We’ve all heard it before in one form or another: “Don’t get between a mother and her baby,” “There is nothing better (or worse depending on your position!) than a fired up mom” or “Mothers are their kids’ best advocates. However you phrase it, I see evidence of this everywhere I go for my work as Save the Children’s CEO and, I guess, Mom-in-Chief. It plays out whether I’m in Washington, DC or Lexington, Kentucky or the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. And during my trip last week to rural Nepal, I saw it again in full force.
Nepal is a country with some significant success in achieving one of the most basic needs for children: the need (and dare I say, the right) to survive. Twenty five years ago in 1990, the child mortality rate for children under 5 in Nepal was 141 deaths for every 1,000 children born. Today that rate is 48 per 1000. This progress is remarkable in a country that ranked 160th in 2012 on the global poverty scale as measured by average GDP, according to the World Bank. So this is not really about money or increasing economic prosperity changing the health system. It is about making choices and empowering moms.
The mothers I met in Save the Children’s programs in Nepal, funded in large part by the US Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development, were busy learning how to make the good choices that will help their children thrive. They were being trained by community health workers in their villages, all experienced mothers themselves, on how to grow and prepare more nutritious food, how to determine if a pregnancy was likely to require birth at a health facility versus at home, and why breastfeeding is a must for the first six months to ensure proper nutrition and brain development. All of this knowledge will help moms help their children grow to their full potential—and maybe