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Feb 15, 2018

Crucial malaria care reaches mothers and children

A mother and her children receive vital healthcare
A mother and her children receive vital healthcare

Of all the public health challenges facing West Africa, malaria may be the most insidious and destructive.

It is  a leading cause of death in the region, with an average of about 150,000 cases of Malaria reported annually in Sierra Leone alone for the past five years.

Malaria disproportionately affects women and children. It causes serious illness in pregnant women and children, who suffer decreased immunity to the disease and, as a result, are twice as likely to contract and die of it. Malaria during pregnancy also causes as many as 10,000 maternal deaths each year and is a leading cause of impaired fetal growth, low birthweight, and infant death in the region.

However, in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, approximately half of all children under five and more than half of pregnant women do not have access to antimalarial drugs.

The issue is exacerbated by cultural practices that further misperceptions about the disease. Many families believe specific food items like oranges and palm oil  cause malaria and depend on traditional remedies for treatment of the disease.

Recognizing that malaria prevention is a critical component of a holistic maternal and child health care program, BRAC includes a focus on empowering communities for a malaria free society. BRAC has established over 660 community health committees and 180 school health clubs that increase awareness on the prevention and treatment of malaria, especially among women, adolescent girls, and children.

These committees and clubs promote three main practices to prevent malaria: sleeping in long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, seeking treatment within 24 hours of infection, and taking additional precautions to prevent malaria in pregnant women.

After joining her school’s health club, Josephine, a student in Sierra Leone, now spreads public health knowledge on these issues in her school, family, and broader community.

“I have used my knowledge to create an impact in the lives of my schoolmates and family members at home. We no longer drink [traditional medicine], and everyone now sleeps in the net every night.”

Another women, Hawa, has also felt the impact of these programs. During her past pregnancies, she did not visit a doctor or hospital; instead, she drank traditional medicines to prevent diseases like malaria. Hawa believes that these choices may have contributed to multiple miscarriages she has endured.

When Hawa was five months pregnant with her youngest child, a neighbor who is part of a local malaria committee paid her a visit. She and her husband asked many questions about the disease, including how to prevent it. That day, they learned that malaria is caused by bites from infected mosquitos, and they also learned how to take precautions to prevent and treat the disease.

Hawa credits that visit from a trusted community member as the reason that both she and her baby survived the pregnancy. She has since joined the local malaria club in her community to learn more and help other women and children seek early medical care.

Together with generous donors like you, BRAC has been able to make a major impact on mothers and children in West Africa. Thank you for your continued support.

Preventative malaria programs encourage bednet use
Preventative malaria programs encourage bednet use

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Feb 14, 2018

Community healthcare builds resilience in Nepal

Kalika, a community health worker in Nepal
Kalika, a community health worker in Nepal

Nearly three years after an earthquake devastated Nepal, your contributions continue to make a meaningful impact. Although the initial shock is long past, the recovery process carries on.

Over the past two years, BRAC’s work in Nepal has transitioned from meeting immediate response needs such as water, shelter, and medical response to building resilience in affected communities. Through programs that invest in the livelihoods of community members and integrate disaster preparedness components, BRAC aims to strengthen communities’ capabilities to withstand future shocks.

So far, BRAC programs in Nepal have:

  • Established 20 clubs to empower over 400 adolescent girls.
  • Connected unemployed youth to small businesses for skillbuilding professional practicums.
  • Trained more than 20 female community health workers.

One such community health worker is Kalika. A single mother who separated from her husband 13 years ago, Kalika participated in BRAC community health worker trainings and learned how to deliver primary healthcare services to households in Shyampati, Nepal.

Through her training, not only has Kalika provided herself with a sustainable livelihood that allows her to support her family, but she has also come to be seen as a respected leader in her village.

“I am honoured to be a community health worker because everyone in my community knows me and they know that I can help them with their health-related queries,” says Kalika.

