A recent National Public Radio (NPR) story that aired on January 26 revealed how the Grand Imam of Guinea – a country still struggling with Ebola as rates begin to drop in Liberia and Sierra Leone – stepped up to the challenge of taking on a new role as Ebola messenger. Engaging faith leaders to promote important messages about Ebola and particularly safe burials has been a critical strategy for governments and health organizations working to end the virus’ spread.
Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have all taken steps to convene faith leaders both nationally and locally to train them on Ebola facts and how they can support elimination goals.
According to the story, reported by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton and titled Guinea’s Grand Imam Pulls No Punches in His Ebola Message, “The Grand Imam is certain he and other religious leaders will gain the confidence of people currently in denial about Ebola. But he admits it’s a battle. To succeed, you have to find the right medium for the message.” The story goes on to say that the American Ambassador of Guinea, Alex Laskaris, “linked up with the Grand Imam” to get involved in Ebola. According to Laskaris, “This is old-school, pre-digital diplomacy…It’s making contact eye to eye, person to person, sitting under the mango tree. And it’s also listening to people’s fears and finding out what is motivating young people to throw stones, women to bar us from entering their houses.”