Rotarians impacting the lives mothers and children in Nigeria and Pakistan

By Melissa Willis, Executive Director for Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD)

The Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD) serves as a resource for clubs and districts around the world in the area of maternal and child health. The most challenging aspect of RFPD’s work is the simple fact that this isn’t an issue that can be resolved in merely five or ten years. It’s an ongoing effort with limitless opportunities to impact women and girls worldwide.

RFPD has established and will continue to maintain a database of population based projects. A number of projects have already been completed and provide direct benefit to less developed parts of the world. Our pilot project Improvement of Maternal Health (2005-2010) in northern Nigeria, funded in part by the Rotary Foundation, the German government (BMZ) and the Aventis Foundation, was a comprehensive approach and has been scaled up in three additional states of Nigeria.

Our 5-year-pilot project focused on the two northern states of Nigeria, Kaduna and Kano, with a target group of five million women. Our goal was to identify main risk factors for pregnant women and address them through advocacy and raising awareness at the grass roots level. The elements of our comprehensive approach included radio segments, training of healthcare personnel, delivery of medical equipment, improving the quality of structure and process of healthcare facilities and providing routine HIV/AIDS testing to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Improving the quality of structure and process in hospitals is a prerequisite to improve the health of women and children. Our activities were aimed to establish an Institute of Quality Assurance in Obstetrics by:

  1. Analyzing the structure of the hospitals.
  2. Raising the quality of obstetrical services by making operating theatre and delivery rooms functional.
  3. Training doctors and midwifes to improve the quality of process and outcome for maternal and child health.

We selected ten hospitals in Kaduna and Kano State to participate in data collection of maternal and child mortality, and maternal disorders during pregnancy and delivery. The data provides profound insight and continuous awareness. It also stimulates discussions among doctors and midwifes on preventing maternal mortality. Once the quality of services in hospitals and staff is ensured, the next step is raising awareness among the population on the improved maternal health services. With the help of culturally sensible media campaigns, women will learn about the availability and advantage of improved health services. As a result, they will seek reproductive health services before and during delivery.

In addition, RFPD initiated and supported clubs working on a project in Pakistan that addresses family planning within its borders.  Pakistan’s opportunities for education, employment and access to good health care are being challenged due to the country’s continuously growing population.  Approximately one fourth of Pakistani women wish to delay the birth of their next child, and despite considerable demand for family planning, lack of services and contraceptives only contribute to the rising population crisis.  This project is also being replicated in Ethiopia.

The main objective of RFPD in the coming year is to communicate the importance of sustainability.  While many clubs and districts implement meaningful and worthwhile projects, they are unable to sustain the projects long term due to limited revenue streams and limited volunteers. RFPD has made it our goal to lead by example by ensuring that our projects are sustainable long term.



Rotarians are committed to ending malaria

By Azka Asif, Rotary Programs Staff

Today, World Malaria Day, is dedicated to highlighting the progress made in malaria prevention and treatment. It is also a day to commit to continued action and investment in fighting the dangerous disease.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through female mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization, about 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk. In 2015, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria and 438,000 deaths, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.*

Pregnant women and children under five years old are more vulnerable to malaria. Malaria infection during pregnancy is a major health risk to the mother and her unborn baby. Rotarians are committed to fighting malaria and keeping mothers and babies healthy. Here are just a few examples of how the Rotary family is preventing and treating malaria:

  • The Rotary Club of Asaba in Nigeria led an awareness campaign focused on educating expectant mothers on the dangers of malaria. Rotarians explained ways to prevent the disease through the use of mosquito nets and keeping your environment clean.
  • The Rotaract Club of Niger Delta University in Nigeria led a Roll Back Malaria campaign to raise awareness and teach causes and prevention methods.
  • The Rotary Club of Borivli, India, in partnership with the Rotary Community Corps (RCC) of Devlapada, organized a public seminar on malaria. Local doctors provided insight on causes, ways of prevention, and treatment of the diseases. More than 50 families were educated at the seminar.
  • The Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley aims to use Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) for mosquitoes in six villages benefiting more than 20,000 villagers in Malawi. Each village was identified based on their malaria rate and will also receive training and education on malaria transmission and how to remove areas of standing water for a cleaner environment.

Millions of people still lack access the services they need to prevent and treat malaria. Partner and collaborate with Rotarian experts on malaria related projects and initiatives: 

  • Rotarians Eliminating Malaria: A Rotarian Action Group unites Rotarians to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality through provision of goods, education and other interventions that lower infection rates.
  • Rotarian Malaria Partners encourages the Rotary family to work together to eliminate malaria through advocacy, partnerships, hands on projects, and raising funds to support malaria related efforts.

