Doing more than just assisting

Doing more than just assisting

By Charles Kwuelum

Martina Talatu Garba was looking forward to becoming a mother, in a culture that highly values having children. Unfortunately, her hopes were dashed when she died at childbirth due to complications from malaria and a lack of adequate medical care. Since Refawa, her hometown in Nigeria, lacks a primary healthcare facility and is 15 miles away from the nearest public hospital, many women, newborn babies and children do not have access to skilled care and life-saving medicines.

About 303,000 women worldwide die annually during childbirth, as a result of health conditions that are preventable and treatable with simple and affordable interventions. Lack of access to education, nutritional training, primary healthcare personnel and socio-economic empowerment further impact the situations faced by these women.

In Martina Talatu Garba’s poor agrarian community, in the Rano area of Kano State, factors such as unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene have cost lives. The World Health Organization reports that 1.7 million children under 5 years of age around the world die annually as a direct result of these factors.

In some cases women, newborn babies and children also suffer from HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis. As long as these scourges remain, the global community must not relent in supporting global health programs, as the efforts of organizations like Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) alone will not be enough. To attain progress and well-being in developing countries, it is necessary to strengthen their health systems thereby improving the health of mothers, children and families.

A visit to the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Community Development in Jos, Nigeria. MCC photo/Ben Weisbrod

As part of its support for primary health-promotion projects, including maternal and child health, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, in Nigeria MCC supports the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Community Development. The organization educates women on HIV and AIDS, while decreasing discrimination and stigma among women testing HIV positive. This helps to reduce risky behavior in the Jos North and Wase areas of Plateau State.

On May 23, President Trump released his budget proposal with drastic cuts to funding for international development assistance, while increasing military spending. If the budget is approved by Congress, it will affect global health programs, including those that address HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It would also impact the U.S. government’s ability to help improve health systems in developing countries.

It is vital that we assist those who are in need (Matthew 25:31-46, 1 John 3:17). But we must also do more. Our duty is to pray for policy makers (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and to take actions that will influence lawmakers’ deliberations, so that others like Martina Talatu Garba do not die from preventable conditions.