I’m at that phase in life when a lot of my friends are having babies. Within six weeks, I will have gone to three baby showers! I’m thinking about how many prenatal doctor appointments women have in the United States -- and how many checkups and appointments most newborns have in their first year of life.
But what if there was no doctor to visit? No hospital or nearby clinic? No family doctor or trained midwife?
What would happen? Maternal and child mortality rates would go up.
[caption id="attachment_12514" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Nicole Suka gives her 3-year-old son, Yangana, a sip of water as he receives a blood transfusion for his severe case of malaria."][/caption]
People like me, who thought the world was winning the war against malaria, might have gotten a rude awakening earlier this month following the release of a report by researchers at the University of Washington.
Tune in to your local ABC station on the evening of December 16 for a special edition of “20/20” with Diane Sawyer and ABC's Million Moms campaign as they examine modern-day health issues for children and mothers. For more from the ABC Million Moms Challenge, "like" their page on Facebook.
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As a photojournalist with World Vision through much of the 1980s and 1990s, I long ago lost count of the number of rural health clinics I have visited. The vacant looks on the faces of the mothers, too tired and stressed to focus; the babies in their arms, some crying softly, some shrieking in fear and discomfort; others -- too many -- lethargic and still, seemingly lifeless dolls on their parent’s laps or on filthy blankets on the floor of a decaying health facility.
It was hard to look into those tiny faces, some of which I knew wouldn’t survive much longer unless they received urgent medical care, which usually wasn’t available at the time.
Dr. Lisa Masterson, a host of the Emmy Award-winning TV series "The Doctors," traveled to Malawi earlier this year to work with World Vision at a local clinic. Here, she shares about her memorable experience assisting with the delivery of a baby, whose health was made possible through effective prenatal care and education.
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When I arrived, she was eight centimeters dilated. For this laboring mother, there was no cozy birthing bed, no epidural, no family member present to hold her hand. Sera, the clinic midwife, greeted me with a demure smile that I would later realize belied tremendous strength and skill.
In June, I had the privilege of serving in the Chiwamba Health Center in Malawi. The trip was the culmination of a year-long partnership with the UN Foundation and the television show I host, “The Doctors.”
For nearly a decade, I’ve made it my mission to improve child and maternal health in developing nations. I founded a charity, Maternal Fetal Care International, established clinics in Kenya and Eritrea, and worked in India. I tell you this because I want you to know that my experience with World Vision in Malawi was not new or unfamiliar, and yet it was profound.
Watching the news or following blogs like this one the last couple of months may have you more curious about the international community's efforts to improve child and maternal health world wide (or at least we hope so). This blog and our homepage have intentionally featured an ongoing focus on child and maternal health recently.
Part of the reason is because of World Vision's Child Health Now campaign that is dedicated to providing children worldwide with access to basic medical care, adequate nutrition, and disease prevention -- all so that they can grow up healthy in their communities and avoid illness or death from preventable causes.
Additionally, our partnership with the ABC News Million Moms Challenge is a focused effort to raise awareness and funds to help mothers and children survive and thrive all across the globe.
On one level, child and maternal health may seem quite basic -- as simple as providing children and mothers with nutritious food, clean water, and basic healthcare (such as immunizations and medical consultations)...
But is it really so simple? In places affected by poverty, how do you deliver solutions to the most vulnerable children and mothers?
Here in the United States, malaria is often merely thought of as an exotic, foreign disease that was eradicated from our nation in 1951.
But when asked to describe malaria in one word, a nurse at Karawa General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had this to say:
The hospital administrator said that 80 percent of the local population carries the disease. My assignment last week was to document the needs of children in the region, because World Vision is considering working in the Karawa area.
Malaria dominated almost every situation I covered. Here is a glimpse of what it looks and feels like.
In honor of World Malaria Day, observed every year on April 25 as a day of awareness and recognition for global efforts to end malaria, we challenge you to educate yourself on the facts, raise awareness, and take action against this deadly but preventable disease.
Malaria is a disease of massive proportions that disproportionately impacts children. Each year, approximately 780,000 people die from malaria, 85 percent of whom are children under 5. World Vision works in 62 countries affected by malaria, 23 of which are in Africa.
Impact on children and families
Global malaria prevention
Editor's note: In lieu of World Malaria Day (Monday, April 25th), the following post was written for us by our friends at RELEVANT Magazine.
Recently, the RELEVANT staff became aware of a problem.
If you watch the news (who does that anymore?), or follow the news feed on Facebook or check in online with the media outlet of your choice, you know the world is in trouble. Our world’s issues have created issues that have created more issues that could lead one to believe the world, in its current state, is not right. How does one respond when the world seems to be on fire?
Apathy is our worldview
Some have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this “world on fire” doesn’t affect their everyday life. They’ve embraced apathy as a worldview—it informs the way they spend their time, money and conversation. Others have chosen to respond by passionately standing up for a cause they feel called to. But how do you go about choosing what evil to war against when there is so much evil in the world?
The problem that caught our attention was the very problem we thought had gone away. Several decades ago our U.S. government decided to wage a war against the threat of malaria. Along with relocating people away from river beds and dangerous bodies of water that hosted deadly mosquitoes, we launched an all-out chemical assault on malaria with DDT. We attacked the disease at its origin. Since the threat has now been all but eliminated in the U.S., most of us have seen malaria as that virus you might get on a mission trip that, at its worst, is similar to a common cold and a few trips to the bathroom.
Truth be told, malaria isn’t on our radar anymore because it’s no longer a deadly threat to our culture. We’ve moved on to “bigger” problems—economic development, child mortality, education, health care, ending poverty, fighting global AIDS, etc. But the fact is, if you care about any of these issues, you have to solve the problem of malaria first
The numbers don’t lie
Nearly 1 million people die every year due to diseases that were caused by malaria—85 percent of them are children under the age of 5. If you care about solving other issues in the world, you have to pay attention to the fact that 30 percent of all school absenteeism on the entire continent of Africa is the result of malaria. It slows the economic and educational development of countries around the world by perpetuating the cycle of poverty and becomes exponentially more deadly when accompanied by AIDS and malnutrition.
How have we lived on this planet without knowing? Ignorance is killing more people right now than all the great wars described in our history books.
Today is World Health Day. World Vision joins the World Health Organization to draw attention to issues of global health, particularly the health of children. Part of this year's theme tagline is "no action today, no cure tomorrow." Consider this challenge as you read these facts.
22,191 per day,
924 per hour,
15 per minute,
1 child dies every 4 seconds.
(Source: UNICEF, Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, September 2010)