Maternal and Child Health
The resources to save children's and mothers' lives are basic. The knowledge that leads to infant and maternal health is common. The solutions are simple. Yet millions of mothers and children die or suffer needlessly. In sub-Saharan Africa 20% of children die before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases. UMCOR’s maternal and child health programs work to turn these statistics around.
UMCOR Health is working towards decreasing maternal and child mortality communities by 2012. By using a community-based approach UMCOR is engaging communities in their own health concerns so that the program will continue and grow according to the community’s needs. Access to basic health care dramatically increases the health of mothers and their babies.
Through educational programs and basic health resources, mothers learn about proper nutrition, including the importance of breastfeeding. Health workers encourage women to breastfeed their infants exclusively for the first six months and thereafter as long as they are able to.
Rural and urban mothers, health workers, pastors, and evangelists receive training in life-saving oral rehydration. In Bangladesh in the late 1960s, a simple, miracle discovery was made in treating children with life-threatening diarrhea: a homemade solution that can be given by mouth to prevent dehydration. Consisting of salt, baking soda (if available), sugar, and clean water, this solution is given to infants and children at the first sign of diarrhea.
Preventable childhood diseases are still prevalent in many areas of the world. Health care workers receive the knowledge and resources to provide immunizations for the six primary childhood diseases: polio, tetanus, whooping cough, typhoid, measles, tuberculosis and hepatitis B. Polio continues to strike and kill children. Even mild cases can be disabling and prevent young men and women from supporting themselves. When pregnant women are immunized against tetanus their babies are protected as well. Neonatal tetanus is a common cause of death in infants. Whooping cough causes prolonged illness in children in developing countries. When combined with malnutrition, the child often dies. Likewise, measles, typhoid, and tuberculosis are still major killers in some countries.
Mothers and community health workers learn to use growth charts to monitor a child's overall physical condition. Monthly weighing and monitoring of infants and children under five years of age enables mothers to know how their children are growing and if they are properly nourished. If a child is underweight or her weight decreases from one month to the next, health workers provide counseling, nutrition education and assistance.
At the weekly prenatal clinics mothers-to-be check in, receive a basic examination by the hospital’s midwife or the Village Health Worker and learn important information about having a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery and how to care for themselves and their newborn baby. Women learn when they need to go to the hospital and how to identify problems with their pregnancy. They also receive tetanus toxoid immunization and information on testing for HIV/AIDS to prevent transmission from mother to child. Mosquito net distribution and treatment for malaria also help address a top killer for pregnant women and their young children. Regular prenatal check-ups save lives.
Traditional Birth Attendant Training
Often women give birth at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant. TBAs learn to conduct deliveries from their mothers or mothers-in-laws. Through training TBAs learn to conduct aseptic deliveries, recognize high-risk pregnancies and know when to refer patients to the hospital. They also give important advice to the mothers on family planning, nutrition and infant care.
Under Fives Clinic
Regular clinics held at hospitals and rural health posts encourage mothers to bring their young children (under five years old) for check-ups. At these clinics the children are weighed, measured and monitored for regular growth and development. Immunizations are given. Mosquito nets are distributed. Health education is provided for the mothers as well. Children who show signs of malnutrition may receive supplements and be more closely monitored.
These clinics provide an opportunity to give a helping hand to the community’s most-fragile members. Children under five years old are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, malaria, and other illnesses. These weekly check-ups provide an often lifesaving intervention.