Malnutrition in Children

4 Causes of Malnutrition in Children and What You Can Do About It

As a concerned parent, you are sensitive to the nutritional needs of your child, and that includes avoiding risk factors that could lead to malnutrition. Understanding the major causes of malnutrition can help you form good habits when it comes to your own health as a parent, as well as the health of your child.  Here, we breakdown four major factors that contribute to malnutrition in children.

Poor Quality of Diet 

Malnutrition, at its core, is a dietary deficiency that results in poor health conditions. We typically think of malnutrition as it relates to children not eating enough of the right foods. It can also occur when children eat too much of the wrong foods. Either way, more than 170 million children fail to reach their full potential due to poor nutrition.

At a Save the Children-supported school in Bolivia, young children enjoy healthy snacks.
At a Save the Children-supported school in Bolivia, young children enjoy healthy snacks.

Malnutrition can occur in children of all ages, but young children are the most vulnerable. The World Health Organization has stated that malnutrition is the single most dangerous threat to global public health [1]. It contributes to 45 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5 [2].  This is due, in part, to the critical importance of the first two years of a child’s life.

Maternal Health

The largest window of opportunity for a child’s health occurs in the first 1,000 days-from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. Mothers who are malnourished during their pregnancy can experience complications giving birth. Many children are born small because their mothers are undernourished[3].  Severely malnourished mothers can also have trouble breastfeeding their infants.

We know that breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life has health benefits that extend into adulthood. However, if a mother is too malnourished to breastfeed, these health benefits may not be passed on and a child can be at risk for malnutrition. This is especially true in developing countries.

At a Save the Children-supported health center in Tanzania, Zinak*, 24 and 7-months pregnant, receives a prenatal check up.
At a Save the Children-supported health center in Tanzania, Zinak*, 24 and 7-months pregnant, receives a prenatal check up.

Mothers like Zinak*, pictured above, who live in developing countries can be unaware of nutritional benefits of breastfeeding. In Tanzania, for example, the average duration of breastfeeding is only 2.4 months[4].  Tanzania is one of the 10 worst affected countries in the world by chronic malnutrition and is the third worst in Africa.

Global health programs like the ones Save the Children supports works to help maternal, newborn and child health, which ultimately helps end child malnutrition. We work in many of the world’s poorest places, in the United States and abroad, to alleviate child hunger and prevent malnutrition. However, children living developed countries are still at risk for malnutrition if they are born into poverty.

 

Socioeconomic Status

Poverty is the number one cause of malnutrition in developing countries. Often times, families living in poverty lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many communities do not have full-service grocery stores that regularly stock fresh produce.

Even if they do, fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive. When fresh fruits and vegetables are out of reach for children, they can fill up on less expensive, less healthy foods.

Rebecca, 25, holds her daughter Rachael*, 11 months while she eats high nutrient peanut paste after being treated for severe acute malnutrition at a Save the Children stabilization center in South Sudan.
Rebecca, 25, holds her daughter Rachael*, 11 months while she eats high nutrient peanut paste after being treated for severe acute malnutrition at a Save the Children stabilization center in South Sudan.

War and Conflict

Sadly, the violence of war and political unrest can also lead to severe malnutrition. In South Sudan, for example, conflict and drought has led to devastating conditions for children. Save the Children in South Sudan is the lead health and nutrition provider in much of the region. We run 58 feeding program sites for infants and young children, all powered by the support of our donors.

The crisis in Syria has also shed light on the number of refugee children who are at risk of malnutrition. Children, who make up more than half of the world’s 22.5 million refugees[5], often go without healthy food, health care and an education.

Access to food and water has become a heartbreaking challenge— leaving thousands of Syrian children at risk for malnutrition. There are many ways to help Syrian refugee children. Your knowledge and support can make a world of difference for children around the world.

 

*Name changed for protection

[1] [2] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs178/en/

[3] https://www.savethechildren.org/content/dam/usa/reports/advocacy/sowm/sowm-2014.pdf

[4] https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/events/breastfeeding

[5] https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/emergency-response/refugee-children-crisis

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What is Child Sponsorship & How Does It Work?

Child Sponsorship 101

As we step into the new year and reflect on the joys and blessings to come, it’s important to remember that there are children around the world who are suffering and in need of our help to have the future they deserve.

