The Ministry of Health and Medical Service (MHMS) conducted a one-day COVID-19 review meeting this week with representatives of various Christian denominations to inform planning for next set of risk communication activities.
In March this year, prior to the declaration of state of emergency, MHMS had collaborated with the churches for the dissemination of COVID-19
information and preventative measures. As such, churches have incorporated COVID-19 information into their church service announcements and have assisted with the dissemination of COVID-19 pamphlets and brochures to their congregation members.
In his remarks to open the meeting, MHMS Incident Controller Dr. Nemia Bainivalu acknowledged the significant contributions of churches in providing crucial information around COVID-19 to the public. “I thank you all for your cooperation, commitment and dedication to assist the Ministry in the dissemination of these important information. Because of this, thousands of our citizens have been informed of COVID-19”.
“Today’s meeting on the other hand is for us to review COVID-19 communication activities done over the past months for an opportunity to better understand how we can improve on our weaknesses, address existing gaps and capitalize on our strengths to improve on our next round of communication activities”, said Dr. Bainivalu.
The incident controller highlighted that churches are by far the only institutions the country has that has reach of audience’s right down to the country’s most rural and remote communities across the country. “Critical to our country’s efforts to prevent spread, outbreak or community transmission of COVID-19 is the need for the entire population to understand this virus, how it can be prevented and know of its signs and symptoms and churches have the capacity and capability to assist in this regard. This is why we have reached out to you and will continue to work with you on our COVID-19 efforts”.
During the meeting, church representatives had to opportunity to learn about the overall structure of the National Disaster Council and National Health Emergency Operation Centre (NHEOC) and their relevance within these structures.
The meeting also saw participants presenting COVID-19 communication related activities conducted over the past months and initiatives in disseminating COVID-19 information and preventative measures. This also includes steps undertaken to ensure that congregation members practice measures that uphold key COVID-19 key preventative measures of frequent hand washing with soaps and hand sanitizer, social distancing and coughing into bent elbow or handkerchief.
The session also provided opportunities for them to share their thoughts and experiences as well as make recommendation as to how churches and MHMS can strengthen collaboration.
Hezekiah Taku, training coordinator of South Seas Evangelical Church (SSEC), in his presentation appreciated the recognition of churches by the Ministry of Health in its COVID-19 efforts and assured that churches will continue to work closely with the Ministry since addressing COVID-19 is everyone’s business.
“With this I would also like to see that we continue to work together and strengthen our cooperation and collaboration through frequent meetings, sharing of information, establishing feedback systems and also building capacity of church workers to effectively assist in the COVID-19 preparedness and response”, stated Mr. Taku.
MHMS Health Promotion Director Adrian Leamana applaud the churches across the country for taking the extra mile to what was initially required of them. “I am impressed with how churches have incorporated COVID-19 preventative messages into their sermons, strategic utilization of internet services for delivery of messages, setting up of hand washing stations in their schools to promote personal hygiene and so forth. This is truly amazing and MHMS health promotion is excited and looking forward to closely work with the churches for the next set of risk
communication activities”, stated Mr. Leamana.