Episcopal Relief & Development Announces Plans to Strengthen Maternal and Child Health Programs

Episcopal Relief & Development Web StatementDecember 4, 2014 

Episcopal Relief & Development will expand its maternal and child health programs in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia through the Empowering Rural Communities to Improve Child and Maternal Health project.  The project’s goal is to end preventable child deaths by promoting life-saving behaviors and increasing the availability and use of high-impact health services in areas where people live far from medical facilities.

This expansion is made possible in part by a $1 million grant from the Margaret A. Cargill (MAC) Foundation.

“I am very grateful for this generous support of Episcopal Relief & Development’s local partnerships on maternal and child health,” said Rob Radtke, the organization’s President.  “This grant will expand and strengthen existing integrated development programs that serve vulnerable populations in rural areas – particularly children under the age of five and families affected by HIV/AIDS.  With this support, we can equip our partners to reach beyond the end of the road, where the need for community-based prevention and health care is greatest.”

Empowering Rural Communities to Improve Child and Maternal Health will equip mothers and community health workers to reduce child deaths and illness due to malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.  These preventable and treatable diseases are the top three killers of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

The project has three key strategies:

  • Preventionhelping families and communities take basic steps to prevent disease, such as using mosquito nets over sleeping areas and taking children for immunizations
  • Health Care-Seeking:  equipping mothers and other primary caregivers to recognize symptoms, provide care at home, and know when to seek health services
  • Local Health Provision:  promoting availability of basic health care through trained and equipped community health workers and other volunteers using Integrated Community Case Management 

“Responding to the health needs of rural and deprived communities in Ghana is a complex challenge,” said Hilary Asiah, Health Coordinator for ADDRO (Anglican Diocesan Development Relief Organization), Episcopal Relief & Development’s partner in Ghana. “This grant will support ADDRO in implementing effective, low-cost interventions to address the multiplicity of health challenges many communities face, through preventive care, awareness raising, and reduction of psychosocial barriers such as stigma.”

This project builds on the health behavior change strategy honed by Episcopal Relief & Development’s award-winning NetsforLife® malaria prevention partnership, incorporating messaging and practices to target diarrhea and pneumonia.  Health workers interact with mothers and other primary caregivers through home visits, community events and meetings of mothers’ and other groups.  They provide basic treatment at the community level and refer serious cases to health facilities, using Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM).  ICCM is current best practice for areas lacking medical facilities and trained health professionals, ensuring that more children have access to lifesaving treatments in their own communities.

Alongside ADDRO in Ghana, Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Development Services of Nyanza and the Health and Development Department of Zambia Anglican Council. 

MAC Foundation support will strengthen Early Childhood Development activities in Zambia that are currently underwritten in part by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.  The caregiver support and learning groups and playgroups provide a platform for education, as well as an opportunity for mothers and caregivers affected by HIV/AIDS to strengthen their own capacity and resilience while attending to their children’s developmental needs.

In Kenya, the MAC Foundation grant will enable ACK Development Services-Nyanza to add Early Childhood Development to its program, which serves many families affected by HIV/AIDS.  “A vital and productive society with a prosperous and sustainable future is anchored on the foundation of healthy child development,” said Samuel Omondi, the agency’s Executive Director. “Children’s future well-being depends as much on having a supportive caregiver and a stimulating environment as it does on receiving food, health care and shelter.”

Along with increasing availability and access of care, the project aims to address barriers such as stigma, lack of transportation and cost of treatment.  Improving families’ financial stability is one of the overall goals of Episcopal Relief & Development’s program partnerships, with savings and loan groups becoming widely successful.  Additionally, the program in Kenya is promoting community health financing associations that negotiate service agreements with the nearest health facility.  By collecting regular financial contributions, these associations ensure that farming families are able to pay for needed health services throughout the year, rather than just after harvest.

“Physical, economic and psychosocial health are deeply integrated, so our strategies for improving overall well-being must be also,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs.  “Some programs may not seem directly related to health, and yet they can impact health in a variety of ways; for example, a micro-finance loan can support a growing business, which can contribute to household income, which can support better nutrition or cover medical expenses.”

Episcopal Relief & Development offers a “Medicine Package and Training” gift through its alternative giving catalog.  Through December 31, donations through Gifts for Life or any listed fund will be matched as part of the 2014 Matching Gift Challenge.

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.