Take collaborative strategic action to lower maternal deaths

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

In honor of Maternal and Child Health Month, Past District Governor Dr. Himansu Basu, a Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors for Maternal and Child Health, shares about his team’s work to save the lives of mothers and babies in partnership with Rotarians, other professional volunteers, and governments.

Azka: Dr. Basu, last year you shared an update on the success of the Calmed (Collaborative Action in Lowering of Maternity Encountered Deaths) programme. Have you had any recent developments?

Dr. Basu:
Calmed, started in 2013, is funded through Rotary Foundation grants, supported by hands-on efforts of volunteer doctors and Rotarians from the United Kingdom and India. Two global grants have supported six vocational training team (VTT) visits to Sikkim, with a target population of 0.7 million, and Gujarat with a target population of 2.5 million.

Our team of 12 Obstetricians has trained 39 master trainers who continue to train professionals (currently just over 250) in emergency care of pregnant women and babies. The team has also trained approximately 100 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) who raise awareness about pregnancy, child care and related issues through community women’s groups.

The programme was recognized with two international awards for excellence in 2016 — Times Sternberg award and Rotary GBI Champion of Change.

AA: Have you achieved your objectives for the programme?

HB: Maternal mortality reduction programmes take time to achieve their goal – zero preventable maternal death. We are on track for improvements in access to effective care. After three years, we see a steady fall in the number of avoidable maternal deaths in all of Sikkim, our first pilot site. We are moving towards our target of zero preventable maternal deaths.

AA: What can Rotarians do to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Maternal mortality is an index of development in any community – an effective project in any of Rotary’s six areas of focus will also decrease maternal and child mortality, albeit slowly. For a more direct measurable response, a comprehensive strategy based on the Calmed template aimed at reducing the shortage of trained professionals while promoting community awareness regarding childbirth and child care issues should be implemented.

AA: What advice can you offer Rotarians planning a global grant project to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Create a strategic programme with vocational training teams being a key component. It’s important to have experienced project committees supported by health professionals, and public health experts. Close collaboration with motivated Rotarians and government in the project host country is essential for impact and sustainability. The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors can be a valuable resource in planning, implementation and the follow-up stages. Expertise is also available from Rotarian Action Groups such as the Population and Development, Health Education and Wellness, and Preconception Care groups.

A planning visit to the project area by the international partner is very important and should focus on identifying local assets and needs, partnership opportunities with local government and professionals.

AA: What advice can you offer for organising a vocational training team aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality?

Himansu: A vocational training team for improving maternal and child health should be structured to meet the needs of the community. Here are examples of scaling a project:

Scenario 1 targets several smaller hospitals or one large hospital. Two to four experienced doctors train a group of 10 to 20 doctors and nurses on emergency care of pregnant women and new-borns.

Scenario 2 targets several larger hospitals or many smaller hospitals. 5-7 experienced doctors train 20 to 25 motivated trainers who then qualify as master trainers. These master trainers go on to train others (30-40 at a time). Two return team visits should be conducted for evaluation and further training.

Scenario 3 targets a community of one million or more. This is a most effective method, but requires close collaboration with local government. A team of 7 to 10 experienced doctors undertake:

  • training cascade as in Scenario 2 (above)
  • training 15 to 20 ASHA trainers to raise community health awareness. The ASHAs then train women’s groups in towns and villages throughout the target area
  • analysing all maternal deaths in the target area to identify preventable causes and facilitate corrective measures in partnership with local government

AA: Which scenario is most effective in your opinion?

HB: Clearly Scenario 3, but it is also the one requiring more time and resources.

AA: Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise! What is your vision for the future?

HB: We cannot rest on our laurels. We need to facilitate and provide support for Rotarians in many low resource countries to introduce more strategic programmes for the entire community based on the Calmed VTT template. Please contact me for further information and suggestions. Also, visit the Calmed programme website for more information.

We are in discussion to establish maternal and child health academies in partnership with governments and NGOs to provide academic support, carry out the work of vocational training teams and advocate to develop future programmes and future leaders achieve our goal of zero preventable maternal death.