With these new skills, Kalika  provides her community with primary healthcare services, playing a crucial role in the rehabilitation of her village.

Kalika’s work is particularly important during the monsoon season, when her community faces an epidemic of diarrheal diseases. In the past, when families suffered from diarrheal diseases, they would be forced to walk long distances to stores that sold expensive packet oral solutions. In Nepal, these critical treatments never reach nearly half of all children under five.

Now, thanks to her training, Kalika teaches others how to make oral rehydration solution at home – with one pinch of salt, one fist full of sugar, and a half-liter of water.

“Today, I can proudly say that all 81 households under my coverage know how to make oral rehydration solution at home,” says Kalika. She ensures that patients in her community receive timely and affordable care.

Kalika has also learned to care for pregnant mothers, newborns, and children. She runs mothers’ groups and conducts monthly meetings to discuss health issues. In a country where a third of pregnant women never receive prenatal care of any kind and nearly half of all births are not attended by skilled health staff, Kalika is a trusted source in her village for maternal and child healthcare.

“I am called in immediately when an infant is born underweight in the village. Once, I stayed with a mother and monitored her baby for days,” she says with pride. “Today, the baby is healthy with a normal weight.”

Kalika is one of more than twenty women in the region that BRAC has trained as community health workers. BRAC continues to train community health workers, empower adolescent girls, and provide livelihoods and skill trainings for youth.

In the coming year, BRAC plans to expand its programs by providing livelihood training for 100 adolescent girls and agriculture and livestock training for 110 farmers.

Thanks to your contributions, we will continue to work with the communities most affected by the earthquake to recover. Nepal still has a long road of recovery ahead of it, but the resilience of people like Kalika reminds us that there is hope.

Kalika promotes maternal health in the community
Kalika promotes maternal health in the community

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Jan 19, 2018

Social Enterprises Play Key Role in Empowering Farmers

Aliyah Explains Agriculture Techniques
Aliyah Explains Agriculture Techniques

Pictured here is a participant in BRAC’s agriculture program in Liberia. After an intensive training in agriculture best-practices, Aliyah is the chairwoman of a group of fifteen other farmers. She teaches sustainable methods of cultivating seven nutritious crops, including cucumber, corn, pepper, eggplant, plantains, potatoes, and cassava. Together, she and her cooperative group cultivate these crops on land donated by the local community.

With the help of generous donors like you, the seed farm, feed mill, and poultry hatchery have become thriving social businesses over the past few years. In 2016 alone, the poultry farm produced nearly 40,000 day old chicks and more than 200,000 pounds of feed. Now, these enterprises complement other BRAC projects by providing affordable and quality resources for smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on their produce. The seed farm, feed mill, and hatchery provide farmers like Aliyah with the inputs they need for their farms, and businesses, to thrive.

As the seed farm, feed mill, and poultry hatchery continue to serve Liberians, new projects are expanding and strengthening these enterprises. We recently began a new project that will grow the feed mill and poultry hatchery so its goods can reach more smallholder farmers. It will also support local businesses in the region that produce other necessary agricultural inputs like gardening tools, fertilizer, and vaccines for animals.

This project will both expand the community’s small businesses and train more farmers and community-based promoters in agriculture and livestock techniques and nutritious food practices.

The program will train 720 local groups of smallholder farmers from 15,000 new households on poultry and livestock rearing, climate-smart agriculture, nutritional homestead gardening, and skills to market their products. Nutrition awareness campaigns will teach the community, especially pregnant women and mothers, how to follow a healthy and balanced diet. Locally trained agriculture and livestock promoters will also spread this knowledge through their communities on a grassroots level.

In total, the project will benefit an estimated 155,000 people within three years. Evidence shows participants will leave the program empowered with skills and knowledge that enable them to produce more food, improve their families’ health and nutrition, raise their incomes, and build sustainable livelihoods for themselves. Thank you for your continued support!

Our Feed Mill in Action
Our Feed Mill in Action

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