Use the blog’s commenting feature below and share how your club is working to End Malaria For Good. Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag #WorldMalariaDay. How much do you know about malaria? Take the quiz on malaria.

*[World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2015]



Stopping mothers from dying: a Rotarian’s quest for vocational service

By Past District Governor Dr. Himansu Basu, Rotary Foundation Cadre Technical Coordinator in Maternal and Child Health

Three mothers and twenty babies die every five minutes; the majority of these deaths occur in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. I was always aware of the huge global burden of maternal and new born deaths, many of which are preventable.

When my Rotary district was chosen to be a part of the Future Vision Pilot in 2010, we saw an opportunity to support a project focused on maternal and child health. I realized that to make a meaningful and sustainable impact, the programme would have to be strategic with measurable impact and evidence-based components. It became clear that such an innovative programme would need to be tested as a pilot with close monitoring and evaluation.


Many of my friends and supporters in global professional organisations, governments, NGOs and of course Rotary at all levels helped develop the initial programme. Through these collaborations, the Calmed (Collaborative Action in Lowering of Maternity Encountered Deaths) programme was conceived.

It became obvious that although maternal and child health was a designated area of focus for Rotary International, the problems were not very visible to many Rotarians and non- Rotarians. Many didn’t know about the high life time risk  of woman dying at childbirth: 1 in 40  in Nigeria, 1 in 250 in India and 1 in 5900 in the United Kingdom.* Even though these deaths were largely avoidable, they continued to occur in areas with limited resources.

Leveraging the Rotary Network

As part of the pilot, we also identified a need to mobilize and strengthen resources available within Rotary, including professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives, hospital workers and volunteers) who would support effective maternal and child mortality reduction programmes.

As chairman of International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors, it was natural for me to promote the Calmed programme to a global audience through Rotary International conventions, regional and district conferences, international institutes and other meetings. I accepted the Medical Directorship role with the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development, a RI group of technical experts who advise on Rotarian-led maternal and child health programmes.

As a Rotary Foundation Cadre Technical Coordinator in Maternal and Child Health, I remain engaged and connected with Rotarians seeking assistance with programmes and projects related to reproductive, sexual health and family planning.

What is the Calmed programme?

 The Calmed programme utilizes the train the trainer model to build medical expertise in emergency obstetric and new born care. The programme also raises awareness of pregnancy and child birth related issues in rural villages with limited access to larger health care facilities.

The third component of the programme analyses all maternal deaths to identify avoidable causes and makes recommendations for corrective action (Maternal Death Surveillance Response- MDSR). As the state of the art programme evolves, we continue to add new elements and technologies such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), anti-shock garments (NASG), Golden Hour concept, etc. to address identified needs.

Calmed Vocational Training Teams:

There are three Rotary Global Grant funded Calmed programmes that are currently taking place in:

  • Sikkim, India l Target population 0.7 million – introduced in 2013, with repeat visits in 2014 and 2016.
  • Bhuj, Gujarat, India l Target population 2.5 million  – introduced in 2014 with a second visit in 2016.
  • Madhya Pradesh, India l Target population 3.5 millionpreparatory work is in place and the visit is planned for October, 2016.

So far, these teams have trained 39 approved Master Trainers (goal is 100). These Master Trainers have trained 264 doctors and nurses (goal is 500) in emergency obstetric and new born care, as well as 95 ASHA trainers.

Impact of Calmed Vocational Training Teams:

The primary aim of the programme is to enhance trained workforce in the emergency care of pregnant women and babies and to improve participation of village women groups in raising awareness for health care issues during pregnancy and childbirth. Doctors and nurses in target areas have reported increased confidence in tackling emergencies since the inception of Calmed. A three year follow up from Sikkim shows progressive reduction of maternal deaths to a quarter of yearly deaths in the population since Calmed was introduced 3 years ago.

What can you do?

  • Invest in women and children’s health as it is vital for sustainable economic and social development.*
  • Unleash the power of vocational expertise of Rotarians and professionals, the Calmed VTT programme is a template for action.
  • Share Calmed’s success stories and consider introducing the programme in areas with high rates of maternal and child mortality.

Please act now! Visit the programme website and contact me with any questions or comments. Together, let’s stop mothers from needlessly dying!

The Rotary Calmed programme is an award winning programme having received two coveted national awards – The Times Sternberg Award in 2015 and Rotary GBI Champions of Change Award of 2015-16.

*[World Bank 2014], *[PMNCH, 2013]



Ethical Dilemma Discussion: what do you do?

