers and resting faith groups as pastors we must embrace both prayers and modern medicine. I urged my fellow pastors to sensitize our members to allow their children to be vaccinated with correct information and consistent awareness creation the issue of resistance to immunization will be a thing of the past.