A child’s future is determined – to a large extent — within the first few years of their lives. You can help make a difference in these lives in order to ensure these children reach their full potential. For the millions of children who need help around the world, a small contribution can go a long way.

We can provide newborns with a healthy start, give children a strong foundation in education, and empower teens with the skills needed for promising careers. Choosing a child through a sponsorship program can make a world of difference in one person’s life and to the lives they touch as they grow.

So, where do you begin? You likely have a lot of questions as to how you can help and how sponsoring a child through Save the Children can help positively impact a person’s life — through childhood and beyond. Read on to learn more about how you can make a difference.

Basic Education - Indonesia

 

What is child sponsorship?

Through the child sponsorship program, you the donor can choose a child whose story has touched your life in a special way. Even if you’re halfway around the globe, you may see some similarities between yourself, your loved ones, and a child you wish to sponsor. Each month, your sponsorship helps provide children with the necessities for a healthy and successful start to their life – nutrition, early childhood and adolescent development, education and school health.. Over the course of months – or even years – your sponsorship will continue to make an impact on this child and his or her community.

As of 2016, Save the Children and the sponsors we are fortunate to work with have benefitted over 2.5 million children worldwide, in 43 global communities, and have contributed over $70.7 million to enrich the lives of these children.

What does it mean to be a child sponsor?

The primary goal of sponsorship is to help provide children with their best chance for success. Through the sponsorship program you will develop a strong and important relationship with the child through letters, birthday cards and photos. The most important aspect of being a child sponsor is the impact you will have on the community as a whole. Your contributions will directly affect the education, health care, recreation and safety of others within the community, as well.

How much does it cost to sponsor a child?

You can help change the lives of children all over the world for just over $1 a day. Sponsorship starts at $36 per month, and you will be changing the lives of more than just one child.[1] Your contributions are combined with other sponsors and donors in order to help better entire communities. This ensures that children in these communities still benefit from the programs and support even if they do not have a sponsor of their own. If you’re able to give more than $36 per month, your donation will help achieve greater goals for the children of these communities.

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What impact does sponsoring a child have on the community?

The positive impact on the lives of these children can’t be measured in money alone. Thanks to our network of generous sponsors like you, we’ve been able to help treat 418,000 children for parasitic infections (often due to unclean, unsafe water in their regions), making sure their childhood is as healthy and happy as possible. We were also able to equip 37,000 parents with the tools they need to support their children’s early development. And we’ve helped train 6,000 teachers to give children in impoverished parts of the globe the education they need to build a better life for themselves and their community.

Your contributions help lift entire communities and assist not only the children, but also the families, caregivers, and other people in a given area. Depending on which program and age group you wish to sponsor, you’re able to help a wide range of people [2]:

  • Babies & Expecting Mothers: Even before birth, you’ll improve the lives of expectant mothers and provide them with the health and nutrition services that will ensure their babies begin life happy and healthy.
  • Toddlers & Young Children: You’ll be able to provide children with early learning opportunities that will lay a strong foundation for educational success. You’ll be able to improve the overall learning experience for all children in the community ensuring the quality education they deserve.
  • Teens & Pre-Teens: Adolescence is a time of intense change that shapes future opportunities. With your assistance, you will help pre-teens and teenagers build lasting life and work skills to build a better community.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. With millions of children living in poverty, it is the primary goal of Save the Children to connect children in need with people like you who want to become involved and make a serious impact. Sponsorship provides these children with the necessities for a successful and healthy start to a bright future. Through sponsorship, you’ll be able to support these children as they learn and grow.

If you’d like to sponsor a child and make a tax-deductible donation today, please connect with us for more information.

[1] https://support.savethechildren.org/site/SPageNavigator/sponsorship.html 

[2] http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/2016%20CHILD%20SPON%20YEAR%20IN%20REVIEW_DIGITAL_FINAL.PDF 

Through Viona’s Eyes

VicHeadshotWEBVictoria Zegler

Multimedia Storyteller

Save the Children in Indonesia

February 25, 2018

10-year-old Viona lives in a remote community tucked away in Central Sumba, Indonesia. She lives in a small village that does not have access to electricity or

Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!
Viona is now able to explore herself in sponsorship programs by learning how the importance of a healthy lifestyle!

running water. Poor hygiene is common in remote areas where Viona lives and children like her are faced with it every day. Prior to sponsorship, Viona did not understand the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to her success in school. Just last year, Viona suffered from malaria due to the lack of awareness of the illness and not being able to identify her symptoms.

