CIFA Launches the Nigeria Interfaith Action Association

Unprecedented collaboration between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim communities will provide critical support for Nigeria’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP

April 10, 2009 (Washington and Abuja, Nigeria): Working together with key Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria, the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA) and its partners will soon launch NIFAA, a major effort to help increase the effectiveness of faith sector efforts to fight poverty and disease, beginning with malaria, in Nigeria, a nation which accounts for 25 percent of the malaria burden in Sub-Saharan Africa. The announcement is set to be made at the One World Against Malaria summit in Washington, DC, which CIFA is co-hosting on April 24 with the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria.

NIFAA, co-chaired by His Grace, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, and His Eminence, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, mobilizes the Nigerian religious sector to partner with the NMCP, the national Nigerian entity committed to ending deaths from the devastating disease. Critically, the CIFA-supported NIFAA model will inform cross-sectoral efforts to achieve long-term human development goals across the developing world. NIFAA represents the most systematic engagement of the faith community in coordinated action against poverty and disease to date, and it is a powerful example of how the faith communities can work together on a broad spectrum of challenges impacting poverty and health, beginning with malaria.

“Achieving the ambitious goals of universal bednet coverage and reduced malaria mortality cannot happen without the full engagement of the faith community,” said CIFA Executive Director Jean F. Duff. “For the first time, faith leaders and networks will be become partners in the Nigerian government’s efforts to eradicate the disease. This is critical because faith institutions the strongest and most trusted entities in many unreached and vulnerable communities, but in most cases are not yet engaged in malaria control efforts.”

The contribution of NIFAA member faith institutions to the success of the NMCP will be considerable. These national faith networks and local churches will help expand the number of distribution points for efforts to deliver 60 million bednets to 30 million Nigerian households by the end of 2010. Faith institutions will also be able to leverage the trust they maintain in local communities to improve and increase malaria education and prevention training programs. This is why CIFA will feature NIFAA as a hopeful model for progress when it co-hosts a major World Malaria Day event with the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria on April 24 in Washington, D.C.

Background on NIFAA

The NIFAA effort represents a true coming-to-life of CIFA’s organizational mission to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the faith community in its collective effort to reduce global poverty and disease.

CIFA’s engagement on NIFAA began in 2009 at the Annual Review Meeting and Capacity Building of State Malaria Control Program Managers in Enugu, Nigeria, which drew representatives of all 36 Nigerian states as well as international Partners and NGOs. At the meeting, CIFA assessed interest, capacity, and needs of Nigerian faith leaders regarding inter-religious coordination on malaria, and government and donor support for integrating the faith community into national malaria control program strategies. CIFA also interviewed more than 15 State NMCP Directors and found that each recognized the faith community as a powerful force for mobilizing communities and reaching the most vulnerable and isolated populations.

The positive results of the assessment led CIFA to begin working directly with Nigerian faith leaders including His Grace Archbishop John Onaiyekan and His Eminence, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, co-chairs of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), to establish NIFAA and make it functional in the shortest time period possible. Simultaneously, CIFA met with nearly 20 local and international non-governmental organizations that are active in anti-malaria efforts, in order to facilitate linkages and build partnerships with NIFAA.

“Archbishop Onaiyekan and the Sultan of Sokoto demonstrate the power of interfaith cooperation and common purpose in a nation with a history of religious strife,” said Duff. “Their courage and leadership will help put Nigeria on the path to a healthier, more prosperous, and peaceful future.”

Finally, CIFA successfully approached the Nigerian Minister of Health, the Director of the NMCP, officials from the World Bank and The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and other international institutions to secure funding for NIFAA.

Next Steps

Under the leadership of Nigerian faith leaders and National NMCP, the effort is poised to provide valuable support to the achievement of the 2010 and 2015 goals for universal bednet coverage and zero malaria mortality in Nigeria.

Background on CIFA

The Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that seeks to improve the capacity and effectiveness of the faith community in its collective effort to reduce global poverty and disease. CIFA is working to increase interfaith coordination, support local faith leaders and faith-based organizations, share best practices and successful models, mobilize resources in innovative ways, and advocate the important role of the interfaith community in poverty alleviation to governments and the general public.

Extensive financial resources are newly available for malaria and other public health threats, but the infrastructure to utilize those funds and deliver on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is insufficient. With donors eager to meet Roll Back Malaria goals – 2010 universal bednet coverage and 2015 zero mortality from malaria – within a very short timeframe, there is an opportunity to leverage existing congregational infrastructure to deliver malaria interventions, and to lead a process of effective partnership between the public and faith sectors to advance toward the common goal of addressing poverty in poor countries.

NIFAA Resources:

  • Nigerian National Malaria Control Program
  • Nigeria Round 8 Global Fund Proposal