Dr Mwai Makoka is programme executive for Health and Healing at the World Council of Churches (WCC). In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, he organised and moderated an online consultation with ecumenical global health providers and networks in mid-May.
Makoka stressed one of his first conclusions on the ongoing pandemic: “Now we see that health is not only the domain of health professionals; we need everybody to be health cautious. We need a multi-sectoral approach.”
Makoka highlighted the importance of churches giving more priority to health issues.
“We need to start the conversation, as Christian health professionals, on how to accompany the churches for them to be more and more health cautious, to position ourselves at the regional and national level to analyse where we need advocacy or provide support,” said Makoka.
To start this conversion, 49 people, representing Christian health associations and networks, Christian health organisations and church health programmes from 25 different countries all over the world joined an online consultation, including people from Peru, Bangladesh, Tonga, Sri Lanka, and Burkina Faso.
“The meeting was not focusing only on now but also on the post COVID-19 world, the point where the coronavirus will be under control,” observed Makoka.
The consultation gave a lot of space for discussion: “We shared experiences, our strengths and weaknesses, what we are doing well, how we were able to interact with the churches and our networks, the way we have been able to partner among ourselves,” he said.
Makoka underlined the initiative led by the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network, which is doing quality surveillance of medicines and personal protective equipment: “Because of the huge demand on some medicine, such as chloroquine, some people are spreading falsified medicine in the market. We have a network that screens the medicines; suspicious ones are confirmed in accredited laboratories and reported to World Health Organisation accordingly. The WHO then issues an international alert.”
In the second part of the discussion, participants talked of what can be done in terms of advocacy, agreed on some new projects, and decided to hold monthly meetings to continue these discussions.
“One of the challenges of this crisis is isolation; there are no conferences, even at the country level. This kind of meeting helps to say to people they are not alone. We emphasized working with church communities more. Some participants are church leaders, pastors and ministers, who are also working on healing ministry, others are working at the church headquarters, not in hospitals. It led to good interaction,” said Makoka.
This meeting helps implement an ecumenical global health strategy, as Makoka shared: “One of the pillars of the strategy is networking. Many churches have health programmes, but we are not connected enough. That active connection is growing. The network is getting more vibrant. As WCC, we are convening people for discussion, and most of the work is done on the ground. Our role is to set the table. It helps strengthen the link between health professionals, theologians and the church hierarchy, so they are not working in isolation.”
WCC landing page: Coping with the Coronavirus