In 2016, Viona was given the opportunity to become a Little Doctor at her school. The program, which is an innovation from the School Health and Nutrition program, enforces healthy lifestyle choices through peer-to-peer educational activities, an approach to help promote health within student groups. These activities include washing hands and monitoring the cleanliness of their classrooms, latrines and the school environment. “My favorite person is a doctor,” Viona said. “When I get older I want to be a doctor because they not only help sick people but many different people.”

Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.
Viona sits outside of her home where she lives with both of her grandparents and younger sister.

Today, when Viona comes home from school, she now knows the importance of eating a healthy meal. She then takes a bath in the river by her house after learning the importance of staying clean to promote good health. Thanks to you, Viona can look to her future with hope. With your support, we can help more children like Viona understand the importance of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and how it contributes to their future success.

Thanks from Massouma

Author Portrait
By Massouma, Transcribed and edited by Anisa Zari

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

January 19, 2018

Salam! My name is Massouma, I’m 16 years old and a student in grade 10 at the girls’ high school in my village. I live with my parents and all 7 of my siblings – 2 brothers, one older, one younger, and 5 sisters, 4 older than me and one younger. My mother is illiterate and spends her time taking care of our home and family, while my father is our school’s headmaster.

For me, life is like any other girl’s my age in Afghanistan. I get up in the morning and prepare breakfast, and go to school. After, I do my homework and help my mother with the house chores, cooking and cleaning. My dream is to be a teacher in the future.

I was selected as the Lifeline child representative for Save the Children back in July of 2006. From that time to now, I have played different roles and benefited from sponsorship programs in different ways. When I was 5, I started in the Early Learners program, where I worked on my literacy, numeracy and other learning skills through games, songs, storytelling, reading and socializing with my young peers.

When I was a little older, at age 7, I started going to the child-focused health education groups in my community. There, we learned about how keep ourselves healthy with good nutrition and hygiene practices.

Masoda, Soraya, Massouma and Hajira learning about preventing disease in their health group.
Masoda, Soraya, Massouma and Hajira learning about preventing disease in their health group.

Today, I am applying the knowledge I have learned about healthy behaviours as child-focused health education group volunteer facilitator. I lead about 15 school-aged children twice a week in learning about nutrition, hygiene, immunization and preventable childhood diseases.

Together, we conduct awareness campaigns in the communities, to reach as many people as possible with these messages. Children and community members are taught when and how to properly wash their hands, for example before handling food, after using the latrine and after handling or working with animals. We also take the lead in keeping our school clean, are trained on first aid and help find solutions to health problems at school.

My mother, Rabia says that now I am “always talking with the family about the health activities she does in the CFHE group. I can really see how her confidence has grown since she began taking part in sponsorship programs.”

My mother has also noticed how much I’ve learned about health and hygiene through participating in these programs. I like to learn new things about healthy ways of living. I love sharing what I’ve learned in our group meetings and events with friends and family members, because the groups have been such a fun place for me to both play and learn.

Massouma outside the old school building, before sponsors supported new classrooms.
Massouma outside the old school building, before sponsors supported new classrooms.

I would like to thank all sponsors for the support that they have provided for our community and for me through sponsorship programs. In addition to having the child-focused health groups now, sponsors have also built us four new classrooms. That has really been a big help, because before, since there was not enough space for all of us, children had to sit outdoors, in the sun or under the shade of trees when possible, and during the winter we would still have to be outside which made learning hard and everyone really unhappy from the mountain cold.

A lot in my life has changed because of sponsorship, and I’m not sure who I would be without it. I would like to thank you. I appreciate your support as sponsor more than you can know!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

One year-old Hakaroom sits with her mother Lokuru at a Save the Children supported health centre in Kapoeta, South Sudan, after being treated for severe pneumonia.

The Injustice in Dying from Pneumonia

When Lokuru brought her 1-year-old baby to get food at Save the Children’s stabilization center in northern Kapoeta, South Sudan, she had another concern on her mind. The night before, her daughter Hakaroom’s breathing had become heavy and labored. Her small body was starting to feel hot. A nurse at the center recognized Hakaroom’s symptoms as pneumonia and sent her to the Primary Health Care Center, where the infant was treated for severe pneumonia with antibiotics and fluids. All of Lokuru’s four children have suffered from pneumonia at some point in their lives, but Hakaroom’s case was the worst. According to the Save the Children medic who treated Hakaroom, without immediate medication, she would not have lived through the night.

