Belief in the time of Covid-19

Dr Emma Wild-Wood is Principal Investigator on an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Urgency fund project, ‘Belief in the time of Covid-19.'

The project seeks to understand ‘the making of meaning and trust to maximise public health responsiveness of faith communities in DR Congo.’

Dr Wild-Wood is working with three researchers at the Anglican University of Congo, based in Bunia, Ituri Province. Dr Yossa Way, is a theologian, Amuda Baba, a lecturer in Public Health and Sadiki Kangamina, a biblical scholar. They will examine the application of belief in DRC where faith communities are leading the health-care response to Covid-19.

Faith Communities support over 50% of biomedical care in North-east DRC. They are vital, trusted providers of care. They bridge community and professional sectors, providing supportive networks, medical treatment, prayers for healing. They have led medical response and social restrictions to the recent outbreaks of Ebola and measles. They have knowledge of disease management and are integral to developing community-led solutions to endemic cholera, HIV, malaria, meningitis, plague. Their resilience in the face of multiple losses and repeated disease give insight into communities' capacity for restoration. Yet faith-health beliefs in DRC do not always lead to positive disease control. Disease outbreaks, propel particular beliefs about life, death, sickness, healing, the seen and unseen that can present appealing alternatives to public health measures.

Religious belief and traditional healing practices are part of the framework in which Congolese people understand disease and respond to it. Understanding the contextual response to Covid-19 is vital to reducing its spread. Findings from this in-depth examination will be used to co-create public health messages that are trusted and trustworthy and allow effective, emergency mobilisation of volunteers in faith communities.

The project is supported by two Co-investigators at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Jean-Benoit Falisse (Centre for African Studies) and Prof. Liz Grant (Global Health). Dr Nigel Pearson, a medic and consultant in public health in fragile states, completes the team.



Dr Wild-Wood's profile