I have come to Kijabe, Kenya with the help of the Hope Through Healing Hands with the goal of training local providers in the OR and ICU. My first days in Kenya have been uplifting, but I have been surprised at the case volume, severity, and complexity of the system here at AIC Kijabe Hospital.
This week, CARE is directing a congressional delegation to Guatemala including Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), among other activists. The goal of our trip was to witness first-hand the lives of women and children across the nation in terms of health.

Dallas Morning News | February 12, 2015

By BILL FRIST AND JENNY EATON DYER

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that Ebola is still a top-tier global health concern in Americans’ hearts and minds. Although media coverage has slowed, there is still much work to do in West Africa to curb the spread of the virus that has now killed more than 8,500 people. In a promising step forward, the National Institutes of Health just announced that a vaccine trial will soon be available in Liberia.

Sadly, it took the death of Thomas Eric Duncan to prompt real assessments of how prepared local hospitals are to handle a global outbreak. But as a result, our nation is now more aware and more concerned about the tragic loss of life in West Africa and the broader issues of global health.

More than half of Americans believe that the U.S. government offers more than 26 percent of our annual budget in foreign assistance. The reality: Less than 1 percent of our budget goes to global health and development.

As we’ve seen, health issues abroad have a real impact at home. Years of underfunding global health has allowed a virus like Ebola to become a crisis in Africa and reach American soil. If we had spent even one-tenth of our perceived investment, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this position.

We can’t again wait until the crisis is upon us.

We want to encourage Americans to explore foundational global health issues like clean water, vaccines, nutrition, and maternal and child health. Establishing foundations of health and health care better equips populations to respond in times of crisis and outbreak so that global health threats can be more quickly brought under control.

We also urge Congress to prioritize these lifesaving investments in global health. There has been great progress over the past decade as Democrats and Republicans have come together on issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and maternal and child health.

Our global health organization, Hope Through Healing Hands, believes that maternal, newborn and child health is a fundamental global health issue, one that — with an emphasis on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies — is a critical issue for the next decade.

More than 6.6 million children die every year in the developing world from preventable, treatable causes. As Bill and Melinda Gates’ annual letter for 2015 notes, this number has been halved since 1990, and we expect to halve it again by 2030. Simple, low-cost measures such as oral rehydration therapy, bed nets to prevent malaria, and access to immunizations have accelerated the reduction of child mortality in developing nations.

More than 289,000 women die every year because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, with 85 percent of maternal deaths occurring in Africa and South Asia. We can change this, too. More than 80 percent of these deaths are preventable. Skilled care during labor, delivery and up to 48 hours postpartum makes a lifesaving difference.

An underappreciated part of the solution is family planning. When we talk about voluntary family planning in the international context, we mean enabling women and couples to determine the number of pregnancies and their timing, and equipping women to use voluntary methods for preventing pregnancy, not including abortion, that are harmonious with their values and beliefs.

Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies is also central to achieving other global health goals, such as combating hunger and improving the status of women and girls. Family planning is a key, often hidden engine for additional global health achievements.

While we are grateful for the renewed attention being given to global health concerns, we hope that Americans and their legislators will seize the opportunity to protect funding in these key areas of maternal and child health and international family planning in recognition of long-term national and global benefits.

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, a physician, is board chairman for the nonprofit Hope Through Healing Hands. Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the group’s executive director. Reach them through www.hopethroughhealinghands.org

I last witnessed a measles outbreak in 2011. Thousands were sick with high fevers, dry cough, and a spreading rash. Three quarters of the ill were children under five years old, and the disease was spreading rapidly. Once the outbreak began, immunization response strategies could barely keep up. It took months before even the hospitalized pediatric patients were all vaccinated. Back then I was in the Dadaab refugee camp, near the border of Kenya and Somalia. I’m horrified to think we are courting a similar outbreak in America.
Hope Through Healing Hands sponsored a luncheon for IF: Gathering attendees on Saturday, February 7. We were thrilled to host more than 200 attendees who came to learn more about the critical global health issues of mothers and children.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter yesterday, making predictions, setting goals, and issuing challenges for the next 15 years. 

They believe that the next 15 years will be particularly transformational for world's poorest:"The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else's."

They highlight four areas of change in their letter. They are all worth reading, but the number one area of attention is health, specifically children's health. Child mortality has been falling dramatically, but newborn mortality hasn't enjoyed the steep decline other groups have, and maternal deaths are still far too common in some countries.