Nearly 1 million children died of pneumonia in 2015. I continue to be shocked by that fact. We know how to prevent, diagnose and treat pneumonia, and we have known for a long time. So why do so many children around the world still lose their lives to this disease?

You often hear people describe an illness with the cliché, “it doesn’t discriminate.” I want to be clear: Pneumonia discriminates.

Pneumonia is a disease of poverty. Ninety-nine percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in developing countries. Within these high burden countries, it is the poorest and most marginalized children who are at greatest risk. A child should not die because of where she was born or what resources her family has.

The world’s poorest children are more likely to suffer pneumonia risks such as malnutrition, indoor air pollution and a lack of primary healthcare. If they do get sick with pneumonia, they are the least likely to get medical treatment. Each year, about 40 million cases of pneumonia are left untreated.

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Because inequality can be fatal, Save the Children has committed itself to reaching Every Last Child. Our organization is working to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest and most marginalized children around the world. When the United Nations developed the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, it proposed that by 2030, no child should suffer a preventable death. We cannot achieve this goal if we do not overcome pneumonia.

Save the Children is a leader when it comes to combatting pneumonia. We have been preventing and treating the disease in children for decades. We can prevent pneumonia by increasing immunization, addressing undernutrition, ensuring safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and reducing household air pollution. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics.

To end pneumonia deaths for good, the global community needs to come together with equitable solutions. We’re asking Congress to increase funding for USAID’s Maternal and Child health programs and to support and pass the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

To learn more about how Save the Children is fighting pneumonia for all children and how you can help, please visit SavetheChildren.org/pneumonia.

Gloria’s Restored Confidence

Author Portrait_Agnes Nantamu, Senior Officer Adolescent Development
Agnes Nantamu

Senior Officer of Adolescent Development

Save the Children in Uganda

October 6, 2017

Gloria is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Namayumba, Uganda, with her mother and four siblings. She recalls the days before the sponsorship program started in her school as hard, especially the time when she first began her menstrual cycle.

As with many of the girls in her community, she did not have sanitary towels to use most of the time simply because her mother couldn’t afford them, so she dreaded her period’s monthly arrival. Most families in Namayumba have too little to provide even the most basic provisions for their children, like daily meals, so unfortunately – though they would have loved to provide these materials for their daughters – parents were unable to purchase them.

“I had to miss school because I was afraid that I would get embarrassed if my uniform got stained.” Gloria says. This greatly affected her confidence as she was always worried about when her period would be approaching. It also affected her grades since she had to miss school for a couple of days each month. Like other girls in her community, without the proper materials to be able to sit comfortably through the whole school day, she had no choice but to be absent, despite her eagerness to learn.

 Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

Gloria and Agnes, Senior Officer of our adolescent development programs, making reusable pads.

When sponsorship started the implementation of its adolescent development programs in Gloria’s school, it provided disposable sanitary towels to all the girls that had started their menstrual cycle. Our adolescent development activities in Uganda aim to improve sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, as well as promote gender equity and overall improve the quality of life for children ages 10 to 19 years old.

“I was very excited to get the sanitary towels because I then did not have to be scared or miss school during my periods, but I was also a bit worried about what I would do when I had used them all up.” Gloria recalls.

Since the disposable sanitary towels would eventually get used up and the girls would still not be able to afford to buy new ones, a more sustainable solution was introduced by Save the Children. Senior female teachers in each of the schools were taught how to make reusable menstrual pads, and also trained on how to teach menstrual hygiene management to their students. These teachers then trained the girls in their schools how to make the reusable pads themselves, and taught them how to manage their hygiene.

Many of the children did not have any hope of ever having a constant supply of sanitary towels and having a comfortable time during their menstrual cycle, but with the knowledge of making these reusable pads, this hope has been restored. “Having sanitary towels I can use more than once had never crossed my mind. After the lesson from Ms. Allen, our teacher, I went home and made myself some.” says Gloria proudly.

Gloria, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.
Gloria, happy to be in school and enjoying class comfortably.

