by Julia White, ChildFund Business Development Specialist
For organizations like ChildFund International that have been working on the ground in maternal and child health (MCH) for decades, the Women Deliver Conference in Washington, D.C., last week was an inspirational recharge.
Government agencies, dignitaries, NGOs, private-sector foundations, advocates and experts in the field came together with both the political will and the monetary backing needed to reset MCH as a top global priority. We heard from numerous leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the heads of UNFPA, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet and Melinda Gates, just to name a few.
At the conference, Melinda Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $1.5 billion in MCH, family planning and nutrition programs over the next five years, which will complement work already being done in malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV/AIDS prevention.
The new grants under the Gates Foundation will include a focus on integration — training frontline health workers to provide multiple services and emphasizing cost-effective safe motherhood and newborn health practices. Both are areas of expertise for ChildFund, aligning with our strategic focus on children’s life stages and healthy development.
In fact, our work with MCH in Senegal was featured at the conference in the Stories of Mothers Saved, a campaign organized jointly by the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and the United Nations Population Fund. The story of Maïmouna Faye, a mother with a high-risk pregnancy, is just one example of how we forge relationships with communities.
Maïmouna’s life was saved thanks to the community mobilization, training and supervision efforts of the USAID-funded and ChildFund-led Community Health Project (Programme Santé Santé Communautaire) and a well-trained community health worker trained under the PSSC. In Senegal ChildFund works with communities to run more than 1,370 community health care units, or health huts, nationwide.
In Honduras ChildFund has implemented community health units called UCOS (Unidades Comunitarias de Salud), which support community-based maternal, neonatal and child health care, through improved access to high-quality and cost-effective care. We’ve also trained more than 200 community volunteers in the integrated management of childhood illnesses.
Speakers at the Women Deliver Conference repeatedly referenced the U.S. government’s six-year $63 billion Global Health Initiative and its renewed focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children through programs that address infectious disease, nutrition, MCH and safe water. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest U.S.-funded bilateral health assistance program, will serve as the cornerstone of the Global Health Initiative.
ChildFund has been a proud partner of PEPFAR in Ethiopia and Zambia, focusing on vulnerable children whose loss of their primary social structure increases their vulnerability to hunger, malnutrition, abuse and exploitation.
It is heartening to see a renewed international convergence of support for maternal and child health that reflects ChildFund’s long-term commitment to ensuring positive outcomes for children in every stage of their lives.
In my work with ChildFund, I’ve seen firsthand the power of supporting communities, local organizations and women themselves to ensure that mothers are safe and healthy before, during and after the birth of their babies. That support leads to the continued growth of their children into empowered adults.
Because ChildFund believes that the well-being of children leads to the well-being of the world — and that starts with healthy mothers — we’re excited to be a part of the global call to action for mothers and children.