WHO speaks about traditional medicine, Faith, and the importance of reliable and correct information. They advocate that Faith and science do not contradict, but can go together.
As the world surpasses 10.3 million cases of SARS-CoV-2, reliable information gets lost within the influx of information surrounding the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) works closely with faith-based organizations and journalists to share the correct information and remove ill-advised ones surrounding new symptoms, treatments, and vaccines.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead of the COVID-19 response, said, “Everyone on the planet is part of this response.”
The WHO is collaborating with partners in the tech industry, communications, travel and tourism industries, civil sector, scientists, and public health professionals to distinguish the right information from misinformation and disinformation that is designed to mislead.
WHO Collaborates With Faith-Based Organizations
Faith-based organizations play essential roles during the pandemic. Not only do they provide direct support to communities coping with this disease, but they are tantamount to getting information to people.
How does the WHO react to this influx of information coming from non-traditional sources —including pastors and those who are not in the medical field?
Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the WHO, said, “Faith-based organizations are a vital part of this response [against COVID]. Faith-based organizations are a very effective way of passing good information because communities very often trust them.”
Often, information from faith-based organizations is projected as misinformation.
Dr. Ryan: Traditional medicine is very important to communities around the world.
“The WHO has an initiative on traditional medicine. We look at traditional medicine in a very, very, very positive way. Regarding claims of traditional methods of healing, effective therapies have been found through the examination of traditional products,” he continued.
All Promising Products, Including Traditional Products, Must Undergo Rigorous Trials
However, specifically for claims surrounding cures and products, the WHO advises individuals to be very careful. All products that show promise in the care or cure of individuals with COVID-19 must go through properly managed trials to monitor their impact and effectiveness.
“It is impossible to determine the effectiveness of any drug or any traditional product unless we put it through the rigors of a properly controlled trial that is the same whether it’s a product development pharmaceutical industry or a product developed by traditional methods,” emphasized Dr. Ryan.
Dr. Kerkhove: Everyone has a role to play in ensuring you don’t pass on poor information.
Dr. Kerkhove added, “There’s information that’s out there that’s not quite right, and it needs to be corrected.”
She also warned, “There’s also information that’s out there that’s willingly wrong. And that could be incredibly dangerous, and it could put people in harm’s way.”
This influx of information highlights why the WHO works closely with journalists to share reliable details surrounding COVID-19.
Dr. Kerkhove: Journalists have a role to play in getting good information out by having fair and balanced reports. And we’re so grateful for these articles that come out that explain very complex topics and put it into the context of how we can help people suppress transmission and save lives. So we welcome the partnership with journalists on that.
Medicine or Faith? Do both, advises WHO
Dr. Tedors Abhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, shared his experience during the HIV-AIDS epidemic.
“During the HIV/AIDS era at its peak, there was the same situation as what we’re seeing now, where people were forced to choose between medicine and faith,” Dr. Tedros started his story. At this time, the WHO met and discussed with religious leaders how medicine and Faith could go together.
Similarly, during COVID-19, Dr. Tedros advocated, “Have your Faith. Continue to take your medicine.”
“WHO would really advise their followers to follow their Faith, but at the same time, use science. The two do not contradict; they go together. So that’s our advice,” he added.
“We call on all religious leaders to be in this fight, and save lives,” he concluded.