More than 287,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth leaving more than 1 million children motherless. Many of the youngest of those children won’t survive. Hope Through Healing Hands advocates for maternal, newborn, and child health with a special emphasis on  healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Bill and Melinda Gates are betting on major breakthroughs in the next 15 years. We agree that we should be able to accomplish astounding things by 2030. But for mothers and babies, the future is even closer. If 120 million women get access to family planning resources, 3 million fewer babies will die in their first year of life by 2020, and 200,000 fewer women and girls will die in childbirth.

It will be a radical change. Will you join us?

Hope Through Healing Hands is happy to announce that we are now eligible for Amazon Smile donations! Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases when you shop at smile.Amazon.com.

Hope Through Healing Hands is thrilled to be a sponsor of the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. This year we will be hosting a luncheon between sessions on Saturday, February 7. IF:Gathering attendees can register for the luncheon here.  Today, HTHH’s executive director, Jenny Dyer, is sharing her story at Unleash, the IF:Gathering blog.  

Years ago, I read Tony Campolo’s quote that “there are over 2,000 scriptures that call us to respond to the poor.” Bono, the founder of ONE and of the band U2, likes to re-state this often, believing that this, in fact, is the drive of the Scriptures: to help those in poverty. “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48). They make a compelling case.

With this knowledge and argument in hand, I left a potential career in academia to pursue one in advocacy. I had been trained to teach Greek, the New Testament, and psychology of religion. Instead, I was called to use that knowledge as a platform to live out “the drive of the Scriptures”: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I pursued the work of promoting awareness, education, and advocacy about the pandemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa and extreme poverty. My job was to engage church leaders across the United States in these complicated issues at the turn of the millennium. Today, I continue to do this work, engaging the church on behalf of some of the world’s poorest, for a spectrum of global health issues, including maternal, newborn, and child health.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Miheret Gebrehiwot. Miheret shared her story with us from her health post in the village of Gemed Kebele, in the Tigray province of Ethiopia. Lithe, poised, and with grace, she divulged in her native language of Amharic that she had been a child bride.

At 11 years old, Miheret had been expected to leave school and begin a life as a wife and mother. Over 50% of girls in northern Ethiopia are married by the age of 15. By 16, she was pregnant. And teen pregnancies can so often lead to health complications, education derailment, and ultimately, systemic poverty. Miheret shared that she was lucky. Her mother provided childcare for her children, and she was able to pursue a career as a health extension worker (HEW) and teach other young women how they can better care for themselves, their children, and their families. Because of young, committed women like Miheret, over 30% of women in Ethiopia now have access to information and services to make better decisions of when and how many children they wish to have.

I’m proud to say that Miheret’s story will be published in the upcoming book, The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (Zondervan March, 2015). Miheret’s story and the stories of other women in developing nations around the world lay the foundation for the book. 46 other authors join this chorus of voices from across American sectors of society: artists, authors, actors, pastors, academic leaders, and nonprofit leaders join together to share their passion for maternal and child health.

More than 220 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to the necessary education and resources that would enable them to do so. This is a critical issue. If women can “time” their first pregnancy until their early twenties, they are twice as likely to survive pregnancy and birth complications. And if they can “space” their pregnancies just three years apart, newborns are healthier and twice as likely to survive infancy. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives.

Maternal, newborn, and child health sit at the nexus of global health issues, influencing so many other challenges: extreme poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Studies show that maternal and child health may have more impact than any other global health issue today. The ripple effect improves the lives of families, communities, societies, and nations.

My job is to advocate for these women, children, and families. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother instructs him in his ruling (Proverbs 31: 8-9):

Speak out for those who cannot speak,? for the rights of all the destitute.?

Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy

Advocacy is providing a voice for those who cannot speak. It is fighting for the marginalized, disenfranchised, and the oppressed.

There is so much we can do, beyond simply giving out of our pocketbook. We can offer our time, our attention, and our voice. We can be the change we want to see in the world. Just a few hundred voices of committed advocates across the U.S. can change the course of legislation to protect funding for U.S. programs that support the lives of women and children and families around the world. Women with stories just like Miheret. Please join us in lending your voice for maternal, newborn, and child health today.

Together,
Jenny Dyer

Originally at Unleash: https://ifgathering.com/unleash/hthh/

 

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