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Sep 15, 2020

Protecting the Youngest Among Us

While children may be less vulnerable than adults to the psychological effects of COVID-19, there is no doubt that the youngest generation will bear one of the biggest burdens of the pandemic. Widespread closures of schools and early childhood development programs; increased unemployment resulting in food insecurity and malnutritionand greater difficulty accessing essential health services—combined with the emotional impact of the crisis—these COVID-19 effects are exposing children to health and developmental challenges that could last a lifetime, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.  

“I am very concerned about the long-term impact that COVID-19 could have on the children in my community,” says Promise James, a mothers2mothers (m2m) Community Mentor Mother isouthern MalawiPromise says the coronavirus is having a deep impact on her community. Many families are struggling for foodSchools and childcare centers are closed, depriving children of learning opportunities and interactions with their peers, and causing job losses among teaching and support staff 

Challenges accessing health services 

Some mothers are not accessing health services for themselves or their children because they fear they will be infected with COVID-19For those who do walk miles through this rural area to reach the nearest health center, they cannot always get the services their families need—services ranging from immunizations to the final test for the child for HIV to viral load monitoringbecause medical staff are working in shifts to limit the number of people in the facility at any given time. 

Furthermore, many people living with HIV in Malawi have received six-month supply of their treatment, which is good practice.  However,  Promise says it also creates a disincentive to make the long trip to the health center. “Some clients have missed equally important appointments—such as antenatal care visits, infant HIV tests, childhood immunizations, to name a few—if they are scheduled before the date to refill their ARV prescription,” she says. 

 Compounding the risks 

In sub-Saharan Africa, the risks to children of not accessing health services are compounded by the fact that millions of them are living with HIV or exposed to the virus. According to a UNAIDS report released earlier this month, 200 children contracted HIV each day in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2019. Just as worrisome, only 58% of children (aged 0-14) living with HIV in the region were on lifesaving treatment, compared to 73% of adults. Now, with UNAIDS warning that COVID-19 has “seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more” by limiting HIV treatment and medical supplies, these children could face even greater health consequences.  

Furthermore, according to a study of low- and middle-income countries by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 1.2 million more children under age five could die in six months due to challenges accessing routine health services and adequate nutrition.   

Unstoppable 

While COVID-19 restrictions prevent Promise and her fellow Mentor Mothers from going doortodoor and holding group support sessions in her community to provide m2m’s full range of family-centered serviceswhich span pregnancy, childhood, and adolescencethis hasn’t stopped them from making sure parents are doing everything possible to keep their children healthy and safe.  

Promise now spends a considerable amount of time helping her clients navigate the health system, educating them on COVID-19, and supporting them to make it to their medical appointments and stay on HIV treatment. With only 60 percent of her clients in possession of a phone, Promise has become creative in her outreach—calling family members and working with government health workers still allowed to go door-to-door in the community to share messages to clients she has been unable to reach. 

To protect the health of her youngest clients, Promise checks they are tested for HIV, are receiving all of their childhood immunizations, and getting the nutrition they need. She also talks to parents and caregivers about activities to stimulate their child’s early development, especially during this unprecedented time, and confirms children are meeting all of their developmental milestones. 

Remarkable women like Promise, one of more than 1,700 m2m Mentor Mothers across ten African nations, are working to protect Africa’s future, by ensuring children have the opportunity to stay healthy and thrive, even in the face of this global pandemicWe are inspired by their efforts and committed to making sure they have the tools and resources to do this work.   

Jun 23, 2020

A Rapidly Evolving, Rapid Response

Mentor Mother, Teddy, in Uganda
Mentor Mother, Teddy, in Uganda

Since early March, mothers2mothers (m2m) has been rapidly adapting our programme to continue to provide services, while prioritising the health and safety of our frontline health workers and their clients .

The women m2m employs as Mentor Mothers were designated essential workers in countries under full, or partial, Covid-19 lockdown shortly after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. We've been working tirelessly ever since to make sure Mentor Mothers have access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to effectively reach clients, while also staying safe. Read all about the challenges associated with procuring PPE on the African continent here.

Mentor Mothers have been playing an "essential" role at the understaffed health centres that they report to every day. Their presence bolsters the efforts of doctors and nurses, and enables them to to attend to more urgent medical needs. Mentor Mothers live and work in the same communities as those they serve, which makes them an especially trusted source in moments like this. They continue to deliver health services and education to women and families—not only about HIV/AIDS—but also other serious health issues including Covid-19. At this time, their support is more important than ever to make sure that families access vital health services, stay in care, and adhere to treatment regimens.

Read this blog post featuring the story of Irene, a Mentor Mother in South Africa, whose experience in combating the stigma and fear surrounding her HIV diagnosis, helped her to do the same when she began showing possible symptoms of Covid-19. The tactics she uses as a Mentor Mother to educate and inform her clients and fellow community members about HIV are the same tactics she uses to educate those around her about the facts and best practices to follow during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her role as a Mentor Mother enables her to share critical, lifesaving information and resources with her community.

In addition to the PPE-clad, physically distanced, direct service delivery that Mentor Mothers like Irene have provided since March, we have made significant investments in ramping up the eServices that we can deliver to clients. Mentor Mothers are staying connected with clients by phone, when in-person visits are impossible. These calls are essential for adherence counseling, appointment reminders, and general support for families in need. Since mid-April we have enrolled more than 50,000 clients in our eServices programme, and we continue to build out the infrastructure that will enable further expansion. We are also piloting a WhatsApp-based platform where new and existing clients can receive vital Covid-19 and general health and well-being information and support in 34 different languages. 

In short, the subject of this update says it all: our rapid response to the Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. Stay tuned to our GlobalGiving updates for more information, and visit our website for a deep-dive into all of the latest information about m2m. 

Linkage Officer, Nompumelelo, in Gauteng
Linkage Officer, Nompumelelo, in Gauteng
Mentor Mother, Zusiphe, in PPE
Mentor Mother, Zusiphe, in PPE
Dec 26, 2019

Celebrating a milestone

Promise and her family
Promise and her family

This year, mothers2mothers (m2m) is celebrating the milestone of reaching over 11 million clients since we started in 2001. While this is a celebration of the immense scale of m2m's impact over the years, we wanted to take this opportunity to tell the story of just one Mentor Mother.

Why? Because each Mentor Mother is responsible for reaching dozens--even hundreds--of clients. By zeroing in on one woman's impact, we're actually telling a story that gets to the very heart of m2m's peer-based model that has successfully reached those 11 million+ clients. 

Promise James, the Community Mentor Mother in Malawi whose story resides at the core of this milestone celebration, is a true Wonder Woman. She decided to become a Mentor Mother to fulfill her dream of supporting other women and families in her community, by overcoming the challenges that she knows all too well as a woman living with HIV.

When Promise was pregnant with her third child, she was aware of her status, and she feared she would pass the virus to her baby. She managed to find the courage to access and stay on mnedication that kept both mother and child healthy.

It's her story--of empowerment in the form of education and employment, and of perseverance to rise above her own life-threatening illness to help create health and hope for other families in her community--that makes her the quintessential m2m Wonder Woman.

Take a deep-dive into Promise's story, and join our celebration by clicking here.

 
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