Carly Foxwell is supporting the work of Women and Children First: to prevent mothers and babies dying needlessly. She is running the North London Half Marathon only 7 months after the birth of her healthy baby boy, Fletcher.

Carly received first-rate care throughout her pregnancy and birth here in the UK. This made her reflect on the challenges that expectant mothers and babies face living in poor communities without access to these services: “I wanted to collect money for a charity which works to provide women in developing countries and their babies with better care, working towards improved infant survival rates and reduced health issues in babies and children.”

Even after the birth of baby Fletcher, Carly developed a minor complication but, through the NHS, could readily access both the proper care and the antibiotics she needed. Champion mum Carly not only kept healthy and fit during her pregnancy –  she even attended spinning classes – but also began training only five weeks after giving birth.

Like Carly, Women and Children First also believes that pregnancy should not be a frightening experience and that women should obtain information and adequate care to keep both themselves and their babies healthy. Our participatory women’s groups bring together women in rural communities to learn, share information and decide how to address the challenges they face. Together, women discuss the importance of obtaining antenatal care, learn how crucial it is to exclusively breastfeed newborns and collectively fund bicycle ambulances to transport expectant mothers to nearby health centers.

Why not also run to save lives? Send us an email (j.garden@womenandchildrenfirst.org.uk), a tweet (@WCF_UK) or give us a call (07968019753) to find out more. Support our champion runner by visiting her fundraising page and donating!

The Vitality North London Half Marathon takes place Sunday 12 March 2017 and starts at 08:30 from Wembley Stadium.

Two million young people are currently living with HIV and 70,000 will die from pregnancy related causes each year. The majority of these deaths occur in developing countries and could be avoided. Governments, NGOs and local communities must empower young people to act on their sexual reproductive health and rights, so Women and Children First applauds the launch of the UN General Comment on the Rights of Adolescents, which stresses the necessity that all young people enjoy their rights and outlines the actions that governments must take to ensure this.  

Adolescent pregnancies can often be unplanned or unwanted, as sexual education may not be readily accessible, some girls might face the social pressure to marry and bear children early and others may be unable to refuse unwanted sex. More than 30 per cent of girls in developing countries marry before they are 18; half will do so before they are 15. Limited sexual education means that girls, married or otherwise, may not know how to avoid getting pregnant. They may feel inhibited or ashamed to seek contraception services; contraceptives may be too expensive or not widely or legally available. Early childbearing must be addressed as, the younger the mother, the greater the risks for both mother and newborn. In developing countries, babies born to adolescent mothers are more likely to be underweight and even face a 50 per cent higher risk of being stillborn or dying in the first few weeks, compared with babies born to mothers aged 20-29.

This Christmas Women and Children First is bringing hope to mums and babies in Uganda.

Our work with Amref Uganda in the North of the country where families have recently returned to their homes after many years of civil war, is improving life in the villages of Gulu and Amaru districts.  The women’s groups there are teaching mothers all about how to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth safely, as well as the importance of newborn care, immunization and good nutrition to ensure babies survive and become healthy children.  The communities say there is now less drinking fighting and illness, and more hard work and harmony in their homes. 

Our Christmas campaign focuses on the story of Innocent, a young mother who benefitted from the wisdom shared by her own mother’s women’s group. 

Innocent’s mother said “When my daughter got pregnant at 15 years of age, I didn’t know what to do, so I shared my concerns with the group.  They advised me not to scold my daughter, but instead take care of her because she is still very young.  They also told me about the risks of pregnancy that a young girl can face and advised me to make sure that she attends antenatal care and starts preparing for her pregnancy and birth”.

The result?  A lovely healthy baby – Nelly was born safely and is thriving. 

Read what other community members and a local midwife have to say about the project.  

Following the national dissemination of results from our most recent project in collaboration with PCP – the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh Perinatal Care project – Women and Children First looks back on some of the substantial developments that have taken place in Bangladesh since we first started collaborating in 2002. Over the last fifteen years, together we have established over 1,000 women’s groups across Bangladesh contributing to saving mothers’ and babies’ lives.

Our programmes have addressed maternal, newborn and child health challenges facing communities in the districts of Bogra, Faridpur and Moulavibazar in Bangladesh. Our 1,004 women’s groups have empowered women and their communities to take action and make a lasting impact on their and their childrens’ health. In a country with the sixth largest number of newborn deaths globally, and a high maternal mortality rate, any changes that can help people to address the factors underpinning maternal and newborn health can have a considerable impact. Ensuring that women can access services, that attendants wash their hands with soap prior to delivery, and that men are engaged with maternal and child health issues, are examples of simple actions that can make all the difference. Our projects also sought to improve the quality of services provided by health facilities, particularly improving the training of healthcare staff so that women seeking their services received the care to which they were entitled.

Over the course of three consecutive programmes, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the UK Department for International Development, we have seen improvements in the safety of home deliveries as well as an increase in care-seeking: attending ante-natal check-ups at health facilities and women delivering at a health facility. What’s more, practices like breastfeeding newborns within the first hour of delivery have also steadily increased, and communities are aware of how crucial it is to exclusively feed breast milk to babies under 6 months of age. Women are more aware of how family planning can contribute to their and their children’s health. A controlled trial which concluded in 2013 affirmed that these changes had succeeded in reducing newborn mortality by up to 38% across the communities where women’s groups had been set up.

Our latest programme started in the summer of 2014 and ran until December 2016 in Bogra District, northern Bangladesh. A total of 196 women’s groups were established, recruiting over 10,000 community members. This programme also involved engaging with policy makers and local stakeholders to ensure ownership, commitments and sustainability of the interventions beyond the end of programme and into the future.

Did you know that something as simple as handwashing can save lives? Hygiene is a critical, low -cost solution for preventing maternal and newborn infection and washing hands with soap is an easy and effective way to keep mothers and babies safe.  Women and Children First is sharing this simple solution to highlight Global Handwashing Day on 15 October. 

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that if everyone routinely washed their hands, 1 million deaths a year could be prevented. A study in Nepal showed handwashing by birth attendants and mothers helped reduce neonatal mortality by 41%

In 2013 6.3 million children died before the age of 5. Over 50% of these deaths were caused by infectious diseases, many of which could have been prevented by mothers and other caregivers having clean hands.  Pneumonia is the infectious disease which kills most under-5’s, but it can be prevented simply by regular hand-washing.  Around 50% of cases of life-threatening diarrhoea can also be avoided in this way. 

Women who join one of Women and Children First’s women’s groups soon realise how important hand-washing is. They learn how to improve hygiene and sanitation in their homes and their villages and that their hands must be clean when they handle a newborn baby.  They also learn that if they give birth with a traditional birth attendant, that person’s hands must be clean to prevent infection for both mother and baby.  The group leaders use easy to understand picture cards to get the message across. 

Saving lives can be so easy - you too can help. Click here to see how.