In Focus: Global Health
By Olusimbo Ige*
The United Methodist Church has had a long-standing and active engagement in global health efforts for many decades. The latest expression of this work was the $75 million Imagine No Malaria campaign, which culminated at the 2016 General Conference. We joined the world to celebrate over 6.2 million malaria deaths averted in sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2015. The success of this malaria effort led to a palpable United Methodist desire to “do more” in the realm of health.
The United Methodist Church recognizes that every child is filled with promise and potential and our mission to protect children from preventable causes of death and disease aligns with the promise of Abundant Life in John 10:10. In 2016, the people called United Methodists, therefore, decided to embark on new paths to improve the lives of people everywhere through a Global Health Initiative, which would focus on saving the lives of children around the world.
Ample evidence shows that simple, cost-effective best practices in child and infant health could save the lives of approximately 1.5 million children under 5 each year. Breastfeeding; prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition; immunizations; prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; and prevention and treatment of malaria and other serious infections can reduce preventable child deaths by at least two-thirds. Yet children continue to die because these interventions are not reaching them.
In recognition that the knowledge and interventions to reduce child deaths are already available and affordable, the Abundant Health initiative made a commitment to expand lifesaving interventions to 1 million children by 2020. This will be the United Methodists’ contribution to the global goal to end preventable deaths of newborns, children and adolescents. Every Woman Every Child is an unprecedented global movement that mobilizes governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women, children and adolescents around the world, with a goal to end all preventable deaths in these vulnerable groups within a generation while ensuring their well-being.
Since the launch of the Abundant Health initiative in 2017, we have invested more than $15.5 million in 30 countries, mobilized over $4 million in partner in-kind contributions, and reached more than 503,902 children and adolescents with health interventions in thousands of communities across Asia, Africa, North America and Central America. Most inspiring to me is that children are now more likely to survive their 5th birthday, more children are thriving through healthy meals, substance-abuse prevention and positive youth-development programs. Our support has improved the quality of care for mothers and babies in some of the most challenging places in the world. And our assistance to improve provider capacity and strengthen health systems has helped revitalize United Methodist mission hospitals and clinics in many low-income countries.
Abundant Health transformed the life of Marie Ngombe of Dingele Village, Congo. Marie had been pregnant three times and carried all three pregnancies to term, but none of the babies survived the delivery process. Now she has a healthy 10-month-old daughter. The difference was the education she received from the trained community health workers who encouraged her to access prenatal care and deliver her baby at the new United Methodist clinic where a doctor could help her during the delivery with all the equipment and medication necessary to intervene in the event of a complication.
As the lead agency for the Abundant Health initiative on behalf of The United Methodist Church, our contributions to the global goal of Every Woman Every Child makes me incredibly proud. Clearly, when we harness our efforts across the global United Methodist network, we make enormous progress toward our shared goal. Our continued success depends on our unwavering commitment to effective, equitable and sustainable child health-service delivery strategies so that children not only survive but also continue to thrive as they grow into their adult life.
*Olusimbo Ige is the executive director for the Global Health Unit of Global Ministries.