Working for widows, orphans and mothers in sub-Saharan Africa

Courtesy: WOW
Courtesy: WOW

Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) brings together a diverse array of partners to pursue our mission of increasing access to medicine for the most vulnerable people in the world. We work with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the private sector, volunteers, medical professionals and health institutions, Canadian and international humanitarian organizations, community based groups, service clubs and faith-based organizations. We would like to introduce you to one of our project implementation partners: WOW (Working for Orphans and Widows).

In Canada, we rarely use the terms widows and orphans. But in Malawi, Zambia and Uganda, where WOW is active, everyone has widows and orphans in their lives. For the people involved with WOW, caring for widows and orphans is the best way to express their faith in God.

Inspiration

As WOW explains on their website, “In James 1:27 (NIV) it says, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…’ If this is God’s definition of religion- caring for some of the most vulnerable people in the world- then justice must begin with them. The AIDS epidemic has left millions of orphans and widows in its wake. They are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, poverty and disease. We believe God’s heart begins with them.”

Amanda Geleynse, the communications coordinator of WOW Mission, explained to HPIC that the mission of the organization founded in 1999 and based in Burlington, Ontario.

“WOW with our Canadian supporters provide the resources to help our local in-country partner organizations. But they call the shots. We are just there to provide support,” Amanda explained. “We connect churches and resources in Canada to support communities in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Amazing local partners

Amanda says the local partners are amazing. “They come from the community they are working in. Totally engaged, they are excited to better their community. Our partners are organized and are seeking to expand their programs. They are go-getters and smart, they just need additional resources and support.”

“Our local partners truly want to provide the best life for the next generation. These are very impoverished communities but there is so much hope among our partners and beneficiaries.”

Programs include health care, income generating programs, maternal and neonatal care, home based care for the sick and shut-ins, a preschool feeding program, provision of school uniforms and supplies.

HPIC’s partnership with WOW Mission

HPIC partners with WOW by providing shipments of bulk medicines to Zambia to support the Mobile Medical Clinics and sending Humanitarian Medical Kits for Mother-Child Health to support 12 MotherCare support groups in Malawi.

“The value of partnering with HPIC is that you are providing medicines and supplies that are simply not available in the countries where we work. Sending money to buy local medicine works in some places but not where we work. In Zambia, you can send all the money you want but there is limited medicine available,” Amanda explained.

See Richard Brown of WOW in Malawi speaking about the role of donated medicines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIM4aSLTp5k

“When I arrived, I was shocked by how impoverished Malawi is, it is actually the most impoverished country in the world. The capital has a few strip malls and then there are slums and rural villages. I heard from a partner in Malawi that sometimes even the government-run hospitals are lacking medicines and equipment and patients die because of this.”

The maternal mortality rate is still very high in Malawi, despite a modest drop in recent years. In 2015, 634 mothers out of every 100,000 births died giving birth, compared to 7 mothers out of 100,000 births in Canada. Think about it: for every 200 births in Malawi, a mother dies.

Mother Care in Malawi

The alternative to MotherCare groups is that women often seek help from traditional healers or neighbours who are not prepared to deal with any complications arising during pregnancy.

One young mother who Amanda remembers is a 14-year-old girl: Her mother got her into a MotherCare group. It turned out she needed a caesarean section and she and her baby would not have survived had she gone to a healer. “They were well cared for by the group and having HPIC’s Mother-Child Health Kit saved her life,” Amanda recounted.

The Mother-Child Kits contain medicines and vitamins as well as equipment for prenatal care, delivery and post-partum care. Having the kit means the MotherCare group can offer the treatment these women and babies need, and the local health workers who manage them receive training to provide their best care.

“All pregnant women need vitamins — but imagine how much more you need the vitamins when you don’t have a good diet? The prenatal vitamins in the kits from HPIC mean that babies are born healthy instead of malnourished, which sets them back for life.”

WOW has a vision to expand MotherCare both in Malawi and also to start the program in Zambia. HPIC has been a partner of WOW for over 10 years. If you would like to support WOW’s work in Malawi you can choose to donate toward the HPIC and WOW project through HPIC’s website http://www.hpicanada.ca/donate/

Courtesy: WOW

Courtesy: WOW

Partnership facts

Since 2004

8 shipments in 2017

Active in Malawi and Zambia

Receive about $600,000 worth of medicines every year