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Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan

By Bibi Bahrami, member of the Rotary Club of Muncie and founder of AWAKEN

Growing up as a young girl in the peaceful village of Qala-e-Malakh in Afghanistan, I was part of a loving family with ten brothers and sisters. We were happy, but little did we know that our lives would soon face devastation as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I was frightened and scared for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Every time I heard shots or explosions, I trembled at the thought of losing a family member.

In the face of war, we were forced to flee our home, leaving everything behind to head towards refugee camps in Pakistan. A long journey awaited us as we traveled through mountains without much food or water, with small children and my mother who was eight months pregnant at the time. We arrived to the camps safely where I spent the next six years of my life. My life had been turned upside down. Growing up, I always had aspirations and dreams to be educated, and hoped for the opportunity to pursue them. My six years in the camp did not give me that opportunity, but I tried to learn what I could from my brothers’ books.

In 1986, I boarded a plane to meet my fiancé, who was a medical student in the United States who I had met in the refugee camp in Pakistan. My trip brought me to Muncie, Indiana, and I was blessed with the opportunity that I had always wanted. I was finally able to pursue my education, completing a GED and continuing on to receive an art degree from Ball State University. As my life has moved on from my home in Qala-e-Malakh and the refugee camps, I never forgot about the girls I left behind who have the same dreams as I did.

My husband and I continued to travel back to the refugee camps in Pakistan every year, with medicine and other humanitarian supplies. In 2002, with the support of family and friends, we established AWAKEN (Afghan Women and Kids Education & Necessities) to provide educational opportunities, vocational training, and healthcare services to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children.

As part of AWAKEN, we offered a vocational training program where we traveled from village to village and rented a room conveniently located near women’s homes. We conducted a six-month course teaching women basic hygiene, reading, writing, and sewing. At the end of the course, all women received a sewing machine and kit so they could become self-sufficient.

There were also no opportunities for education in my hometown of Qala-e-Malakh. In 2004, AWAKEN established a school for children grades K-12. The school now has more than 1200 students enrolled.

Most villages in Afghanistan do not have access to any sort of healthcare. In 2008, we built the Behsood Health Clinic which provides over 500 families access to basic treatments such as vaccines, birth control, etc. The clinic sees more than 180 patients daily.

Recently, AWAKEN partnered with the Rotary Club of Muncie Sunrise (United States) and the Rotary Club of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to establish a Saheli Center. The center will open near the current AWAKEN clinic and school providing literacy, nutrition, and reproductive health classes. The center will also provide vocational education, including but not limited to computers and tailoring expanding upon AWAKEN’s efforts.

One of my biggest dreams was to open a birthing center in the village. AWAKEN created a birthing center to provide prenatal and postnatal care. With the support of partnering Rotary clubs, we will expand our efforts by conducted Family Planning Workshops taught by medical professionals from the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and the AWAKEN clinic staff. Birth attendants will also conduct small workshops on pre-natal nutrition, birthing practices and infant nutrition, including breast feeding for those receiving pre-natal care. Small packages of infant care supplies provided by the Rotary clubs will be given to women who complete all the classes.

I was once a little girl in Afghanistan with limited opportunities, and am blessed to have the life I enjoy today. Unfortunately, people living in impoverished countries do not have access to the opportunities and resources that I do now. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many women and children in Afghanistan, so that they can awaken to a brighter future with opportunities for continuing their education and becoming self-sufficient!

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Prioritizing women’s and girl’s health through Rotary and Peace Corps

By Katie Northcott, Rotary Global Grants Scholar and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

“Je ne sais pas quoi faire”. I don’t know what to do. Six words that can define any experience with an unintended pregnancy, especially for a teenager. In this case, I was standing in front of a 16-year-old Burkinabe girl who had participated in a youth sexual health education camp I had organised just a few weeks earlier. During the camp, she learned about sexual and reproductive health issues including contraception, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and the importance of planning for the future. During the session on pregnancy, the young woman realised that perhaps the symptoms she was experiencing were more than just general illness. A pregnancy test at the health clinic the following week confirmed her fears.

My Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso, where this experience took place, guided my current career path and life focus. I wanted my work to ensure that other young people would not find themselves in similar situations. Initially motivated by the concept of economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa as a conduit to support women’s rights, I had pursued Economics, African Studies, and French during my undergraduate studies.

