Faces of Religious Influence

Religious leaders help fight polio in Somalia – and across the globe

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A girl receives vaccination in Bossaso, Puntland, Somalia. UNICEF Somalia/Dhayi

“All of you are guardians, and all of you will be asked about the wellbeing of those you are responsible for.“ –An Islamic Hadith

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith…” – The Holy Bible, 1 Timothy 5:8

Religious leaders are vital to the worldwide effort to free children from the scourge of polio. In countries where polio has recently been wiped out (Angola, Chad, India and DRC), Islamic and Christian religious influencers were trailblazers in their communities. They built bridges to parents when trust was fragile, helped overcome rumors and misinformation, and tipped public opinion in favor of the polio vaccine. In polio-endemic Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, it is vital to bring more influential religious leaders on board.

Now, with news of a fresh outbreak of polio in Somalia and Kenya, religious influencers have become more essential than ever to the worldwide effort to eradicate polio once and for all.
From an imam who preached against the polio vaccine until his own son was paralyzed; to women volunteers who bridge the gap between mothers and male religious leaders; to Somali religious leaders who’ve pledged to act as frontline advocates in the fight against the recent outbreak; religious influence has many faces.

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