As reported in the respected medical journal, The Lancet, 57% of deaths among children under age 5 could be averted through changes in household behaviors.
Changing household behaviors is what Food for the Hungry (FH) works toward in our health programs. One tool is Care Groups. Weekly lessons teach members ways to improve all aspects of their family’s life, including five arteries to a healthy lifestyle. We have found that educating women in this way dramatically improves all health indicators.
1. Hygiene: Preventing the spread of disease
Care Group members learn the importance hygiene to prevent the spread of disease. They learn to build and use latrines and hand washing stations – called a tippy tap – with string, soap and a plastic bottle filled with water and chloride tablets. They learn to wash dishes and dry them off the ground and in the sun. Other household changes include safe composting, keeping animals out of the house and much more.
2. Nutrition: Boosting a child’s future economic achievement
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 20 million children under age 5 suffer from wasting or become undernourished each year. As many as a million malnourished children die each year. That’s an incredible loss of a community’s potential!
Undernutrition causes low birth weight in babies; physical and intellectual underdevelopment in children; and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. This leads to weakened immune systems that result in deaths from things like diarrhea, measles, malaria – and even the common cold. And when malnutrition occurs before age 2, cognitive development often cannot be reversed – forever impacting the child’s ability to achieve in school and beyond.
FH works through Care Groups to help mothers learn and implement good nutrition practices.
3. HIV/AIDS Prevention: Working for an AIDS-free generation
As FH’s U.S. President and Global Executive Officer Dave Evans spoke this week at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., he reflected that FH partners with an army of church-based volunteers who are dedicated to working toward an AIDS-free generation.
These volunteers comfort, care for and counsel people who are both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
As part of our effort to be a catalyst to change, FH joined a faith alliance that reached 1.4 million youth in 2003 with a message of abstinence and faithfulness. Between 74 percent and 98 percent of participating youth committed to abstinence. Of those, 80-90 percent reported continued abstinence a year later.
4. Child Survival: Helping the most vulnerable celebrate a 5th birthday
The first five years of a child’s life are the most deadly. As many as 20-50 percent of children in the communities where FH works die before they reach age 5 – from preventable things like malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and neonatal infections. That’s why FH focuses on helping mothers give birth to healthy babies who survive their most-vulnerable early years.
The most critical of those early years are the first two. A child’s brain is nearly completely developed by this age, and malnutrition can impede brain development. FH programs emphasize interventions to save this vulnerable, under-2 age group.
Interventions include educating mothers as well as feeding programs.
5. School Health: Benefitting from life-changing education
Healthy children are more likely to be able to learn and reach their God-given potential. Communities with higher levels of educated families typically have dramatically increased levels of health.
We work to help communities understand the importance of educating everyone, including women and girls, who often are not thought worthy of an education.
We also work with communities to provide school feeding programs, deworming medication and other health services. We also help children learn about healthy health practices.