Faith-Based Groups in Ghana to Work with State Agencies in Fighting COVID-19 Stigma

Representatives of Faith-Based Groups at a Stakeholders’ Meeting on COVID-19 Response in the Greater Accra Region at the Christ the Kind Parish, Accra on July 2, 2020.
Credit: Global Newswatch Media and Communications

With the rise in cases of the coronavirus and reports of stigmatization against people who have tested positive for the virus, faith-based groups in Ghana have expressed their commitment to collaborating with state agencies to fight against the pandemic through massive public education and sensitization on the dangers of COVID-19.

At a stakeholder meeting in Accra on Thursday, July 2 convened to map and coordinate the national and local efforts of COVID-19 response in the Greater Accra Region, the faith-based groups also collectively resolved to support the National Commission of Civic Education (NCCE), the Metropolitan of Accra, and Municipal and District Assemblies to intensify sensitization programs so that citizens avoid stigmatization of people with the pandemic and those who have recovered.

“The spread of the pandemic is likely to increase if people continue to stigmatize victims of COVID-19. But our collaboration will help fight the problem,” said Lucille Herolette Annan, the Greater Accra Regional Director of NCCE when she addressed the July 2 stakeholder meeting.

Organized by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) through its humanitarian office, Caritas Ghana, with support from other stakeholders, the meeting was attended by representatives from the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC), Office of the National Chief Imam and the Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Ghana (FOMWAG).

Others included Marshallan Relief and Development Services (MAREDES), Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission and the Religious Media.

In earlier interviews with the ACI Correspondent in Ghana, various health experts cautioned against the victimization of COVID-19 survivors saying such behavior was likely to lead to increased cases of mental illnesses in the country.

The World Health organization (WHO) Situation Report-35 on COVID-19 observes an increasing number of reports of public stigmatization targeting people from areas affected by the pandemic. 

The report indicates that people are being labeled, stereotyped, separated, and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with the pandemic.

Additionally, the religious leaders affirmed that Churches and the Muslim communities had done a lot in supporting their members amid the COVID-19 pandemic but lamented the laxity of the general population in adhering to the safety regulations put in place to combat the spread of the virus.

“People are not adhering to the protocols; they know the COVID-19 exist but they usually forget to observe the safety protocol and this is a big challenge for us and we need the churches to join hands with us to fight this canker,” observed Ms. Annan.

She added, “Some Ghanaians have the notion that the pandemic is more spiritual than physical, hence do not see the need to observe the safety protocols.”

She blames lack of sensitization about the dangers of the coronavirus on the one-hour duration of public religious services, which she says is not enough to create enough sensitization.

Admitting that it was a challenge to the Commission’s COVID-19 education drive, she pleaded with the Religious Leaders to “give the NCCE some time to speak in churches and Mosques.” 

The NCCE official, however, appeals to Church Leaders and their Muslim counterparts to set aside some time for the civic education commission to carry out COVID-19 sensitization campaigns during religious gatherings.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Zan Samuel Akologo, Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana commended the organization's Anti-Trafficking Team for undertaking an arduous but splendid operation between June 26 and 28 that rescued three children who were trafficked and held in slavery-like conditions in some fishing communities in the Donkorkrom area in the Afram Plain of the Eastern Region.

“Caritas Ghana's joint Anti-Human Trafficking program contributes to the Catholic Church's abhorrence for these (human trafficking) acts of indignity to the human person. Pope Francis continues to attack trafficking in persons saying that it disfigures the humanity of the victim,” Akologo said.

He added, “We are impressed at the level of support and cooperation from state agencies like the police, Social Welfare Department and local government authorities to undertake this operation that has given freedom and care services to the children. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes of child trafficking, forced labor and enslavement must be brought to justice.”

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]