Although I have seen medical systems around the world, I never got to understand the differences in decision making until I came to Guyana as resident physician. The care the residents offer is far beyond my expectations for the resource limited environment they are provided with. New cutting techniques of airway management and disease management have all been strategically adapted to the capabilities of their A&E. Still they continue to excel while I struggled to keep up.
I have never been to South America. The thought of coming to a new place was exciting but also made me a little nervous. After only a few days here I have quickly realized that the people of Guyana are friendly, generous, and eager to teach outsiders about their culture.
I arrived in Kenya about 2 weeks ago and was warmly welcomed at Lwala Community Alliance (LCA). Thus far I have spent much of my time observing and learning. While my work this summer is to join the public health team to focus on malnutrition interventions within the Thrive Thru 5 project, I have had the opportunity to follow each of the Lwala teams in their work. Although I spent most of my time outside of programs specific to malnutrition, nearly everyday I saw work or projects that are positively impacting child nutrition.
After the providers, the pregnant mothers came for their monthly prenatal education class. I witnessed as one of the nurses who just participated in the class accurately and eagerly taught these pregnant women ways they can space their next pregnancy to promote better health for them and their babies.
This was the first day of fieldwork. We taught the Standard Days Method to over 80 people in a couple of different sessions. The first group that participated in the study consisted of 12 providers, who were health agents, nurses, and physicians. This lesson went really well. The enthusiasm of the group was palpable and the discussion was enlightening.
Anta Ba is a 26-year-old woman living in Guédiawaye, a poor urban area of Senegal’s capital, Dakar. In a new CSIS video, Anta explains why she decided to access family planning, despite her husband’s opposition, and why these services matter for her own life and for women’s health and empowerment in Senegal.

May 15, 2015 | Charisma Magazine

african family
We know that 1 in 39 women are at risk to die in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa this year. Moreover, pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls age 15-19 worldwide. (Flickr | Emilio Labrador)

C.S. Lewis once penned, "Prayer. It doesn't change God's mind. It changes me." At Hope Through Healing Hands, we provide clinical care for vulnerable populations worldwide through medical missions. We also promote awareness and advocacy for maternal, newborn and child health in developing nations. We pray for mothers and children around the world, not because it changes God's mind, but because it changes our own.

We know that 1 in 39 women are at risk to die in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa this year. Moreover, pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls age 15-19 worldwide. We know this is a preventable tragedy. This is why we have launched the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. We are galvanizing leaders in the evangelical community across the nation who are athletes, actors, artists, authors, pastors, academic and nonprofit leaders to rethink and reconsider the critical importance of maternal and child health in developing nations with a special emphasis on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies as a part of that continuum of care.

What do we mean by healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies? Becoming pregnant at age 15-19 creates twice the risk of death to a mother as becoming pregnant at age 20-24. In Ethiopia, the average age of marriage is 16. This means so many young girls are at risk of severe complications and death if their pregnancy debut is before 20. Even if they survive, they face a high risk of fistula or other disability. If these young married women can simply "time" their first pregnancy in their early 20s, they have a substantially better chance at having a safe pregnancy, delivery and healthy baby.

And if the young woman can have the opportunity to "space" her children, just three years apart, the child is twice as likely to survive the newborn stage.

The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (Zondervan, 2015) chronicles the stories of women in Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, India and Uganda. They share their stories about how healthy timing and spacing of families has saved their own lives, the lives of their children, or the stability of their families. Authors like Christine Caine, Natalie Grant, Mary Beth Chapman, and Michael Gerson talk about their experiences in developing nations with stories and anecdotes to demonstrate why this issue is so critical to combatting modern day slavery, sex trafficking, the orphan crisis and mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies means combating both maternal and infant mortality worldwide. It is a critical tool to save lives, empower women and promote sustainability for families, communities and even nations.

What can you do as a believer for these women and children? How can you be a part of saving lives and creating sustainable, lasting change for millions worldwide?

First, pray. And, when you pray, consider Amy Grant's simple prayer in "Greet the Day" on her album How Mercy Looks from Here:

"Lord, lead me to the ones I need.

And, to the ones who need me."

This is a simple prayer that may change the way you encounter your own daily experiences. This prayer opens your eyes to those who cross your path that you may need in your life, and opens your heart to those who may very much need you and your voice.

