We live in a world of ever increasing population numbers. Yet for many women child birth can be dangerous. Every day, in developing countries, mothers risk their lives giving birth. Hard to believe – but even harder to believe when we realise that this risk is totally unnecessary. It has been estimated that more than 80% of maternal deaths can be prevented with access to reproductive health services and trained health care workers. Or put another way – what we demand as a minimum standard – in Australia!
Not only do mothers risk their lives giving birth, at least 5.4 million children under the age of five die each year due to malnutrition, poor health care, and inadequate sanitation. Rotary cares so much about maternal and child health that they devote the month of April to highlighting the needs of mothers and children. The word “April” is quite appropriate for such a goal as it comes from the Latin “Aprilis” which is derived from “aperire” meaning “to open” – which could be a reference to the opening and blossoming (or “birth”) of flowers and trees, throughout the month of April, which is
the Northern hemisphere’s spring.
Maternal and Child Health Care is also recognised as one of Rotary’s Six Areas of Focus. Rotary provides education, immunisations, birth kits, and mobile health clinics to women and children in developing countries. 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. Rotarians expand access to quality care, so mothers and children everywhere can have the same opportunities for a healthy future. Our Rotary projects ensure sustainability by empowering the local community to take ownership of health care training programs. Some examples of Rotary’s Maternal and Child Health projects:
Rotary provided a fully equipped medical Jeep to volunteers and midwives to reach mothers and children in remote areas of Haiti, which has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate of any country in the western hemisphere;
Rotarians provided a mobile cancer screening unit and awareness trainings around Chennai, India, where there is a high mortality rate of women with breast and cervical cancer due to late diagnosis;
Rotary members launched a $3 million, five-year pilot to save lives of mothers and children during home deliveries in Nigeria. Since 2005, they’ve also repaired 1,500 obstetric fistulas - 500 more than their initial goal - restoring dignity and hope to vulnerable mothers; and
The Rotary Clubs of Bribie Island and Boroko’s recent project of the cervical cancer vaccination of 28,000 girls in PNG. PNG has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, with 1500 women dying every year from the disease.
As well as these projects, Rotary members distribute clean birth kits, train health workers in safe delivery of babies, and distribute insecticide-treated bed nets.
Ongoing support for this worthy cause is so important. As Robert Zinser, co-founder of the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development said “if mothers are empowered and healthy, so are their families.” This empowerment will then lead to an alleviation of poverty and hunger.
Just coming along and buying a sausage sandwich, a egg and bacon roll, a drink or a raffle ticket, at the Rotary Markets in Brennan Park, on the second Sunday of every month, will help Rotary provide this much needed care.