A member from your club made a new Rotarian friend from abroad at the Rotary Convention and now is excited about the prospect of hosting this friend. Your fellow member wants to use club funds to sponsor that trip. Although the trip won’t be linked to a club program or activity, the visitor would attend club meetings and help with the club’s ongoing projects. Your fellow member wants her guest to experience and understand your country’s culture and values. She’d like other members to take the visitor out for lunches and dinners and to see tourist attractions. But you’re not comfortable using club funds for the visitor’s trip because you don’t see the value for your club. What do you do?

If you would like to submit an ethical dilemma for discussion, email us at

Making a sustainable splash at the Rotary International Convention

By the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag)

As we quickly approach the Rotary International Convention, the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag) is reflecting on the past seven years hosting our annual World Water Summit preceding the convention.

The yearly event has helped us explore important themes within Rotary’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) area of focus, forge service partnerships, exchange challenges and project success stories, build lifelong friendships, and recommit our efforts to addressing one of the world’s most pressing concerns: universal reliable access to clean water and sanitation.

If you’ll be in Seoul, Korea, for the 2016 RI Convention, join us on Friday, 27 May, for the 8th annual World Water Summit where we’ll explore the theme Sustainable Strategies; Sustainable Solutions within the WASH sector.  Register today to secure your spot and take advantage of early bird registration fees. Like Wasrag on Facebook for the latest updates on the World Water Summit.


Wasrag is an RI Board recognized group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants and alumni with an expertise and passion in water, sanitation, and hygiene. Wasrag advises on club and district water, sanitation, and hygiene projects while offering a wealth of resources for enhancing Rotarian and Rotaractor-led projects. Visit to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.


Improving maternal and child health in Uganda

By Past District Governor Ronald Smith, member of the Blue Bell Rotary Club, District 7430 (USA)

I began planning a vocational training team with my son Ryan in 2006, who at the time was a medical student at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, USA, with an interest in doing a rotation in Africa. This idea, combined with my friendship and previous matching grants experience with a governor classmate, Francis Tusibira “Tusu”, who I met at the San Diego Zoo at International Assembly, led to forming a vocational training team.

Later, as we met at various Rotary International conventions, we collaborated on several medical center Matching Grants. When Tusu and I were District Rotary Foundation Chairs in District 9200 (east Africa) and District 7430 (USA) respectively, we began exploring the idea of exchanging medical professionals.  As a District Rotary Foundation Chair, I was interested in learning how vocational training teams would be developed and managed under the new global grants structure.  Combining my personal interests with the support of my district and the Rotary Club of Blue Bell, a detailed plan evolved.

During a personal visit to Uganda in January 2013, I met with the Rotary Club of Kampala North and faculty at Makerere University in Kampala. The need for improved maternal and child healthcare education in suburban and rural areas of Uganda emerged through meetings and discussions between faculty and Rotarians. Visits were made to more than eight health centers and interviews held with health officials and the ministry of health uncovered a need for midwife education in emergency obstetric care and childbirth interventions.

The plan that emerged aimed to:

  • Exchange healthcare professionals to develop sustainable results.
  • Develop a sustainable computer network for educating healthcare professionals.
  • Improve community health center infrastructure with equipment and supplies.

Team members were selected from both Drexel University faculty in the United States and from Makerere University in Uganda. In Uganda, the team provided healthcare to patients along with obstetricians and pediatric training for health center staff. Drexel faculty was trained in Helping Babies Breathe, an infant resuscitation technique used in resource-limited settings, and Helping Mothers Survive, an innovative training initiative designed to equip health workers with the knowledge and skills they need to prevent mothers from dying during birth. The team helped set up health camps, trained midwives, and provided a computer network that will not only assist with continued self-training,  but will also be the back-bone for distance education learning. During the vocational training team from Uganda’s visit to Drexel, they were trained in developing distance education courses focused in healthcare.

These teams of doctors, nurses, midwives and information technology faculty have now exchanged twice.  Both teams immersed in one another’s environments and cultures. Through the personal and professional relationships that have been made between the two medical schools, these universities have now signed major collaboration agreements that will sustain this effort well beyond the vocational training teams. Additionally, the Ugandan health centers will become Centers of Excellence in Midwife Training and demonstrates how Rotary clubs and universities both in Uganda and the rest of Africa can work together to develop sustainable technology-based healthcare education systems.

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Rotarians taking action to improve maternal and child health

By the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD)

We believe that maternal and child health is not only an important area of focus, but the most important of the six areas of focus. Women in the twentieth century have achieved significant progress in the economically progressive areas of the world. Meanwhile, women and girls in non-developed countries have a much more difficult life, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. Many of these women and girls accept their inferior social status and tend to fall into traditional roles.

