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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 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: Supporting women and their children’s health project

A health worker visiting a mother and baby in rural Bangladesh
A health worker providing vital advice to a mother in rural Bangladesh

More than 590,000 children have received critical healthcare and 282,000 women accessed essential maternal, neonatal and child health services as part of a Plan International project in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Zimbabwe.

The Women and Their Children’s Health (WATCH) project was implemented with the government of Canada’s support over 3 and a half years in 25 districts across 5 countries. It aimed to reduce mortality rates by scaling up an integrated package of proven, cost-effective health interventions; maximising the involvement of local stakeholders - especially women; and promoting sustainable, locally-rooted solutions.

The programme worked with communities to promote the adoption of key practices for maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH), as well as with health services to improve coordination and increase the supply of quality care.

Tackling gender inequality

Three strategies to tackle gender inequality were at the core of the programme, which was implemented in partnership with the Ministries of Health and local non-governmental partners:

  • strengthening women and adolescent girls’ participation in decisions about their health and bodies – including through education and promotion of women’s and mothers’ support groups 
  • engaging men as partners to support MNCH and to address the barriers that impede women’s and girls’ access to health services
  • increasing the capacities of health service providers to provide quality, respectful, gender-responsive healthcare to women – including through training on newborn care and safe motherhood.

In each country, specific strategies were implemented to engage and obtain the buy-in from difficult-to-reach men, conservative faith groups, and traditional birth attendants or healers.

Training and community action

Overall, 282,537 women in WATCH-supported areas accessed and utilised MNCH services, while an estimated 590,676 children received critical vaccinations and/or oral rehydration therapy. The project trained 2,022 health facility personnel, 63,080 community health workers and 42,753 community volunteers.

Antenatal care and postnatal care have improved significantly

“Antenatal care and postnatal care have improved significantly and men now accompany their female partners to these sessions… a situation that was not possible a few years back,” said one community health officer from Ghana.

Strengthened community groups are now in place that promote MNCH education, and have the knowledge, structure, and support of their communities and local government to continue their efforts.