Maternal and Child Health


"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." 
 Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

It is disturbing to know that over six million children under the age of five die each year from diseases, malnutrition, inadequate sanitation and poor health care. Measles, malaria, pneumonia, AIDS, and diarrheal diseases are the leading causes of death in children under five. I guess once you have children of your own or indeed grandchildren it is almost impossible to ignore these statistics. So what to do is the challenge! To know that the reduction of diarrheal diseases caused by contaminated water can be achieved through the provision of fresh water by simple water catchment systems initiated by Brighton Rotary in Cambodia gives a sense of hope and optimism. To see the benefit that water filtration systems and small dams that provide water for rice crops, fresh vegetables and a daily wash for children reminds me of the wonderful work done through the provision of Rotary Foundation grants.

I am constantly reminded though of the “accident of geography” when it comes to the lottery of a safe environment for mothers and babies. I am looking forward to the safe arrival of yet another grandson. We have scans to note his growth and development in the womb, the hospital bed awaits, as does the doctor, nurses and any necessary after birth care. Now if however this situation occurred in a remote village in Timor Leste the outcome might not be so positive. Unless of course the birth was to occur in a hospital where a Vocational Training Team, led by Professor Jeremy Oats, of the Rotary Club of Melbourne and Professor Susan McDonald, of the Rotary Club of North Balwyn had provided training to midwives. The first District 9800 VTT team concentrated on the circumstances most likely to cause death or severe morbidity in women and infants. At that time 1 in 35 mothers were dying in, or as a result of, childbirth.

Ongoing visits have ensured midwives and doctors are up skilled, many of whom come long distances for this highly valued important training. Team members gave lectures, worked through case studies and conducted simulated model exercises covering the basic emergency skill areas with the assistance of translators. The teaching technique program notes remain at the Baucau Hospital, to be used for future training by the staff. The team report they are constantly amazed at the way the maternity care providers cope with such limited resources, and their strong commitment to the mothers and babies. Senior Hospital staff have reported that the skills of the midwives have undergone a marked improvement since the training started, and will contribute to save lives. We should feel very proud of this, now long term, initiative that gives hope of a better world for mothers in the safe delivery of healthy babies.

So what can we do to improve the lives of mothers and children both at home and abroad? The information provided by the Royal Commission into Family Violence notes that children are indeed greatly affected by this matter. Children in remote indigenous communities in Australia live in poverty and have low literacy skills. Refugees arrive in this “lucky Country” with little money, and no connection to community. I wonder what sort of projects our Cluster Clubs can initiate to use their gifts and talents to provide that service to humanity that we can do so well.

An opportunity to do something now to help in developing countries close to home could be to provide support on Rotarians Against Malaria Day on the 30th of April.

I am proud of all that we do in District 9800 and I am confident that the energy, initiative, and compassion will ensure that we continue to care for the most vulnerable in our community.

An opportunity to show case a club project is available to you………I hope I see you at the Victoria Market on Sunday the 17th of April as we show what we do to make a difference in District 9800.

Enjoy Rotary as you are……. a Gift to the World.

Ubuntu: I am, because you are.

Julie Mason

District Governor

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