In May 2020, the government of Tanzania claimed that the country was free from Covid-19, and shortly after this the Ministry of Health stopped releasing new information on cases or deaths. As the rest of the world experienced waves of publicly announced infections and government-imposed restrictions, many people in Tanzania were left feeling confused and afraid.
In response, Africa Inland Church Tanzania (AICT) supported church leaders to:
- share clear information about Covid-19 with their congregations, including inviting local health facility staff to speak during church services about symptoms and prevention measures
- run workshops on hygiene and sanitation
- install handwashing stations at their churches.
AICT distributed posters with Covid-19 prevention messages to local churches, communities and health centres. Local radio programmes and television shows also included information about the disease.
Recognising the need to help people with small businesses cope with the economic impact of Covid-19, AICT taught self-help group members how to make tippy taps (a hands-free device for handwashing in rural areas where there is no running water), liquid soap, hand sanitiser and face masks. The members of the groups were therefore able to help reduce the spread of the disease, while continuing to earn money.
As well as significantly reducing the impact of Covid-19 in the local area, AICT's proactive approach also led to the reduction of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, urinary tract infections and cholera.
Timothy Pallangyo, AICT’s Programme Manager, says, 'The local church members fasted and prayed for God’s mercy and for God to protect the nation against the Covid-19 pandemic. Through prayers and observing preventive measures, the first wave of Covid-19 was manageable.'
Lack of information, fear and stigma meant that people in Tanzania were beginning to hide the fact that family members had died from Covid-19, and they were burying them at night.
The Christian Council of Tanzania worked with church leaders to advocate for dignified burials. They sent an appeal letter to the President and, in response, the President denounced on national television the practice of night burials and promoted positive health precautions against the disease.
The government invited the church’s input into the national response to Covid-19, called for Tanzanian Christians to pray for three days and spoke about how the church’s involvement was helping to calm public fears.