Mother and Baby Programme gives hope to thousands of lives in Africa Over 1 million newborn babies and around 179,000 women die every year in Sub- Saharan Africa as a result of complications in pregnancy, labour, during delivery and in the first month of a child's life. Today, St John International signals an attempt to turn that tide, with the launch of its new Mother and Baby Programme. The initiative has been made possible thanks to a Big Lottery Fund grant of £257,365, allowing the charity to mobilise community based volunteers on the ground in Malawi and Zambia, and provide support to households and increase access to health service. For generations St John International has been providing community based first aid, healthcare and related services to people in need throughout the world. Trial activity has already seen the Mother and Baby Programme team visiting the communities of Malawi and Zambia, to identify the most urgent need. St John also has plans to roll out the programme in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe by raising further funds. The reduction of the horrendous death rates amongst Mothers and Babies was set as a Millennium Goal. Huge strides have been made and the St John programme will be another significant step along the way. said Sir Paul Lambert, Secretary General of St John International. Our teams of local volunteers and healthcare professionals have seen with their own eyes what tragic circumstances are in existence, and how many lives are being needlessly lost. “With the generous support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our superb support from the Big Lottery Fund, the Mother and Baby programme has a vision of ‘a world where communities take action to strengthen the health of women and children. Adding his voice to the campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: I passionately support the work of St John and their unique community volunteer led approach towards improving community health around the world and addressing maternal and newborn health in Africa. Without healthy mothers and babies, communities cannot flourish and develop. So investment in this area of healthcare is absolutely vital. Volunteers will be trained in topics such as basic hygiene, planning for birth, danger signs during pregnancy, maintaining temperature in newborns, cord care, post natal care needs and risks. With the acquired knowledge and skills, the volunteers will carry out home visits to thousands of households to educate and give advice to women as well as men about the importance of maternal and newborn health. St John International is seeking to engage the support of corporates, particularly those who have had or currently have, an interest in the communities of Malawi and Zambia. Unlike many programmes this does not rely on outside agencies. Our local St John Ambulance organisations in Malawi and Zambia will recruit additional volunteers from within the community and after giving them first aid training will train them to provide the support in maternal health and newborn. The generous grant from the Big Lottery will allow the programme to start, however, after 3 years our local St John Organisations will be funding these programmes themselves. “This is a low cost high impact programme and £150,000 is enough to roll out another programme in another country for a year. commented Sir Paul. The issues surrounding maternal and newborn health is one of the key priorities in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015. St John International and its Associations have a crucial role to play in contributing to the MDGs as they have unique access to hard-to-reach communities.