This time last year, few could have imagined the global disruption and challenges that lay ahead. Yet, amid the fear and hardship, there have been bright spots that have kept us going and given us hope for a healthier tomorrow.
At mothers2mothers (m2m), our commitment to the over one million women, children, and adolescents who depend on our services each year has not wavered. We are proud and grateful that we have been able to evolve and grow our program in significant ways to meet their needs while protecting the jobs of the 1,700 women living with HIV we employ as Mentor Mothers across ten countries. Today, let’s focus on the year’s good news even as we look forward to returning to a greater sense of normalcy once COVID-19 is contained.
Our top 10 highlights of 2020:
#1 An Effective Emergency Response: When COVID-19 began spreading across the African continent, we acted quickly to protect our frontline health workers—who were designated as essential workers throughout the pandemic—while making sure that our clients continue to receive support and services to stay healthy and safe. This included expanding our eServices support provided by phone, a WhatsApp-based platform, and text messages when it is impossible to meet our clients in person, and making sure Mentor Mothers are equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE). And, it’s working. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV we reached through eServices in Q3 adhered to their anti-retroviral treatment.
#2 Tech for Good: It was against this backdrop that m2m accelerated the development and launch of the Virtual Mentor Mother Platform (VMMP)—an interactive tool run on the WhatsApp messaging platform that enables users in nine countries to access vital health information and service referrals on COVID-19 and other important health topics in their preferred language.
#3 Now We Are 10: m2m launched our program in Angola and Tanzania in 2020, bringing the total number of our country operations to 10. Together with the start of operations in Ghana at the end of 2019, we surpassed our strategic goal of reaching two new countries between 2018 and 2021...almost two years early. m2m nurse and Mentor Mother in Lesotho A nurse & HIV Testing Services Mentor Mother crossing a river to get to a hard-to-reach community in Lesotho.
#4 Clinical Care Milestone: m2m officially began employing nurses to work alongside Mentor Mothers in Lesotho to help clients overcome barriers to accessing vital health services. Providing clinical services, aligned with global policy best practices, was one of the goals laid out in our Strategic Plan.
#5 Service Innovation: For the first time in our 19-year history, thanks to support from the Medtronic Foundation, Mentor Mothers began providing services to prevent and manage hypertension, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This service innovation is critical—NCDs are a large and growing public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa, especially for individuals living with HIV, and they increase the risk of serious health challenges from COVID-19.
#6 A Year of Growth and Impact: m2m was excited to share the results of our 2019 Annual Programme Review, which showed continued growth and impact, and demonstrated how we are advancing the United Nations Global Goals of creating good health and wellbeing for all, and an HIV-free future. 2019 also marked the sixth year in a row that m2m achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV for our enrolled clients. WOW panel discussion m2m Mozambique Country Director Ilda Kuleba (upper right) joins panelists virtually at the WOW Global 24 Festival.
#7 Sharing Our Story on the World Stage: m2m participated virtually in a number of global events this year, including sharing our work and impact at the 23rd International AIDS Conference; and joining timely and important discussions at the WOW Global 24 Festival, the first-ever free 24-hour online festival uniting women and girls across the world. Our work was also featured in leading media outlets, including National Public Radio (United States); Marie Claire (United Kingdom); and BBC Africa.
#8 Cycle2Zero@Home: Supporters around the world biked, walked, ran, and rowed for our signature Cycle2Zero fundraising event in October, which pivoted from an in-person cycle through one of the countries we operate in, to a virtual challenge due to COVID-19. Fortunately, this did not put a damper on enthusiasm, with participants covering over four million kilometers and raising more vital funds than ever before.
#9 Progress throughout the Year: Even in the face of not one, but two pandemics—HIV and COVID-19—our work did not slow down. All of our country programs demonstrated continued development and impact, which is captured in our Quarterly Impact Reports.
#10 YOU: We are incredibly grateful for the flexible support of existing and new donors and partners who helped us meet critical emergency pandemic funding needs over the course of the year. Your partnership and unwavering support has been invaluable, and your generosity has been even more incredible given that you have faced challenges of your own.