By Kathy Griffith
The Abundant Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church supports mothers and children through teaching about pregnancy and child care, making improved services more accessible and available, and encouraging community participation. Confidence in this partnership leads to trust, empowerment and peace of mind. In communities from Nepal to Congo, where pregnant women’s and small children’s lives are at risk from everyday problems, let alone COVID-19, this connection is life-changing.
Finding local nutritious food
A partner in Nepal, the Nutrition Promotion and Consultancy Service, has implemented a childhood nutrition program in a difficult-to-reach mountainous area. They share practical information with the community through special events that bring women together to dance, sing, compete and learn about health. As a result, mothers are bringing their very small children for growth monitoring and nutritional assistance and breastfeeding their newborns longer, and supportive home visits are taking place. The field team gives food and cooking demonstrations to mothers’ groups in order to introduce local, affordable and nutritious variations into traditional recipes. After 12 months, most families are eating more balanced meals and community opinion leaders are discouraging the ever popular “junk food.”
Health services, healthy home
In rural Central Congo, women are taking advantage of the open doors of the health facility and ownership of new health knowledge. They understand the benefit of multiple prenatal visits, consent to tests, and request malaria-prevention medication and mosquito nets, which are no longer taboo. Services have been made more practical and helpful through mobile clinics and visits from Community Health Worker visits to screen children, village by village, for malnutrition. Kitchen and community gardens have been introduced, and some have had an opportunity to raise chickens. One of the most welcome interventions has been the drilling of two village wells. No more long walks for dirty water. Peace.
The health system in the autonomous region of Tashba Pri in Nicaragua relies heavily on community health workers. A partner, Accion Medica Cristiana (Christian Medical Action), works with community leaders and members to keep health data, particularly about pregnant women and children. They not only address health needs but also promote health through household water treatment, vegetable growing and the installation of smokeless stoves.
In Liberia, the nurse in charge of the clinic at Camphor assumed her post with very little midwifery experience. The community could easily have lost trust in the clinic’s capacity to provide care. Fortunately, the Abundant Health Initiative’s program officer began to mentor her. The nurse’s self-confidence grew, transforming her relationships with coworkers and patients. She became a better leader and manager. “I have learned to be patient and calm,” she said, and the work goes on. We celebrate her in the year of the nurse and midwife!
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has reduced attendance at many of these vital services. Health workers and community leaders continue to urge pregnant women and young children to seek treatment, deliver their babies at health facilities and breastfeed for as long as possible. They also teach and practice the new set of precautions that has come with the pandemic, not to spread panic, but to bring confidence and safety.
As knowledge, respect and autonomy increase through health partnerships in these countries and more around the world, we pray for continued peace of mind for mothers and children.
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