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The cultures of the world vary greatly from one place to the next, but some things — like giving birth — are universal.
While nothing could be more natural than the wonder of birth, the level of care available to women and their children during such a potentially precarious time in their lives is on less than an even playing field around the world.
When the child is born before a pregnancy has run its full term, the perils multiply.
Megan Radford, who was born in the relative safety of Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook, is a public relations officer with World Vision Canada. She has become an award-winning correspondent who visits foreign countries where World Vision is operating and tells the stories of the local people being helped there by the organization.
She recently returned from visiting Ethiopia, where she saw firsthand how Canadian resources are helping prevent unplanned pregnancies and premature births.
Radford, who moved away from western Newfoundland when she was 13, was a guest presenter at International Development Week events in Ottawa this week. She spoke about what she saw while in the African country where Born on Time, a public-private partnership that prioritizes reducing the chances of premature births, is being implemented.
The project is also being rolled out in Bangladesh and Mali.
For Radford, the issue is a personal one as she has a cousin in Newfoundland and Labrador who was born prematurely.
“I know women and babies overseas have a much higher risk of being born pre-term and not surviving,” she said. “The work Canada is doing there is incredible, supporting women before, during and after pregnancies.”
Radford would like nothing more than to see Ethiopians, and those living in Bangladesh and Mali, enjoy the same level of health care that Canadians do. While the Born on Time project is working towards that goal of improving maternal and newborn health care outcomes, federal funding for the initiative is currently set to end in 2020.
Radford hopes her fellow Canadians will see the value of the project and urge their federal government representatives to ensure funding for it can be sustained.
“We want Canadians to let their MPs know they care about this kind of thing and they feel a connection with moms and babies overseas and want to continue helping,” she said.
Some quick facts about the Born on Time project:
- The first public-private partnership to prioritize the prevention of pre-term birth, now the leading cause of death in children under five globally.
- Being delivered in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Mali, where the percentages of premature births range between 10 and 14 per cent of all births.
- Targets risk factors related to unhealthy lifestyle/behaviours, maternal infections, inadequate nutrition and limited access to contraception that can lead to babies being born too soon.
- Aims to empower women and adolescent girls as well as to engage men, boys and community leaders to tackle gender-based discrimination and barriers that impact maternal and newborn health.
- Supports women and adolescent girls before, during and between pregnancies by strengthening health systems with training, equipment and supplies to provide quality, responsive care.
- Working closely with local governments and community stakeholders, this five-year initiative brings together expertise and resources from World Vision, Plan International, Save the Children, the Government of Canada and Johnson & Johnson to help ensure every child is born on time.
Source: World Vision Canada