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Connecting Women and Girls to Quality Health Services

A Letter from Leslie Mancuso, Jhpiego President and CEO

Mothers and their daughters wait to be seen at a rural health clinic near Narok, Kenya.

Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures. That’s the theme of International Women’s Day 2012. At Jhpiego, we believe that a girl’s chance at a bright future begins with her mother. Our efforts around the world focus on ensuring pregnant women receive the attention and care they need to give birth to a healthy baby.

Prenatal care, birth preparedness information, skilled attendants at birth and proper feeding and care of a newborn, these are essential for a woman to survive childbirth, prepare for motherhood and give her newborn a healthy start. More than 350,000 women a year don’t survive childbirth.

In many places where Jhpiego works in the developing world, girls become mothers before they are 16. Having a skilled, respectful health care provider assist at birth could mean the difference between life and death for the mother or her child.

Salama Khatib was one such young wife. Home alone, Salama, 15, of Zanzibar, was in labor for eight hours before her family brought her to the local health facility. Salama gave birth to a premature baby. The midwives at the facility, supported by Jhpiego, coached Salama in Kangaroo Mother Care–the practice of skin-to-skin contact in which a mother swaddles a baby to her chest to keep her baby warm and facilitate breastfeeding. With such care, Salama’s baby began to grow and thrive.

These midwivesplayed a key role in giving Salama’s baby a healthy start. They also counseled Salama and her husband on healthy birth spacing–waiting a minimum of two years before getting pregnant again–so that they could safely plan and care for their family.

Through Jhpiego’s leadership of the U.S. global flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), to its education of midwives and nurses, to efforts to prevent cervical cancer, girls and adolescents are gaining access to quality health care and information.

We are committed to this work because we know that healthy, educated girls develop into women and mothers who make important decisions for themselves and their family–decisions that have the potential to positively impact their community, their country and the world.