Economic depression often times forces extended families to live together under one roof, leaving young women who desire to make even the smallest change in their lives to fall under the subordinate customs and values of their parents and their grandparents. In addition, many non-developed countries still commonly marry off underage girls, many of who are under the age of thirteen but the vast majority being under the age of 18. This not only impacts their opportunity for an education, but has a profound effect on the number of pregnancy-related complications that occur for girls who are not physiologically ready to bare children. To combat this, we must address family planning to reduce 30% of maternal deaths which will ultimately empower women and achieve a demographic dividend for developing countries.

The Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD) is a resource in the Maternal and Child Health area of focus and supports clubs and districts in initiating, planning and implementing professional projects. Our group is headed by three dedicated leaders from around the world:  Mr. Buck Lindsay of the U.S., Prof. Robert Zinser of Germany, and Dr. Emmanuel Adelodolapo Lufadeju of Nigeria. Each has served in various leadership roles in Rotary International and has a vast network of Rotary contacts.

As an organization of 20,000 Rotary members, we address the population crisis around the world. RFPD agrees that more aid is needed in this area. We are dedicated to motivating the 1.2 million Rotarians around the world in developing and implementing projects that directly address population issues.

The Rotary Foundation grants more than $70 million USD each year to Rotarian-led projects around the world.  Within this framework, RFPD plays an important role in developing, promoting, obtaining financial support and coordinating projects that specifically address population and development issues. We serve as liaison between the local Rotary clubs applying for funds and the Rotary Foundation to ensure proper paperwork is completed in a timely manner.

In its work, the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development shifts values among community and political leaders in countries, by speaking out on population and development issues and commiting resources and efforts towards solving the problem.  In most communities, Rotarians are seen as the leaders in all professions and vocations, and as multipliers in society.  When sufficiently convinced of the merits of population advocacy, Rotarians can be most effective in further spreading the word and work.

Visit RFPD’s website for the latest updates.



Rotary’s commitment to saving mothers and babies

By Azka Asif, Rotary Programs Staff

Everyone everywhere has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. However, gender-based discrimination often undercuts this right. It causes women to be more susceptible to sickness and less likely to obtain care, for reasons ranging from affordability to social conventions keeping them at home. *

Through projects focused in maternal and child health, Rotary members are committed to reaching United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

A mother and her daughter hang out outside the classrooms at Rancho Alegre schools in California, USA.Each year, at least seven million children under the age of five die from diseases, malnutrition, poor health care, and inadequate sanitation. To help reduce this rate, Rotary members provide immunizations and antibiotics to babies, improve access to essential medical services, and support trained health care providers for mothers and their children. Nearly 80% of maternal deaths can be prevented with access to reproductive health services and trained health care workers. Rotary projects aim to provide education, immunizations, birthing kits, and mobile health clinics to support these causes.

During April, Rotary Maternal and Child Health Month, we’re celebrating our commitment to improving the lives of mothers and babies around the world. Here are just a few examples of service projects that are aiming to create healthier lives:

  • The Rotary Club of Metro East Taytay in the Philippines partnered with a group of medical practitioners to provide free health services to more than 100 women who come from low-income families and were unable to afford healthcare.
  • In Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt GRA provided free healthcare treatment to mothers and children from more than 120 families. Women and children were tested and treated for various diseases and ailments and those whose conditions were severe, were referred to hospitals for further checkups and treatment.
  • The Rotaract Club of Kampala annually leads a Save a Mother, Save a Child in their community. This year the project aimed to educate expecting mothers, provide cervical cancer screening, family planning services, and HIV/AIDS testing and counseling.
  • Haiti has the highest rate of maternal and infant mortality in the western hemisphere. 91% of women deliver at home. Rotary members provided a fully equipped medical jeep carrying up to 12 volunteers to any region in Haiti. The jeep allows mobile clinics to be run in hard to reach places to provide health services to expecting mothers. Watch the video below about this project.

Throughout the month of April, encourage fellow Rotary members to check back here for tips, resources, and inspirational success stories to help plan club and district maternal and child health projects. Add your voice to the conversation using the blog’s commenting feature and share how your club supports water and sanitation initiatives on Rotary Showcase. 




Collaborate with Rotary partners to further your Water and Sanitation projects

By Chandra Palmer, Rotary International Area of Focus Coordinator

Throughout the developing world, access to clean water and sanitation is far from common. Rotarians work with cooperating organizations to create lasting, positive change through water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) initiatives.

