What's New

Religious Health Assets Mapping Tool and WHO-CIFA Consultation Final Report Issued

On the six-month anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO)-CIFA Consultation on Describing Religious Health Assets, CIFA is proud to announce, along with the WHO Departments of Partnerships and UN Reform and Geographic Information Systems, that the final report and improved revised mapping tools: Services Availability and Readiness Assessment tools that have been adopted for Faith Based Organization Module, which are the outcome of the WHO-CIFA Consultation on NGO Mapping Standards Describing Religious Health Assets, at Chateau de Bossey, Bogis-Bossey, Switzerland on November 10-12, 2009, have been completed.



Faith-based organizations1 (FBOs) have been prominent in the health sector for a least a century and perhaps more, often serving the most marginalized and rural populations. Yet many of the resources they provide remain invisible to international, bilateral or multi-lateral donors or are “taken for granted” by governments and community health systems, who view them as part of the normal and longstanding health-services structures. Mapping the services they provide is a valuable way to literally put “them on the map,” thus increasing their visibility to government partners, donor agencies, and their own communities. Mapping and describing them creates the opportunity for FBOs to have a “seat at the table” in international, national, regional, and local government health agency planning and funding negotiations.

Service delivery is one of the core building blocks of health systems and is usually a critical focal point for health systems strengthening. However, information on many of these health services is woefully incomplete or altogether lacking, especially in regard to religious health assets in the overall health services sector. Several years ago, the WHO and its partners developed an initial inventory tool expanding the use of the Services Availability Mapping and Readiness Assessment tool to collect essential data on health infrastructure, service mix and availability and readiness assessment. This is a key mechanism for filling data gaps and supporting more effective and accurate monitoring of service delivery. However, the SAM tool did not allow for the collection of any indicators relating to religious affiliation of specific institutions. In order to bring the faith-based health services sector into a stronger relationship with the WHO, the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA) joined with the WHO in convening representatives of diverse international faith-based service providers for a consultation on the nature of Services Availability Mapping and the need to develop a common, mutually agreed data set.


To address the need to put religious health assets “on the map,” CIFA and the WHO co-hosted an international consultation in November 2009 titled “NGO Mapping Standards Describing Religious Health Assets.” This consultation served to initiate an open conversation between the WHO and international partners, including governments, NGOs/FBOs, academic partners and international organizations, with the aim of establishing by consensus a standard protocol for assessing, monitoring and mapping faith-based or faith-inspired services in the health sector.

Outputs and outcomes of the workshop were many:

  • Agreement on revisions of SAM that include adding indicators for describing religious health assets as part of the minimum standard datasets for mapping core health services;
  • The WHO committed to testing (completed in March 2010) and distributing (April 2010) the updated survey along with guidelines to national governments regarding the importance of including religious health assets;
  • Creation of a working group to devise standardized survey tools for faith-based community care (completed in January 2010);
  • Strong interest in organizing a comprehensive mapping of religious health assets in one or more relatively well-mapped African countries, as part of the scale-up process;
  • Expressions of interest by several institutions in participating in an international consortium to undertake a global inventory in Africa, Latin America and Asia in 2011, with an aim of developing a capacity for a more extensive, full-scale SAM mapping in 2012.

May 2010 Update

CIFA and its partners are currently drafting a proposal to undertake a global inventory of religious health assets using the revised SAM tool, commencing in those places where mapping of health assets is already well under way. Initial countries may include Ghana, Lesotho, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, D.R. Congo, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ethiopia or Uganda, among others, or several countries in Asia and Latin America. The project is designed to begin in September 2010 with an implementation/planning consultation in Geneva. Mapping activities are expected to commence in January 2011, continuing for nine months.

This project will closely coordinate with established faith-based health networks, strengthening existing structures as needed or convening new partnerships if required to be fully inclusive of all interested faith-based partners in the country. In Africa, the data collection will be carried out under the auspices of the African Council of Christian Health Associations, working in each chosen country with the Christian Health Association (CHA) and other faith-based networks, as appropriate, to reach their networks of health services providers. CHAs will be supported to work with other non-CHA-member faith groups to ensure a comprehensive inventory of the religious health assets available.

Starting with a single pilot country, this project is intended to utilize the WHO’s SAM inventory as the initial tool to carry out comprehensive data-gathering and mapping of faith-affiliated religious health assets, including hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries within the pilot country.

CIFA’s role

CIFA seeks to strengthen the evidence base for the activity and impact of the work of FBOs around the world. For this project, CIFA will act as the consortia convener, fiduciary agent and manager of partners for this project.

For more information about mapping religious health assets and CIFA’s other programs, please contact Laiah Idelson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 202.537.6567.

1 By FBOs we mean faith-based health service delivery and development institutions, as well as congregational faith community institutions and their leaders.