When I travel to low-income countries I am most interested in learning about and reporting on maternal and newborn health. As a mother of two daughters it is my biggest passion.
Today on Giving Tuesday I am proud to work with one of my favorite international nonprofit organizations: World Vision USA. I had the distinct opportunity to travel with them to the Philippines a few years ago and saw their programs for women and newborns at a local clinic that had been rebuilt after seeing major structural damage by Typhoon Haiyan. I am always grateful to see up close the amazing work done by organizations I admire.
This year for Giving Tuesday I am happy to say that your charitable donation to World Vision’s lifesaving work with mothers and newborns will be generously matched in product by Thirty-One Gifts. Products like totes (such as the one seen below), blankets, apparel, and thermals will be matched up to $2,000,000 and will be given to help mothers and infants around the world where World Vision works. That’s a lot of giving in one day!
Nutrition of women before and during pregnancy and when breastfeeding is critical in determining the health and survival of the mother and of her unborn baby.
Undernourished pregnant women have higher reproductive risks. They are more likely to experience obstructed labour, or to die during or after childbirth. Poor nutrition in pregnancy also results in babies growing poorly in the womb and being born underweight and susceptible to diseases. These mothers also invariably produce low quality breast milk.
Maternal malnutrition has inter-generational consequences because it is cyclical. Poor nutrition in pregnancy is linked to undernourishment in-utero which results in low birth weight, pre-maturity, and low nutrient stores in infants. These babies end up stunted and, in turn, give birth to low birth weight babies. Optimal maternal nutrition is therefore vital to break this inter-generational cycle.
In Kenya, women’s nutritional needs during pregnancy has not received much attention. This has exposed a gap in efforts to improve maternal and child health.
I have had the great pleasure of seeing two SOS Children’s Villages: one in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the other in Chicago, Illinois. While they are markedly different the premise is the same and that is to provide quality care with a loving family for children who have been orphaned or abandoned.
The SOS Children’s Village I visited in Chicago looks like many neighborhoods you might see anywhere in America, but it is made up of 17 single-family homes led by a Foster Parent with children who desperately need SOS Children’s Villages services. In fact, the Chicago Village is SOS Children’s Villages first urban village in the world. SOS Children’s Villages provides stable family homes for children who may not have parents at all or may have parents who are incapable of taking care of them properly.
Breastfeeding has both short-term and long-term nutritional benefits for children. Nutrition is central to sustainable development. Good nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life is critical for child growth, well being and survival, and future productivity.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for children until they are six months old and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feedings until children are two, for optimal growth and development.
What Kenya did right
Kenya has seen a remarkable growth in exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months old. In 2003 only 13% of mothers were breastfeeding exclusively. This year, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey, 61% of mothers of children aged less than six months were breastfeeding exclusively.