Secondly, promote awareness. Talk with family and friends about these issues. Tweet this article; ask friends on Facebook to join you in prayer for these women and children. Lead a Bible Study or book club with The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope and its companion 4-week discussion guide.

And finally, join the chorus of voices. Advocate. King Lemuel's mother in Proverbs 31 advises him to "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; speak up for the poor and the destitute." She knew the wisdom and the righteousness of uplifting those on the margins. We are called as believers to raise our voice for the voiceless, and to let our elected leaders, such as our president, senators and congressional representatives, know that we want them to support foreign assistance, less than 1 percent of the U.S. Budget, on behalf of vulnerable populations around the world.

Let's lift our voices together to protect and increase funding for maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide to save lives as we strive to care for the "least of these," as commanded in Scripture.

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands a Nashville-based global health organization, founded and chaired by Senator Bill Frist, M.D., committed to improving the quality of life for communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.

This piece originally appeared on Charisma Magazine.

May 10, 2015 | Marie Claire

The Mother & Child Project Book CoverIn this exclusive excerpt from The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope, the model-turned-advocate opens up about her mission.

The day I became a mother was also the day I became a maternal health advocate. After a healthy pregnancy and a birth that went exactly the way I'd hoped, I was unprepared for everything to change in a heartbeat. My placenta wouldn't detach, and I hemorrhaged. I didn't know it at the time, but this happens every day to women all over the world.

If you live in a country where skilled midwives and doctors are plentiful and you deliver in a well-staffed and stocked health care facility, as I did, then chances are you'll be fine. If you live in a country where most women deliver at home without a skilled attendant or in a facility where staff members don't have the skills or supplies to treat you, then you may join the ranks of the 287,000 women who die every year from entirely preventable or treatable complications. I was one of the lucky ones, and I realized I had been given a great opportunity to serve other women and make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.

"Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a mother dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth."

After my daughter's birth, I researched the multidimensional physical, social, economic, political, and cultural conditions that cause women to have poor maternal health. I learned that every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a mother dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. I learned that in some parts of the world the main barrier is transportation, while in others it's lack of education, medications, or trained staff. In some cultures, women aren't allowed to seek medical care without permission, and in others they can't access family planning. I learned that child marriage, female genital mutilation, and teen pregnancy are all directly linked to maternal death and that when mothers die in childbirth, they leave, on average, four orphaned children. It was a steep learning curve that helped me decide the direction I wanted my advocacy to take.

I created a documentary, No Woman, No Cry, that highlighted the maternal health crisis from the perspectives of mothers and health care providers in four countries, including the United States. I wanted audiences to resonate with the fact that while 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, 800 mothers per year die right here in America, where we rank sixtieth in the world for maternal mortality.

The documentary was released in 2010 to audiences who were enthusiastic about helping find solutions. That's why I founded Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about maternal health and mortality, funding grants that make a direct difference in improving maternal health and providing opportunities for people to get involved.

Currently, Every Mother Counts funds grants and projects in seven countries to address three main barriers that impact maternal health and health care everywhere—lack of transportation, education, and training, as well as supplies. We are addressing one or more of these gaps in Malawi, Uganda, Indonesia, Haiti, India, and the United States and will continue to identify and support programs that are designed to make services accessible to mothers around the world.

"We already have the treatments, medications, and therapies necessary to prevent up to 98 percent of maternal deaths."

As daunting as the statistics are, we know that we already have the treatments, medications, and therapies necessary to prevent up to 98 percent of maternal deaths. We just need to make the health and lives of girls and women a priority. Every Mother Counts believes that together we can make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.

Printed with permission from The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope.

Christy Turlington Burns is an advocate for maternal health. She is the founder of Every Mother Counts and the producer of No Woman, No Cry, a documentary about the problems of maternal health in the developing world.

This post appeared on Marie Claire.

May 8, 2015 | Relevant Magazine

Garbage dumps make horrible delivery rooms—but Cristina had no choice. As she went into labor, her mother’s wood-and-tin shack in a Philippines garbage dump served as birthing center, delivery room and nursery.

I wasn’t prepared to see a newborn there. I had gone to the dump with a team from Compassion International to see how one of our partner churches in Cebu City ministers to families who live in extreme poverty. Cristina lay exhausted on a mat spread over a cane floor inches above the dirt. Her son, Jonel, was an hour-and-a-half old. He slept next to her, swaddled in a T-shirt.

