UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Ten Things Every Woman Can Do

A mother and child is pictured here during an UMCOR community site visit in the village of Petao in December, 2013.  Petao is served by the Traditional Birth Attendants Association through the United Methodist Church Health Centre in Jaiama, Kono District, Sierra Leone.A mother and child is pictured here during an UMCOR community site visit in the village of Petao in December, 2013. Petao is served by the Traditional Birth Attendants Association through the United Methodist Church Health Centre in Jaiama, Kono District, Sierra Leone.

By Julia Kayser*

February 6, 2014—Maternal and child health is a top priority of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Piper Crisovan of UMCOR Global Health says, “UMCOR’s integrated approach focuses on multiple aspects of a woman’s life, including access to healthcare, education, and clean water, as well as disaster risk reduction, sustainable agriculture, and combating sexual and gender-based violence.” Here’s what you can do:

  1. Prioritize nutrition. According to a 2013 estimate by the World Health Organization, “if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 220,000 child lives would be saved every year.” For mothers, iron-rich foods are especially important.

  2. Get immunized. Get the kids immunized, too. The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines prevent between two million and three million deaths each year.

  3. Don’t underestimate malaria. In the parts of the world where malaria thrives, it’s often accepted as a fact of life. But it kills a child every minute, and also puts pregnant women at a terrible risk. Sustainable solutions aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. You can help advance sustainable solutions with your support for Imagine No Malaria.

  4. Examine social norms. Many societies perpetuate gender inequality through early marriage, discrimination, lack of access to services, rape, female genital mutilation, and gender selective abortion. This is a violation of human rights.

  5. Defend yourself. Violence is a preventable public health and social problem of enormous proportions. The United Nations estimates that one in three women is impacted by physical or sexual violence.

  6. Get regular checkups. Visiting a doctor, nurse, or community health worker makes a woman less likely to die from preventable diseases (such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis), provides access to family planning, and eases pregnancy and delivery. Growth monitoring for children under five also gives them a better chance at survival. You can help make healthcare accessible to more women and children by supporting UMCOR Global Health.

  7. Trust your instincts and learning. “It’s possible for mothers, fathers, and older siblings to effectively treat a baby with acute diarrhea—in fact to save that child’s life—by using oral rehydration salts,” says Kathy Griffith of UMCOR Global Health. Immediate family members know what constitutes an emergency—what’s just a cold, and what could be something more serious. Women can also look out for each other by recognizing warning signs during pregnancy.

  8. Use safe water. It's necessary for hydration and hygiene. “Annually, safer water could prevent: 1.4 million deaths from diarrhea, 500,000 deaths from malaria, and 860,000 child deaths from malnutrition,” estimates the World Health Organization. When you support UMCOR Water and Sanitation Projects, you help whole communities access clean, safe water.

  9. Educate yourself. “A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive,” according to the 2013 UN Women at a Glance. And your children aren't the only ones who will benefit—society as a whole is better off when women have the self-confidence, knowledge, and skills to make a better future. What are some of the ways you can pass on knowledge to a child in your life?

  10. Fight for political representation. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: “Where women are educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable.” Don’t settle for anything less.

*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org