“Gloria is a much happier and more confident girl now. Her school attendance and grades have greatly improved.” says Ms. Allen.

Gloria is exited and hopeful about the future and believes that now that she goes to school regularly, she will be able to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. She is very grateful to the Save the Children sponsorship program for revitalizing that dream.

All the way from Namayumba, Uganda, please accept our dearest thanks from Gloria and her friends! Thanks to our sponsors, today they are happy to be back in school and learning comfortably.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

No More Stomach Pains

Author Portrait_Anisa Naimi, School Health and Nutrition Officer, Faryab Province
Anisa Naimi

School Health and Nutrition Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

October 3, 2017

In Afghanistan, especially in rural areas, people are suffering from the lack of a consistent energy source for heating and cooking in their homes. To overcome this problem many families still prefer traditional ways of supplying energy. This means that often children can be seen walking the streets to collect animal wastes. Dung, or called “sargen” in Dari, the local language, can then be dried and used as fuel or even building material. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge on protecting ones health and hygiene was causing children to get sick after collecting sargen.

9-year-old Amina is in 3rd grade at the girls’ school in her village, in Faryab Province. She lives with her parents and is third eldest among her 3 sisters and 2 brothers. She is an active student, but a few months back she suddenly was facing some difficulties, enduring a pain in her stomach followed by her health quickly deteriorating. She tried to attend school regularly but her poor health conditions did not allow her to actively participate in the class work and recreational activities at school.

Her mother Gulbadam shared, “Our family worried about her health. Her father gave her a pain killer medicine, but the pain continued because she felt terrible cramps in her stomach. She preferred to stay at home and was disappointed and sad.”

Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.
Thanks to sponsorship, 9-year-old Amina no longer gets stomach pains and is able to stay in school.

Amina told us proudly, “Save the Children staff came to my school and conducted deworming campaigns. They told teachers and students about worm infestations which is very common in school-aged children in this community, because every day children collect sargen and the germs enter our stomachs and makes us sick.”

She added, showing what she had learned on the topic, “Save the Children staff told us that if these worms grow they would make children much weaker and sick. It is always better to take dewormers to kill worms and to wash our hands with soap. They gave deworming tablets to all the children in school and I took the tablets too. The next day it kicked out many worms from my stomach and I felt better.”

After being inspired by her new knowledge of what had made her sick, Amina become a member of the child-focused health education group in her village, and actively participates in the sessions. She mentioned, “Before I never knew to wash my hands with soap after collecting sargen, and that [washing with] only water does not remove the microbes and causes stomach worms. Thank you Save the Children,” she added shyly.

The child-focused health groups are sponsorship supported programs that provide a forum for girls and boys to meet once a week in the homes of volunteers or in community spaces. At these meetings, health skills such as how to maintain good hygiene and nutrition and prevent diseases are key topics. Children learn through participating in public campaigns to spread health messages through their community, as well as in meeting sessions learn through activities such as drawing, storytelling, roleplaying and other child-friendly activities that strengthen important health skills, like proper handwashing.

Amina explained, “Now our school is closed for winter holidays but there is a [child’s health] group in our neighbors’ house. I regularly attend each session because I enjoy learning many new things, I learned when to wash my hands with soap and why I should do so. Before this I rarely used soap but I learned if I do not use soap I will face stomach worms which is very scary and painful.”

Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.
Amina and her fellow child-focused health education group members practice safe handwashing.

As a part of the child-focused health groups, child participants are asked to share what they have learned in each session with at least 3 family members or relatives. Community elders, parents and school management are also invited to some of the events. In this way, not only do the children benefit but the impact of our programs are felt throughout the entire community.

Amina’s mother says, “Children learn best when they are healthy. Thanks to Save the Children for implementing very helpful and useful programs. Now I encourage my children to always wash their hands with soap after participating in deworming awareness raising and deworming tablets distribution campaigns.”

Amina’s mother also says, “Amina regularly attends school and is much more active and healthy than before. I am really happy and appreciate Save the Children for its efforts for our school.”

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Nahomie Empowers Other Girls

Author Potrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator
Edited by Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

July 31, 2017

Hello, I am Nahomie and I am fourteen years old. I live with my parents and my three siblings in a community named Villard in Dessalines, Haiti. As the eldest, I usually help my siblings with their homework and my mother with the household chores such as washing clothes and dishes. My favorite subject is Math. Also, I enjoy playing hide and seek, hopscotch and jump rope with my friends and schoolmates.