Since 2009, Rotary International has been partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on an International H2O Collaboration in targeted countries to help both organizations take advantage of their unique strengths to improve social and economic conditions in developing countries. For Rotary, this partnership is an opportunity to tap into our global network to support projects that provide access to clean water and improved sanitation. For USAID, it’s a chance to advance the Water and Development Strategy Plan by giving Rotary members and their partners the technical support needed to design and carry out WASH initiatives.

20090407_UG_387By promoting local solutions to address community needs, the collaboration is creating a process that can be replicated in communities worldwide. In 2015 the collaboration initiated activities in two project countries: Uganda and Ghana. Between 2015 and 2018, the collaboration has committed $4 million to each country to support WASH initiatives.

Here are a few examples of the collaboration in action:

  • In March 2016, it was announced Ugandan Rotarians will begin planning activities with USAID Mission-Uganda. It is anticipated a strategic planning session for Uganda will be held in the summer of 2016.
  • In April 2015, Ghanaian Rotarians, Global Communities (USAID’s implementing partner) and USAID Mission-Ghana began discussions with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (the government agency in charge of rural water and sanitation in Ghana). 13 districts in Ghana have been selected and approximately 130 communities have been earmarked for WASH service interventions. Project implementation is anticipated to start in May 2016.
  • Between 2009 and 2013, the Rotary Club of Accra East in Ghana, with support from clubs in the U.S., worked with the collaboration to provide WASH services to more than 100 rural communities. WASH projects included constructing ventilated pit latrines and pour-flush or flush toilets, and providing hygiene education.
  • Rotary clubs in the Dominican Republic worked with Save the Children, ENTRENA, and Mujeres en Desarrollo Dominicana to install more than 6,700 household water treatment and safe storage systems, along with other WASH activities. ENTRENA also developed an education program to train community facilitators how to install, operate, and maintain filters and to promote hygiene. In turn, the facilitators shared their knowledge in their communities to ensure ongoing support of WASH initiatives.
  • In the Philippines, nearly 11 million people lack access to improved sanitation, and an additional 60 million people rely on sanitation systems that are poorly maintained and unsafe. Rotary clubs throughout the Philippines and other nongovernmental agencies supported hygiene training, rural water supply, wastewater treatment and management activities at five sites in Luzon and Mindanao.

Even if your club or district isn’t in a project country, you can still support a project as an international sponsor. International sponsors work with a host club or district in areas where the collaboration is supporting projects. Contact to learn more.



Educating future water leaders through Rotary’s partnership with UNESCO-IHE

By Ir. H.J. Kloosterman, Rotary Host Area Coordinator of the UNESCO-IHE Scholarship program

My Rotary life suddenly changed in late 2011 when then Trustee of the Rotary Foundation, Steve Brown, dropped me an email saying he was coming to the Netherlands to talk to UNESCO-IHE. I knew Steve from his involvement in efforts to start Rotary in Afghanistan and the Sultanate of Oman (where I lived at the time), and now I suddenly found out that Steve was involved in setting up a partnership between The Rotary Foundation and UNESCO-IHE, the world’s largest postgraduate water education facility, located in Delft, Netherlands.

At that time I knew very little about UNESCO-IHE, but quickly learned about this vibrant and multi-cultural centre of excellence on water education. What struck me here was not only Rotary’s commitment to provide funding to support UNESCO-IHE students in their 18 month graduate studies in Water Management and Sanitation, but also to ensure ample support from both the sponsoring Rotary clubs in their home countries, as well as from the local clubs in the Netherlands during their stay abroad.

The second batch of Rotary sponsored UNESCO-IHE students and their Dutch Rotary host counselors celebrate the successful completion of the 18 month “Water Management and Sanitation” MS program at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, the Netherlands.

Rotary sponsored UNESCO-IHE students and their Dutch Rotary host counselors celebrate the successful completion of the 18 month UNESCO-IHE scholarship program in Delft, the Netherlands.

This for me is Rotary at its best: a combination of Rotary funding whilst leveraging the Rotary network to ensure the scholarships deliver tangible results. Since the start of the program, more than 50 UNESCO-IHE scholars from 29 countries have been sponsored. This relates to an investment of more than USD $1.6 million by Rotary, money very well spent. The first two groups of 24 students have graduated, 80% of them have returned home and are working in the water sector and applying their new skills.

It is extremely gratifying to see the energy and drive of these highly motivated and intelligent students, fully committed to raise the standards of water sanitation in their home country upon graduation The scholarship program is a very nice and hands-on example of Rotary Serving Humanity and I am honored and feel very proud to be associated with this program, it has enriched my life!

Visit the UNESCO-IHE website for more information and like them on Facebook for the latest updates.