maternal and child health

Creating a Maternal Bond Before Birth

 By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia

“My dear baby, I’m awaiting you with hope,” is how Rilma, 32, starts a letter to her son. However, he is not traveling around the world or even far from her. He is pretty close by, in fact, residing in Rilma’s womb.

Rilma

Rilma writes a letter to her unborn son.

“I’m a little afraid for the moment when you will be born, but don’t you worry, I’ll give the best of me, so things can go well, and I will welcome you with the same joy and emotion as I did with your older brothers,” Rilma continues in a letter to her unborn child. This is one of many activities Rilma and other expectant mothers perform at Un Nuevo Caminar, ChildFund’s local partner organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

There, women receive free prenatal examinations, pregnancy exercises and infant-care training, including how to identify danger signs and more.

Dr. Pamela Lopez, who works at Un Nuevo Caminar, tells us, “Every day I can see and understand how big a mother’s love is. Working with them is touching; when they smile at the moment they feel their baby or listen to their baby’s heartbeat, it’s a very special moment for them.”

Bolivian mother with doll

A mother practices parenting skills with a doll.

The mothers also practice with a doll, to whom they show their feelings, Lopez says. “I usually tell them, ‘Madam, this is your baby. What’s the first thing you would tell him?’ And they answer, ‘I’d give him a little kiss, I’d hold him, I’d tell him how much I love him.’ ”

Babies are born with the potential to succeed, which parents and other caretakers must nurture. “Our work is to strengthen that link, so it could be stronger and unbreakable,” Lopez says. “It’s a great experience,  sharing that unique and particular moment in their lives.”

Ten expectant mothers and 112 children under the age of 5 (along with their mothers) are now enrolled in Un Nuevo Caminar. They participate in stimulation exercises, so the children can gain skills naturally and can also understand and discover the world around them.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Delivering Community Health Care in Senegal

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we learn about ChildFund’s community health grant in Senegal.

When ChildFund began working in Senegal in 1985, much of the country lacked access to adequate health care, particularly mothers and children under age 5. As a result, many young mothers were dying in childbirth and children were succumbing to malaria, diarrhea and undernutrition – all preventable conditions.

In most cases, doctors and health posts are miles and miles away, out of reach. Although the country has a rich resource in its traditional medicine practitioners (often the village grandmothers), these lay health care providers worked outside of the state health care system, with no formal training. If a mother or child’s health condition became life-threatening, the family and the community would have nowhere else to turn for help.

ChildFund Senegal leaders

ChildFund Senegal national office staff Mamadou Diagne (left) and Emile Namesemon N'Koa on a recent visit to the U.S.

Today, health care access in Senegal is vastly improved, says Emile Namesemon N’Koa, ChildFund’s national director in Senegal. With grant funding from the U.S. International Development Agency (USAID) and a consortium of partners, ChildFund is implementing a large-scale community health project. Mamadou Diagne, ChildFund Senegal’s national health coordinator, is overseeing operations. He points out that by 2016, Programme Santé Santé Communautaire (PSSC) will have reached 12.3 million people (almost the entire country), providing community-based health huts and outreach sites to both rural and urban populations.

Health hut building

A ChildFund-supported health hut.

In addition to providing day-to-day maternal and child health care, the project will also address neglected tropical diseases and work to educate communities about the health dangers inherent in the cultural practice of female genital cutting.

Community meeting

A local health committee meets.

ChildFund has long recognized the vital role of grandmothers and godmothers who assist and mentor younger women in their communities. Another key component in ChildFund’s strategy is involving and training community health volunteers and traditional birth attendants. By providing these caregivers with additional health information and formal linkages to a growing network of health posts, ChildFund Senegal is seeking to weave them – and the entire community – into the very fabric of the country’s health care system.

As Mamadou notes, “Through the synergy of cooperation with the community and other organizations at work in Senegal, we’re finding solutions to the problems we face.”

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Senegal and how you can sponsor a child.

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: A ‘Gardener’ of Children in Honduras

by Lylli Moya, ChildFund Honduras

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we meet a community health volunteer in Honduras.

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program.

Jessica at home in Culguaque community.

Jessica Carolina Funez is a 21-year-old community health volunteer in the community of Culguaque, three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Her day starts early as she rises to clean house and prepare food for her family before going to work.

“I am a gardener at the community preschool center,” she says, explaining her job. However, her gardening tools are not the typical shovel and hoe. She is caring for something much more delicate than plants and vegetables. As a “gardener,” her job is to care for preschoolers four days a week.

Jessica (left) and a fellow volunteer wait for mothers to arrive with their children.

She enjoys her job and also volunteering as a community health worker because she gets to help children. After receiving training from ChildFund, Jessica assists with a once-a-month weigh-in session for children under the age of two. “We weigh them, mark the weight on the graph, give counseling to mothers and give the children supplements like iron and zinc.” If a child is underweight or shows signs of slow development, Jessica or one of her fellow volunteers will pay a follow-up visit to the home to provide further information and counseling to the mother. “We help mothers care for their children so that they don’t become malnourished,” she explains.

