BASTROP, La. – Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. That statistic shook Diane Haley to her core.
“When I heard about these women and the conditions they give birth in, I just started to cry,” said Haley. “And if I can do a little bit to help, then I’ll do it.”
During that same two minutes, two people die from malaria. About 10,000 pregnant women die from malaria every year.
As Haley learned about the high rate of maternal mortality caused by malaria and lack of maternal health care during a United Methodist Women meeting in Bastrop, La., she learned she could support healthy births by assembling UMCOR birthing kits.
The small kits, which cost about $8 to assemble, contain basic items needed for a healthy birth such as soap, latex gloves and a blanket. These few items can double the chances of a woman surviving during childbirth.
Volunteers assemble and send these kits to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. From there, the kits go to health workers in the field to support women in need. UMCOR workers also give insecticide-treated bed nets to families to protect them from the bite of the mosquito. Since The United Methodist Church launched Imagine No Malaria in 2010, more than 1.2 million nets have been distributed.
Now retired, Haley dedicates all of her extra resources to making these kits. “These women need two pieces of string and some razor blades to birth babies,” she said. “I’ve got a treadmill and an exercise bike, and these poor women have nothing. So I gave up saving for my new Wii and started making these birthing kits.”
Mother’s Day events raise awareness, funds
Haley isn’t alone in responding to The United Methodist Church’s call to support global maternal health this Mother’s Day. On Sunday, May 12, United Methodist congregations across the United States will participate in special worship services and offerings to bring attention to the effects of maternal mortality and malaria on communities around the world.
Mother’s Day initiatives organized by the Imagine No Malaria campaign and the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet project of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society will engage United Methodists to support global health projects through donations and opportunities for advocacy.
Many churches will participate in a special offering to honor their mothers and other important women in their lives and to remember mothers and children who have lost their lives due to malaria. These donations will support the purchase of insecticide-treated nets to protect families around the world. These efforts to prevent malaria will help to reduce the number of maternal deaths as well as anemia in pregnancy, low birth weights and infant deaths.
In addition to the special offering, more than 75 United Methodist leaders will educate their churches about global maternal health and provide opportunities for members to advocate for increased funding for global health programs.
These Healthy Families, Healthy Planet ambassadors educate and mobilize United Methodists to advocate for foreign assistance for maternal health and international family-planning programs.
On Mother’s Day, these ambassadors will host dozens of events to bring awareness to the church’s role in promoting maternal health. Leaders in this movement are often moms who know how critical good health care is during childbirth.
“My grandson was born 10 weeks premature,” said Vanoli. “His mother had access to good maternal health care, and that’s what saved them. If she didn’t have good care, she could have lost her life.”
Kraft is Legislative Advocacy and Communications Associate, Healthy Families, Healthy Planet General Board of Church & Society The United Methodist Church.
Weaver is Communications Coordinator for Imagine No Malaria.