Infant maternal care in India gets the attention of the Gates Foundation ($41mn Fund)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have granted $41 million  for improving maternal, newborn and child health among six countries, India being one among them. It has been granted to an International humanitarian organization, Concern Worldwide to work toward this mission; and the plan is for the enormous grant of $41 million to be delivered over five years. It will help fund the battle against rising baby and mother death rates in developing countries besides supporting developing and testing od delivery of maternal, newborn and child health projects.

A peek into the prevailing conditions is quite alarming:

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Infant Care in India - Needs Attention

In India and Malawi, two-thirds of mothers and children do not have essential health services such as vaccinations, skilled people to take care at birth and good nutrition. In Sierra Leone, more than 25% of children die before reaching their fifth birthday. In Malawi alone, one in every 18 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in NYC in Sep 2008, Bill Gates had stated, “I love the Millennium Development Goals. I think they the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen. With all the mountains of measures and studies and reports in the world-these Millennium Development Goals have broken through and grabbed broad attention. Thanks to these goals, not only UN agencies but the world at large knows the key measures of poverty, hunger, health, and education. Some of the numbers are good and some are not. But the fact that the world is focusing on the numbers is excellent”

It’s an excellent step taken by the Foundation for having taken notice of the prevailing conditions and providing a grant. Referring to the need to provide quality healthcare to mothers and infants, Concern said two-thirds of mothers and children in India and Malawi lack essential health services such as vaccinations, skilled care at birth and good nutrition.

Gates Foundation: Focus Area for India

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been working in India in the field of health and development, especially HIV/AIDS. Gates has said that India, which faces some of the toughest health problems in the world, needs to increase its healthcare spending to eliminate diseases in the country. He said it last week in India, when he received an award from President Pratibha Patil.

To commend their focus and investment, the foundation had also received the Indira Gandhi prize for peace disarmament and development for its philanthropic activities.

It’s about providing ‘care’ to the right people:

“Even the most effective health interventions can only save lives if they reach the people who need them”, said Jaime Sepzlveda, Director of the Integrated Health Solutions Development program at the Foundation. “Concern Worldwide’s commitment to seeking innovation from diverse, non-traditional sources will be a key ingredient in the success of this program.”

It’s important to understand that there have been critical obstacles in delivering essential maternal and child care such as overburdened health systems or harmful practices like discontinuing breastfeeding too early. These need to be overcome; there are proven interventions already, with the potential to save millions of lives. The challenge is to ensure these interventions reach all those who need them.

Plan for roll-out:

The initiative would start in India, Malawi and Sierra Leone, while the other three countries would be decided later.

Concern would work with a broad spectrum of people, including mid-level and junior health workers, academia, civil society, private sector and community members in the three countries and evaluate how to reach out and provide help to those in need.

“This project is all about discovering and testing new ideas. It requires prudent risk taking and a relentless commitment to improving the state of our world,” Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold said. He added on saying, “That’s a cornerstone of our organization and that is why we exist. We’re delighted to have this opportunity.”

Irish American business mogul Tom Moran, the head of the insurance giant Mutual of America and chairman of the “Concern Worldwide,” applauded the Foundation for working with NGOs to fund new research and find new solutions.

He said the donation would save millions of lives on the ground. Nearly 10 million children die each year before they reach the age of five, he said, adding that this is equivalent to the death of half of the children under age five in the U.S. every year.

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