Muslims and Christians to mobilize 1 million faith leaders to improve child, maternal health

Posted Sep 28, 2015

[Issued by Episcopal Relief & Development, Member of the Faith Alliance for Health] An interfaith coalition of faith-based organizations has announced it will mobilize one million faith leaders over the next five years to help improve the health of women and children in countries with high child mortality rates.

The Faith Alliance for Health comprises CMMB – Healthier Lives Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, Episcopal Relief & Development, Islamic Relief USA, the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association, and World Vision. The partnership also benefits from a very strong set of committed advisors from the donor, multi-lateral, and consultant communities(1).

The group’s commitment to build capacity of local faith leadership and networks to promote both behavior change and increase demand for maternal, child and adolescent health services is its significant contribution to the next phase of the Every Woman Every Child(2) Global Strategy.

Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief, USA, officially presented the Faith Alliance for Health’s commitment at the Every Woman Every Child launch on Saturday, September 26, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Khan highlighted that marshalling faith leaders’ reach and influence in communities is the Alliance’s strength: “It’s estimated that 84% of the world’s population identify with a religious group. Our newly formed Faith Alliance for Health will capitalize on this fact and [that] faith leaders are key to promoting behaviors that protect the health of the most vulnerable members of our society to accelerate the achievement of SDGs 2 and 3.”

“All faiths want to see women and children everywhere survive and thrive. This is why we will work together to mobilize one million faith leaders to reach 50 million families or an estimated 250 million people living in countries with a high burden of child deaths,” Khan said.

Episcopal Relief & Development has done substantial work in the field of child and maternal health, beginning with its flagship malaria prevention program, NetsforLife®, which to date has prevented more than 112,000 child deaths through engaging faith networks in community education, net distribution and robust follow-up to ensure continued net use. The organization has since expanded successful Early Childhood Development programs in Zambia and later Ghana and Kenya with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

“Our work in the area of child and maternal health is part of our overall integrated health focus, which seeks to empower communities with knowledge and practices to support nutrition, disease prevention and accurate detection and treatment of illnesses,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “Throughout our work, we find that strengthening and mobilizing local faith networks is the most effective way not only to produce results but to create lasting change for generations to come. We are proud to be a part of the Faith Alliance for Health’s bold commitment to Every Woman Every Child and excited to work with our interfaith partners to achieve this movement’s goals.”

The Faith Alliance for Health comprises the following organizations: 

  • Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) is an international, faith-based development organization that works in partnership globally to deliver locally sustainable, high-impact health services to reduce mortality and illness among vulnerable women, children, and their communities. 
  • Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. 
  • Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, it works primarily with Anglican Communion and faith-affiliated partners to help communities create long-term development strategies and rebuild after disasters. In 2015, the organization is celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World. 
  • Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization. Its mission is to alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy and disease regardless of color, race, gender or creed, and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner. Islamic Relief USA aims to provide rapid relief in the event of human and natural disasters and to establish sustainable local development projects, allowing communities to better help themselves. Its programs benefit millions of people each year around the world, including in the United States. 
  • Nigerian Interfaith Action Association is a Nigerian non-profit organization that represents the collective work of Muslim and Christian leaders and communities to save lives from preventable diseases and enhance peace and reconciliation through shared compassion. 
  • World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. For more information, visit

(1) The Faith Alliance for Health’s Advisory Board Partners: MDG Health Alliance, UNICEF, Joint Learning Initiative for Faith and Development, USAID, World Bank, UNFPA. Technical Partners: Development Vision, Woods International, Partnership for Faith and Development

(2) Every Woman Every Child is a global movement that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2010.