A research project studying women’s experiences starting their businesses took me to Senegal where I met the president of a micro-finance office providing income-generating activity training as well as contraceptive and reproductive health services. Here, I directly connected a woman’s and girl’s well-being and participation in the public and economic sphere to the ability to make choices about her own health. From then on, I knew I wanted to focus on sexual and reproductive health rights, which led me to apply to Peace Corps and serve as a Community Health Development volunteer in Burkina Faso.

Working in a rural setting in a country with some of the world’s worst health outcomes, particularly for maternal, neonatal and child health, is challenging. As a volunteer, you often expect to make ground-breaking changes in your host community within a two-and-a-half-year time span. Realistically, projects and their outcomes only reach a small community, and their effects may not be seen until after the end of one’s service.

However, the focus on local, context-specific solutions – working from grassroots community level rather than a top-down approach – became a cornerstone of my career goals. I decided to apply for a Master’s degree in Population and Development at the London School of Economics, focusing on sexual and reproductive health in low-resource settings in Sub-Saharan Francophone Africa.

After much research, I applied for a Rotary Global Grants scholarship to help me pursue the graduate degree. I was awarded a scholarship focused in maternal and child health through District 7620 in the United States. Rotary’s alignment with Peace Corps’ own vision, to make a lasting impact on the world around us, made me feel proud to be a Global Grants scholar. Upon arriving in London, the Rotary community was warm and welcoming. While I have since left London, I still feel very much a part of the Rotary community.

Once I completed my degree, I began working for AmplifyChange, a multi-donor fund providing grants to civil society organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America who advocate for and promote better policy and action on neglected sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. As a member of the grants support team, I interact with grantees who are doing vitally important work all over the world.

Without first living in Burkina Faso with Peace Corps and working on the ground, my goal to continue supporting local efforts to advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights would not be realised. Without Rotary’s grant for my master’s degree, my pursuit of this goal would have been nearly impossible to achieve in such a short span of time. Now, I can contribute to the work of organisations around the world who envision universal access to the services and protections individuals need to fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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Rotary members are dedicated to maternal and child health

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff 

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries where nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not receive care during and after birth. The leading causes of death for children under 5 are birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. These deaths can be prevented and treated with access to healthcare services.*

Healthcare before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, addresses all major health priorities, including reproductive, maternal and child health; access for all to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines.*

Rotary members are working diligently towards this goal through projects that provide education, immunizations, birth kits, mobile health clinics, and much more. Women are taught how to prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission, how to breast-feed, and how to protect themselves and their children from disease. Here are just a few examples of Rotary projects that are saving mothers and children:

  • Rotary clubs in the Philippines are implementing the Cradle of Hope project which provides cradle boxes for newborn babies. Each box contains postpartum care materials and newborn supplies such as grooming and healthcare kits, and clothing for babies up to 9 months of age.
  • The Rotary Club of Accra East in Ghana conducted a community-wide medical outreach program. More than 300 members of the community, including many women and children, benefited from health screenings and received necessary medical supplies.
  • The Rotary Club of Dhaka North in Bangladesh assists pregnant women who cannot afford the cost of delivery by providing no cost surgeries and other necessary medicine during emergencies.
  • After learning about high mortality rates in India, Past Rotary International Director Ken Collins organized a vocational training team consisting of two gynecologists and two midwives. The team traveled with him from Australia to Raipur, India, to train local health workers on best obstetrical practices aimed at reducing the high mortality rate of mothers and babies due to childbirth.
  • In Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Calabar South-CB partnered with the Rotaract Club of Canaan City CB to educate mothers on how to combat infant mortality, and promote the health of both mother and child during and after birth. Rotary members donated materials to help nursing mothers and babies including diapers, detergents, toilet papers, and baby soaps.

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Throughout the month of April, Rotary Maternal and Child Health Month, take action to support mothers and children. Read more stories about maternal and child health to gain inspiration for club and district service projects. Post your club’s project on Rotary Showcase, find a project to support on Rotary Ideas, or join the conversation in My Rotary’s discussion groups!

*http://www.who.int
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

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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.

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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.

Collaboration

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]

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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.

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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. 

*[www.unwomen.org]

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