As a typical teenager, I have a group of friends and we do everything together. For example, we like to wear the same kinds of clothes, and when one friend had her first boyfriend, we all wanted boyfriends.  Following the group, I had my first boyfriend last year.

Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.
Thanks to sponsorship, Nahomie has learned how to keep herself safe as she grows into a woman.

In my community in Haiti, parents aren’t comfortable talking with us about sex – it is a taboo subject to discuss with people my age, regardless of if we are boys or girls. I had a lot of questions about having a boyfriend, and I didn’t know where to go.

Thanks to Save the Children’s program set-up for teens like me, I was able to seek out a friendly environment to ask questions about sex, my changing body and becoming an adult. Through sponsorship’s adolescent development programs, our teachers, school principals, school councils, or Parent Teacher Associations, and community partners receive training on Sexual Education and child-friendly ways for adults to talk about sexual and reproductive health issues with students.

As a result of these programs, a health-care worker came to my school to talk about the services that were available at the health center in our community. After hearing them speak, I went to the health center to see how I could get involved and learn more. I started participating in a student club, that both helps spread health messages to people my age but also helps build my own leadership skills and self-confidence. I was able to not only find answers to the questions I wanted to ask, but was able to discuss these questions with both adults and peers in a place I felt safe.

Today, I feel comfortable speaking about my experiences as a growing girl in my community, and using my voice to create awareness among the others about how sexual intercourse at such young age can be harmful for our lives and our futures. Waiting until a more mature age can help us avoid a lot of mistakes, such as an early pregnancy, that would affect us for the rest of our lives.

Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.
Nahomie washing the dishes outside of her home.

Whenever I want, I can seek more information about my sexual and reproductive health at the health center, where now I am always welcomed by staff who can offer even more information. I go there for myself, but also to create awareness and prevent adolescents like me from feeling influenced by pressures from their friends, and instead to make the best decision for their own well-being.

I am proud and thankful to Save the Children, this is a very good program! After meeting with the healthcare workers, I am now inspired to grow up to be like them. I work even harder at school so I can finish my studies in order to become a nurse. I will continue with the work they started in my community and help other adolescents who are in need. This is the dream I am now cherishing.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

An Open Heart

Susan and Claire

By Susan Warner, Senior Manager, Photography & Multimedia Production and

Claire Garmirian, Media Research Analyst

Susan: I made her cry, good tears. Transformative tears of love for the child in her arms. When I showed Rosa the photo I took of her and her granddaughter, she burst into tears. I knew then I had taken a good photo.

Claire: Rosa and I spent half an hour speaking in the director’s office on the second floor of the school. We gathered chairs together so that she, Ivonne from Save the Children Mexico and I could hear each other over the noise from below. The painted concrete patio where teachers lead students in experiential learning was beneath us and the sounds of preschoolers moving, counting and singing ricocheted up into the office. Amid all of this energy, Rosa shared the very personal details of her life with her granddaughter, Valeria*, and how she has found herself to be a primary caregiver for the four-year-old girl.

Susan: I don’t speak Spanish, nor have an ear for languages.  I gesture, pantomime, demonstrate and rely on our local staff to help when I’m on assignment.  I had asked Rosa to directly look into the eyes of her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Claire: As I listened to Rosa talk about her family, it became clear that she is a central figure holding many people together. She lives with her husband and son and daughter, both of whom have children of their own. Due to tensions between different members of the family, Rosa is a person who everyone can talk to. She sees the difficulties on both sides of the disputes. It sounded like her role could be tiring at times. She admitted that Valeria’s tantrums could make her feel desperate, but she also says she knows that they are a result of Valeria missing her mother, who no longer lives with her. As much as raising Valeria can be hard work, Rosa had endless stories about how intelligent and creative her granddaughter is. When I lost my words searching for a question, Rosa volunteered the story of her trip to the theater with Valeria. Valeria could repeat the song from the performance by heart after only hearing it once. And while Rosa’s speech was even throughout our conversation, it became energetic and expressive when she told me about Valeria’s drawings. It is obvious that she is amazed by her granddaughter’s imagination.

After our conversation, Rosa descended the stairs to join Susan on the school’s main level. They found a corner among the cacophony to take the tender portrait of the grandmother and granddaughter.

