Posts

Emotional Support Programs Save Lives in Low-Income Communities
Emotional support programs for children and pregnant women in low-income communities can improve participants’ mental and physical health. Daily challenges of living below the poverty line often result in high-stress levels that can lead to a variety of health complications in children, pregnant women and babies. Emotional support programs save lives in low-income communities by reducing stress and resultant health issues.

The Benefits for Pregnant Women and Babies

Emotional support groups for pregnant women can make impactful differences in their lifestyles and health. A study by psychologist Greg Miller found that pregnant women who took part in a support group called Centering Pregnancy had less inflammation in their placentas than pregnant women who received standard prenatal care. Inflammation within the placenta can restrict the flow of nutrients, oxygen and blood from mother to child, potentially leading to health complications. Within Centering Pregnancy, pregnant women received guidance on nutrition, stress management and parenting. As a result, they had lower stress levels and less inflammation in their placentas, allowing them to have more relaxed and healthy pregnancies.

Groups like Centering Pregnancy can be particularly valuable in low-income communities where women experience high-stress levels from everyday challenges linked to poverty. For example, a study that a teaching hospital in Lahore, Pakistan conducted found that during their pregnancies, 25% of women in the antenatal clinic experienced depression and 34.5% experienced anxiety. In developing countries like Pakistan, emotional support programs save lives by improving pregnant women’s health and, in turn, the health of their babies.

The Benefits for Children

According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, conditions with links to poverty, such as “‘overcrowding, noise, substandard housing, separation from parent(s), exposure to violence, [and] family turmoil’” can have toxic effects on the developing human brain, just like drug abuse and alcoholism. Cortisol, a hormone that helps manage stress, can be overly abundant in children who grow up in poverty, which can lead to stunted brain development over time. As a solution, mentorship programs for children in low-income communities can improve kids’ emotional and physical wellbeing. A study by Miller and fellow Psychologist Edith Chen found that a single supportive, high-quality relationship with someone like a teacher, friend or mentor can substantially minimize a child’s risk of cardiovascular disease in a low-income community. Mentorship programs help children relieve stress and resolve social conflicts, potentially leading to fewer long-term health concerns.

Organizations at Work

Mental health organizations work across the globe to help people of every age improve their mental, emotional and sometimes even physical health. For example, United for Global Mental Health is an international organization that began in 2017 to improve mental health around the world, including in Pakistan, Nigeria, France, Canada and Japan. The website provides an extensive list of international mental health resources, including organizations that specifically focus on supporting children. United for Global Mental Health’s goal is to improve mental health globally and make mental health resources accessible to everyone, despite socioeconomic status. The organization works alongside partners such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to advocate for rights, financing, systems and educational resources that improve mental health around the world.

Organizations like Mothers2Mothers (M2M) also work to help pregnant women and new mothers to achieve the best mental and physical health possible in developing countries. M2M began in 2001 when South Africa was facing a record number of HIV infections. The organization employs women with HIV in nine African countries, including Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, to work as Mentor Mothers. Mentor Mothers are community health workers who serve women and adolescents in 10 countries across Africa by providing support, education and medical services. M2M has created more than 11,000 jobs for women with HIV and has provided over 13.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa with crucial health services. The organization models how emotional support programs save lives in developing countries.

Spread around the world with a variety of causes, emotional support programs save lives by relieving stress and the health complications that result from it. People experiencing poverty often experience heightened levels of stress, so emotional support programs can be particularly useful to people in low-income areas.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Important Poverty Nonprofits
The world is full of people trying to do good, some of whom are well known and acknowledged for the work they do. Many change-makers, however, fly under the radar and do not receive the recognition they deserve for the profound changes they have generated. Some important poverty nonprofits have been working to mitigate poverty and disease worldwide for years, and they are the ones who could benefit greatly from volunteers. The following are five groups whose efforts should not go unnoticed by the world.

Five Important Poverty Nonprofits

  1. Mothers2mothers – This group focuses on alleviating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa while empowering women and mothers living with and/or around the disease. Africa is lacking heavily in healthcare workers. Mothers2mothers is an important poverty nonprofit that hires and trains HIV-positive women to fill these roles, thus providing them with the opportunity to gain financial security for their families and giving the community access to much-needed healthcare. Through this method, thousands of jobs have been created and hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved.
  2. Partners in Health (PIH) – Founded in 1987 by world-renowned doctor Paul Farmer, PIH has made great strides in eradicating life-threatening epidemics, such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, in third-world countries. PIH focuses on building lasting healthcare systems in countries that are severely lacking and providing this service to the poor, who would not typically be able to afford it. To do their incredible work, PIH relies heavily on donations.
  3. Kiva – Kiva is a nonprofit that provides low-income, entrepreneurial women and students with loans to start their own small businesses. They described their mission as “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Kiva has proven that even small loans can create lasting change in the lives of those who need it. Recipients of loans through Kiva have gone on to build small businesses that allow them to support their families and stimulate the economy of their communities.
  4. Charity: water – This is a nonprofit that works to provide clean drinking water to developing countries. Charity: water uses donations to build wells that would eliminate the need for people to walk miles away to get to a water source. They also provide sand filters and rainwater catchments that promote cleanliness in drinking water, which helps to lessen the spread of disease in impoverished communities.
  5. Concern Worldwide – This organization focuses on long-term solutions in third-world countries. Concern Worldwide responds to emergencies like environmental disasters and genocide. Their past projects have included providing food and nutrition to the starving after the 1973 Ethiopian famine. They are currently working with Syrian refugees in The Middle East.

These five are just a few of many important poverty nonprofits that work to make a positive change in the world, no matter how small. Contributions to groups like these have the ability to create a ripple effect in the lives and communities of those who truly need it. Getting involved can come in any form from promoting the causes online to volunteering time to help with projects. When it comes to making a change, there is no contribution too small.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

mothers2mothers

“We can’t end poverty if we fail to save the lives of our world’s mothers.” – Liya Kebede

According to the Foundation for AIDS Research, 70 percent of all people living with AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, including 91 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children. One organization called mothers2mothers is dedicated to educating and providing proper healthcare to mothers living with HIV.

Pediatric AIDS is preventable, but nearly 700 children are infected with HIV each day. Most of these children acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Up to 40 percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers will contract the virus; however, mothers2mothers hopes to provide numerous opportunities to infected mothers, ranging from education to healthcare. With medical interventions during pregnancy, that percentage of children infected with HIV could shrink to two percent.

It can be difficult getting proper treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, where many medical centers are understaffed or miles from villages. Many women live in fear due to the stigma of HIV and do not get the treatment they need to save their lives or the lives of their children.

Mothers2mothers’s slogan is “Empowered women nurture healthy families.” The organization focuses on empowering and educating women and expecting mothers in the hope to alleviate the stress of HIV and provide proper care. One wing of their organization involves Mentor Mothers, who are mothers living with HIV. Mentor Mothers work alongside doctors and nurses by becoming part of the healthcare team in the health center. Mentor Mothers serve as counselors and confidantes to other mothers living with HIV and educate women on how to protect their children from HIV.

So far, mothers2mothers has discovered that women involved in mothers2mothers are more likely to take antiretroviral drugs that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; infants are better protected and are given an early diagnosis test to determine their health status.

Mothers2mothers plans on expanding and hopes to reach even more women than the 1.9 million women they currently serve. Mothers2mothers provides life-saving opportunities to women living with HIV as well as children.

Mothers bring children into this world, and children are the future. By saving the lives of mothers, the world can begin to see a healthier, brighter future that moves out of poverty and disease.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Mothers2mothers, Aid for Africa
Photo: LGTVP