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Promoting maternal, neonatal and child health

A child’s survival, healthy growth and development are linked to the mother’s survival, nutrition and wellbeing - and depend also on the family’s ability to implement key practices to promote health, prevent childhood illnesses that continue to kill millions (such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria) and access essential health services.

Plan International implements evidence-based strategies that strengthen the capacities of families, community health workers and primary healthcare providers to promote health, prevent disease and manage common childhood illnesses.

In many countries, Plan International is also supporting health systems strengthening and the up-scaling of financial protection mechanisms to reduce the impact of out of pocket payments for healthcare. Ensuring that interventions are gender aware, and promoting men’s engagement in maternal and child health are priorities.

Our work supports Sustainable Development Goal targets 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 that focus on reducing maternal mortality, ending preventable newborn and child deaths and ending the epidemics of AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Case study: combating childhood illnesses in Zimbabwe

Village health workers training community volunteers on care and childhood illnesses issues, Zimbabwe
Village health workers facilitating a care group training session with community volunteers in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has a relatively high incidence of maternal and infant mortality. In 2012, maternal deaths stood at 960 per 100,000 live births, while the under-5 child mortality rate was 84 per 1,000 live births, according to United Nations figures.

Plan International Zimbabwe’s Women and Their Children’s Health (WATCH) project aims to support maternal and child health and influence good childbirth outcomes, using community care groups to encourage sharing of health knowledge by bringing people together. Each care group consists of 10-15 volunteer health educators and parents who meet with project staff and village health workers fortnightly to talk about health issues.

With activities that include group singing, key topics include the prevention of HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and the benefits of immunisation and sanitation. To date, 2,272 care groups have been established, bringing almost 23,000 parents together every 2 weeks, and reaching 100,000 households.

As well as mobilising positive behaviour, the groups bring the health message to parents in hard-to-reach locations. Funded by Plan International Canada, the scheme is implemented with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare as the main partner.

“I gave birth to a total of 8 children,” says WATCH-participant Elizabeth Mapondera. “Five of them died. Thanks to the care group trainings, my other 3 children survived. The knowledge I now have on my health and children’s well-being is empowering.”