Jessica and daughter.

Working with other children and attending health training sessions provided through ChildFund, Jessica says she has learned so many things, including how to take better care of her own six-year-old daughter and plan for the future.

Jessica is currently finishing her high school equivalent while studying business administration through a distance-learning program. Her dream is that both she and her daughter can one day attend university and become professionals.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Honduras and how you can sponsor a child.

How Betty Became a Health Monitor

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week and from time to time.

Meet Betty, a 36-year-old community health volunteer who lives in Lepateriquillo, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, traveling by bus. This Honduran community doesn´t have electricity, but it does have running water and latrines.

Honduran family in front of house

Community Health Volunteer Betty with her familly at their home in Lepateriquilo community.

Betty and her husband have four children between the ages of 8 and 16, all of whom attend school. The family earns a living from working their own land and selling a few cattle. Betty also operates a small store in her house, selling basic products to community members.

So we ask Betty why she decided to volunteer as a health monitor for her community. “It was because of my husband – he was the first to take the training. But when he couldn’t attend due to his work in the fields, he started asking me to attend on his behalf.”

That’s when Betty learned how to weigh children and fill out the children’s growth charts, assessing whether they were developing at a normal rate.

When ChildFund’s partner organization had a new opening for a health monitor, they invited Betty. She has since completed all of the training modules in the USAID AIN-C (Atencion Integral a la Ninez en la Comunidad – Integrated Community Child Health program).

Just ask her about the curriculum: Growth Monitoring, Care for the Sick Child, Care for the Pregnant Woman and the Newborn, Information Systems, Feeding Children under Two Years of Age, Feeding Pregnant women.

What does she enjoy most about being a health volunteer? “The home visits to the newborns,” she says, without hesitation. But one of the things Betty says she doesn’t like is when children in the community “lose weight because the mothers would not follow her recommendations.”

It’s volunteers like Betty who will keep this community on a healthy track.

A Team Effort to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Honduras

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

woman sweeping

Suyapa does her house chores in Culguaque.

Suyapa, a young mother in her early 30s, lives in Culguaquel, a small community dedicated to cultivating coffee, which thrives in the cool climate. Located about 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, Culguaquel is accessible by bus and car. Yet, there is no electricity in this community.

The mother of seven young children, Suyapa lives with her husband, José, in a small home, with adobe walls, a dirt floor and a tiled roof. Her husband, a day laborer, earns less than 50 cents per day, and Suyapa, who left school after first grade, stays home to care for the children and manage the household. Keeping up with five boys and two girls is no small amount of work. All of the children are enrolled in ChildFund programs, and two are sponsored.

woman tending fireAlthough her children are relatively healthy, Suyapa is happy to see more health services now coming to her community. She is attending educational sessions offered through ChildFund and its partner. “They tell me about my children’s nutrition [needs] and give me advice on how to care for them, and they receive vitamins,” she says.

The History of a Honduran Midwife

Reporting by ChildFund Honduras

With support from USAID and the Honduran government, ChildFund is implementing a four-year maternal and child health program in Honduras. The goal is to decrease maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five child mortality rates, particularly in rural areas with little access to health services. We’re following the stories of mothers and children, traditional birth attendants and community health volunteers who are participating in the program and will be sharing those with you this week, and from time to time.

At 73, Maria knows a thing or two about life. Although she completed just two years of primary school, and can only sign her name, Maria has a wealth of knowledge, especially when it comes to mothers and babies.

Her community of Culguaque, located 45 minutes away from the municipality of Lepaterique, has one health care center staffed by a nurse auxiliary.

But most women Maria’s age didn’t go to a health center for care during child birth. Instead they relied on a midwife.

Grandmother and grandaughter

Traditional Birth Attendant Maria with her granddaughter at her home in Culguaque.

“My mother was a midwife,” Maria explains. “One day my mother was called by a family to assist a birth and I accompanied her.” Maria’s mother was sick and requested her 32-year-old daughter’s help. “She kept telling me, ‘learn, my daughter, because I’m very close to dying.’”

Woman in her homeStarting at that time, Maria began accompanying her mother to assist her in all the community births. When her mother died, Maria took on the elder’s role, responding to all the families who requested her services as a midwife.

Some years later, when the Health Care Center nurse found out that Maria assisted with births, she came to her house and invited her to participate in a midwives training program.

Maria says that it had been more than 20 years since she received training from the Ministry of Health via the Health Care Center. Last fall, she was happy to get a refresher course from ChildFund, as it implements a maternal and child health program in her community. “I enjoy attending these training sessions because I used to be very bashful. With the training, I’ve learned to be more outgoing and I learn more.”

Woman in front of houseFor the most part, being a midwife is enjoyable work for Maria, who has been widowed for two years and has two living daughters and an adopted daughter. But the difficult part, she says, is “when a woman can’t deliver her baby.”

If that is the case, Maria knows to refer the patient to the closest hospital. Most of the time she goes along with the woman and her family, to reassure them and to be an advocate. If she can save the life of a child, then it’s been a good day.

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