The Advance Project Profile: UMCOR Global Health Initiative
Every two minutes, a woman dies due to complications in pregnancy or childbirth. The United Methodist Committee on Relief's Global Health Initiative (Advance #3021770) is working to change the factors that contribute to those preventable deaths.
The initiative is, simply put, focused on decreasing "the number of people who fall sick or perish especially from preventable cause," says Shannon Trilli, director of the initiative at the General Board of Global Ministries.
Sierra Leonian volunteers with the Imagine No Malaria campaign visit with a small child in Koribondo Village near Bo, Sierra Leone, after installing a new mosquito net in his home. UMCOR coordinates the net distributions and community health education as part its Global Health Initiative. Pregnant women and children under 5 years are the most vulnerable to death from malaria.
The work focuses on prevention and community approaches to "finding local and lasting solutions to health, through education, behavior change and practical interventions like immunizations, being attended to by a trained attendant while giving birth, access to water or, as is especially known, mosquito nets and medicines," she said.
The Global Health Initiative works with over 200 hospitals and clinics worldwide, emphasizing maternal and child health care, assisting health care facilities and community health workers, and providing education about proper hygiene and professional health care.
The initiative works with local churches, governmental and other agencies to show that a global commitment to working together can "decrease the number of people, especially children and pregnant women, who suffer or perish needlessly," Trilli said.
Working with local leaders to develop strategic programs contributes to great strides toward strengthening health systems, fighting malaria and increasing maternal and child survival, she said.
A recent visit to Zimbabwe reminded Trilli of the need for the Global Health Initiative. While visiting a hospital, she learned about twin babies who came into the world as orphans because their mother died of preventable complications. Due to religious beliefs and lack of education and financial resources, the woman's family waited two days to take her to a hospital when she was in labor.
Trilli said this situation reminds her of a verse in Leviticus that commands people "not to stand idly by" when their neighbors' lives are in jeopardy
"Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women and millions of children die from preventable ailments every year," Trilli said. "We know how to stop these kinds of sufferings and deaths, we are therefore called to not stand idly by but rather do something about it."
"We at UMCOR are sincerely thankful for the gifts and prayers of our denomination and partners," she continued, "with their intentional focus on health, which allow us to actively work around the world in a manner that is anything but idle."
Emily Snell is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.