Susan:  Through talking about her experiences in the interview and seeing the photos on the back of my camera, Rosa was emotional, in a positive way, overwhelmed by her love of her granddaughter. It was a touching experience to witness the love they shared. I had photographed her heart.

*Name has been changed for protection.

Background:

Valeria attends preschool in a rough neighborhood in Mexico City that is fraught with violence, drug gangs, and addiction. Save the Children’s HEART program has helped children in this community cope with their stress, anxiety, fears and anger from being exposed to these activities.

About HEART:
HEART (Healing and Education through the ARTs) uses the arts to help children affected by serious or chronic stress from their life circumstances of poverty, violence or other traumatic events. Through painting, music, drama, and other art forms, HEART helps children find new ways to share their feelings and fears, so they can express themselves in a safe environment with trusted adults and peers, and thrive in the classroom. When children share their feelings they begin the healing process.
Save the Children launched HEART in Mexico in 2016. In the first year of operation, HEART reached nearly 8,000 children affected by poverty, violence and migration in 5 provinces: Baja California, Chiapas, Mexico City, Oaxaca and Puebla. The education program is integrated into Save the Children’s programs existing school curriculums for children, including programs at preschools, early primary schools, child and youth centers, and summer programs, as well as migration prevention programs for children and teenagers.
Save the Children has operated in Mexico since 1973. Today, Save the Children serves children in 18 of Mexico’s 32 states, giving kids a healthy start, an opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

Shashank Shrestha/Save the Children

Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!

Originally published on HealtyNewbornNetwork.org

Midwife Rita helped deliver Rupa and Rajkumar’s first-born daughter this year at the newly constructed Taruka health facility in rural Nepal, a facility Save the Children helped rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake. The proximity of a health post and availability of a skilled auxiliary nurse midwife helped save the newborn’s life. Even though Rupa had visited the health post often to ensure her pregnancy was proceeding, she was still anxious as her delivery approached. She had heard awful stories of women losing their lives during childbirth. But by delivering in a health facility with a skilled, well-equipped, and respectful midwife, both mom and baby survived childbirth and the days following without complication.

Rita’s story is just one of many we should celebrate today on International Day of the Midwife. However, there are other stories that won’t end as happily. Today, nearly 830 women will needlessly die giving birth, more than 7,200 babies will not survive childbirth or the last three months of pregnancy, and another 7,300 babies will die within the first hours and days after birth. That adds up to 303,000 women and 5.3 million infants every year whose lives are lost. Nearly all of these deaths could be prevented if high-quality services were available to every woman and baby everywhere.

And while 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries, rich countries like the United States are not exempt. Thousands of families suffer the tragedy of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity every year in developed countries.

This week, US celebrity Jimmy Kimmel shared his emotional story about his son’s heart defect on national television and expressed praise and appreciation for the midwives who supported his family throughout the process. Jimmy said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” This statement is no less true in low-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. And for marginalized populations, like those who live in hard-to-reach areas, and are victims of conflict and humanitarian crises.

No mother – anywhere – should have to risk her life or that of her baby by going through childbirth without the expert care of a midwife or other skilled birth attendant. Yet, globally, one in four women gives birth without such care. And 2.2 million give birth all alone. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2015 there would be a shortage of more than 3.5 million health workers – including a million midwives. This means that mothers and children have no one to diagnose and treat their illnesses, provide immunizations, or help them stay healthy.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life! Partnerships are central to midwifery. Midwives partner with women, families, and communities to provide lifesaving healthcare to mothers and babies, from before pregnancy to the first months after birth. They collaborate with doctors and facility staff to devise treatment plans and deliver high-quality, respectful care. They serve in government ministries and other decisionmaking bodies to make policy and funding decisions that ensure midwives have the resources they need. And they teach, mentor, and supervise to ensure midwives both practice what they know and learn new skills.

Ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths requires more qualified midwives, more empowered midwives, better resourced midwives, and more respect for midwives. How can we strengthen these partnerships? For one, we can listen to midwives’ voices. The upcoming Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives is another opportunity to engage with midwives to strengthen support of their work. I am making it a priority this week and in the coming weeks to listen to the voices of midwives.

If you are a midwife or want to recognize a midwife for her partnership for life, please write to the Healthy Newborn Network with your story and we will be sure to share it.