Preserving pregnant women, new mothers and infants in Africa

St John has a volunteer-led approach to health

Archbishop Desmond Tutu backs an international project team committed to preventing the deaths of pregnant women, new mothers and infants in Africa.Some one million new-born babies and around 179,000 women die every year in Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of complications in pregnancy, labour, during delivery and in the first month of a child’s life. Global healthcare charity St John International is attempting to turn that tide, with its Mother and Baby Programme. The initiative mobilises community-based volunteers on the ground in Malawi and Zambia, provides support to households and increases access to health services.

For generations, St John International (also known as the Venerable Order of St John)  has been providing community-based first aid, healthcare and related services to people in need throughout the world.

Trial activity has already seen the Mother and Baby Programme team visiting the communities of Malawi and Zambia, to identify the most urgent needs. St John also has plans to roll out the programme in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe by raising further funds.

“The reduction of the horrendous death rates amongst Mothers and Babies was set as a Millennium Goal.  Huge strides have been made and the St John programme will be another significant step along the way,” said Sir Paul Lambert, Secretary General of St John International. “Our teams of local volunteers and healthcare professionals have seen with their own eyes what tragic circumstances are in existence, and how many lives are being needlessly lost.”

The project is supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who shares the vision of “a world where communities take action to strengthen the health of women and children”. Archbishop Tutu said, “I passionately support the work of St John and their unique community volunteer-led approach towards improving community health around the world and addressing maternal and new-born health in Africa. Without healthy mothers and babies, communities cannot flourish and develop. So investment in this area of healthcare is absolutely vital.”The project is supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Using knowledge to improve health

Volunteers will be trained in topics such as basic hygiene, planning for birth, danger signs during pregnancy, maintaining temperature in new-borns, cord care, post natal care needs and risks. With the acquired knowledge and skills, the volunteers will carry out home visits to thousands of households to educate and give advice to women as well as men about the importance of maternal and new-born health.

St John International is seeking to engage the support of corporates, particularly those who have had or currently have, an interest in the communities of Malawi and Zambia.
“Unlike many programmes this does not rely on outside agencies,” Sir Paul Lambert said. “Our local St John Ambulance organisations in Malawi and Zambia will recruit additional volunteers from within the community and after giving them first aid training will train them to provide the support in maternal health and new-born.”

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