I considered the realities that Cristina and her son faced in a home in the middle of the garbage. Platitudes are anemic at a time like that. I knew God had placed our team right there at that precise moment. The time was opportune for the Church to be the Church.

The First-Responder Church

When the Church works right, her effectiveness is unsurpassed. Nowhere is that more evident than when the Church is a first responder. Nowhere is the need for a first responder more urgent than for an expectant mother or mother with an infant in the grip of abject poverty.

Abject poverty is the stupid, debilitating poverty that weakens bodies, stunts hope and perpetuates itself across generations. While her infant may only weigh a few pounds, the load of an impoverished mother is heavy. She is the last to go to bed and the first to get up in the morning. Too often she is the last to eat, if she eats at all. Too often she is uneducated, because the opportunity was given to a male in the family. And too often her opinion doesn’t count, even when it comes to family planning and the spacing of her children.

This is where the Church can be her best, not just because she can do something for the poor, but because she will walk closely with the poor. There is a world of difference between the two.

Walking With the Poor

In Compassion International’s partnership with local churches in some of the world’s most impoverished communities, “with” is the operative word. Hundreds of the 6,500-plus churches with which Compassion partners implement a Child Survival Program that walks side by side with mothers-to-be and new moms. From the womb through toddlerhood, the church assigns a Child Survival Specialist to nurture a one-to-one, woman-to-woman relationship. The experience is life changing.

For many of these moms, just the idea that they actually matter is transformative in its own right. Her physical health in pregnancy is monitored bi-weekly through home visits by her Child Survival Specialist. The assurance of an attended birth takes away her isolation and eliminates the fear of delivering a child alone.

And after delivery, the Child Survival Specialist maintains a regular schedule of relationship and care. Everything from nutrition and health to toddler development and home safety is explored in bi-weekly visits.

Walking with also brings mothers together. Each month, moms in the Child Survival Program gather at the local church, where the woman-to-woman relationship is magnified in a women-to-women community. In an environment of relationship and trust, the church contextualizes the concepts of family planning and birth spacing. For many women, this is their first hint that they can directly influence their own family’s future. What should be obvious actually flies in the face of messages they receive in their neighborhoods.

The Church’s first-responder approach counters negative patterns of family planning and mistrust that have permeated communities for generations. In the spiritual context of Jesus’ teachings and inside a community of support, mothers receive a new message of freedom that expresses itself in all areas of life from personal grace to expressions of freedom and influence in life’s most intimate decisions.

Paul’s declaration in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” finds practical applications in the Church. Freedom in Jesus to discover self-worth and relationship with Him. Freedom to escape illiteracy. Freedom to learn a marketable skill. And freedom and instruction on the specifics of family planning. A mom learns how to have critical conversations with her husband, and in many cases, the Child Survival Specialist will accompany and assist her.

When the Church works right, the peripheral vision of a mother in poverty begins to widen to the personal benefits of literacy, solid child development and healthy spacing and timing of pregnancy.

The Journey Ahead

Back in the Philippines, our staff and the church pastor secured an immediate place for Cristina and Jonel in Compassion’s Child Survival Program. Now the local church would rally around Cristina to help her develop income-generating skills. They would train and assist her in nutrition, health checkups and the life-forming needs of an infant as he grows.

The church and its Child Survival volunteers would do everything in their power to keep Jonel from being one of almost 19,000 kids under five who die every day from causes that rarely affect our children in the United States. Cristina and Jonel would receive loving, Jesus-centered care. Compassion would be accessible for Cristina. But more important, the church would walk with her and her son through their journey ahead.

As we stood there with Cristina and Jonel, I prayed. Not a quick, expected “bless them” prayer, but a heartfelt, Spirit-led plea to Jonel’s heavenly Father. As our interpreter translated, I asked God that Jonel’s life would have value. I thanked God that his mother had come to Christ and had been baptized a month earlier. I prayed that Jonel’s parents would love him the way Jesus does and that he would come to know Jesus as early as possible.

Once again, I realized how relentlessly the Church tracks down poverty in the most rancid of spaces. Because the Church is there, because the Church is a first responder, I left confident that Christina and Jonel were going to make it. This was the Church at her best. This was the Church working the way it should and building a future—even when the future was just an hour-and-a-half old.

Taken from The Mother And Child Project. Copyright 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Santiago (Jimmy) Mellado is the president and CEO of Compassion International, a leading authority in holistic child development through sponsorship.

Read this piece on relevantmagazine.com

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