NOA urges religious leaders to enlighten followers on health seeking behaviors

By Chimezie Godfrey

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) says religious leaders ought to lead the process of ensuring the survival of the world’s needy children and the wellbeing of every mother in the country.

The Director General, NOA, Dr Garba Abari made the appeal during the National Presentation, Launch and Dissemination of “Faith for Life (F4L) Handbook for Religious Leaders,” organized by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) on Tuesday in Abuja.

Dr Abari noted that Faith for Life is a great innovation that provides guidance on maternal, child care and development using supportive verses from the Holy Books of Quran and Bible respectively.

Represented by the Agency’s Director of National Planning, Research and Strategy, Mr Samuel Soughul, Dr Abari stressed that religious platforms are the most veritable and viable means to reach larger number of the populace.

He said”The Faith communities played critical roles in ensuring survival of the world’s needy children, providing guidance, aid and comfort to millions of disadvantaged families as well as advocating for wellbeing of every mother.

“As agents of social behavior change, religious leaders are expected to lead the process by creating an open communication and support atmosphere about key development initiatives, including exclusive breastfeeding, disease prevention, immunization, hand washing, nutrition, personal hygiene, education, child protection and health seeking behaviors.

“Communication messages if supported by the teachings and practices if these faiths can be used to bring about the desired behavior change in line with the recommended practices.

“Therefore, religious platform remains most veritable vast and viable way to reach a larger number of people through the congregational level activities.

“As great influencers and motivators, there is need to consistently and behavior consistently engage your community through dialogue session, thereby promoting recommended practices in your regular religious ceremonies such as Friday and Sunday services, naming ceremonies, weddings, burials, training sessions and Islamic schools among others.”

Dr Abari pointed out that NOA and UNICEF had implemented several community engagement activities towards the realization of health seeking behaviors and other related interventions.

According to him, this relationship dates back over 30 years and has continued to yield positive results in scaling up healthy behavior practices across the communities.

“With the launch of Faith for Life Handbook therefore, we commit NOA’s elaborate structures and platforms to disseminate messages, working with our respectable religious leaders,” Dr Abari stressed.

He commended and appreciated the leaders of the major religions in Nigeria, the leader of the Muslim Ummah, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and the CAN President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle for their devotion, commitment and support towards endorsing the document for public use in Nigeria.

Dr Abari further called on Nigerians to keep practicing the non-pharmeceutical COVID-19 prevention protocols.

CAN President, Rev. Samson Adeyemi, in his remark expressed joy being part of the program, advised Nigerians to emulate God who is the creator of all lives and a not a destroyer.

“It my joy to be part of this program called Faith for Life.
“God is a God of care, God’s care for women is clearly shown in the book of Ex. 1:19-21.

“It our responsibility to make sure that quality care is provided for the pregnant women.

“God is the creator of life, and he doesn’t want us to waisted it that is why whoever kills by the sword must die by the sword. God is a preserver, God is not a destroyer so we are to take after him because he is our creator.

“Disseminating the information in the book is not a problem, once UNICEF and the National Orientation Agency can make substantial copies available to the Christian body, I can assure you from tomorrow it will get into many hands,” he assured.

The CAN President urged all representives of the Christian body in the various states not to see the distribution of the book as a money making opportunity.

The book which was launched include both the Christian and Muslim versions.

The Christian and Muslim representatives made their firm commitment that the content of the book will be taken to churches and Mosques and all Islamic institutions across the country to ensure that proper care are given to the child and mothers.

They equally promised to ensure that the book go to all the nooks and crannies of the country.

Other digitaries who spoke at the event include the Sultan of Sokoto, Alh Sa’ad Abubakar, who was represented by Imam Adeyemi, the Country Representative of UNiCEF, Peter Hawkins, among others.