World Breastfeeding Week 2021: Our Mother and Baby Programme in Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe is continuing in its 6th year with great success, showing families easy ways of ensuring mothers and babies stay healthy.

My daughter was 15 years old, when she got her little girl. She breastfed her only for one month, before she started working the full day as a maid in the nearby town. I was feeding our baby girl with other supplements, but day by day she was losing weight.

Nekesa, Grandmother

Nekesa is living in Uganda, one of the four sub-Saharan countries, where St John introduced its Mother and Baby Programme six years ago. The grandmother is taking care of her three-month-old granddaughter, while the baby’s mother is working to earn money for her family. With the mother being away all day, and no awareness of how important exclusive breastfeeding is for a baby’s development, Nekesa introduced poor quality supplements to the girl’s diet, leaving the baby severely malnourished.

St John Volunteers visit families at home

Eventually, St John Uganda’s community volunteers learned about Nekesa’s situation and visited her at home. They referred the baby to the nearby health facility for further checks and agreed to come back on a Sunday, when the baby’s mother was not working.

The St John volunteers enrolled the mother into our Mother & Baby Programme, and discussed with her the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six month of the baby’s life. While breast milk contains all nutrients a baby needs, it also protects against diarrhoea and other common childhood illnesses. Malnourished children, particularly those with severe acute malnutrition, have a higher risk of death, and nutrition-related factors contribute to about 45% of deaths in children under-5 years of age in countries like Uganda.

Acknowledging that the mother had to work to cater for her family needs, our volunteers showed her how to express milk by hand into a bottle, so the grandmother would be able to feed the baby with the breast milk while its mother is away working.

How our Mother and Baby Programme makes a difference

Over the last five years St John’s Mother and Baby Programme has achieved a lot through the hard work of our 380 trained volunteers, who are advising on nationally recognised maternal and newborn health services and visiting pregnant women in their own homes. The activities St John developed are generally non-clinical in nature, but easily deliverable by members of local communities.

Read more about our Mother and Baby Programme

This is what we have achieved in the past five years:

  • 84,600 women were enrolled in the project and got support and advice.
  • We reached more than 340,000 community members with health education on maternal and newborn health, highlighting the needs in the minds of the community, particularly men.
  • 300,000 community members were provided with clinical consultations in hard-to-reach areas, where they would not normally seek healthcare.
  • Our programme also saw the percentage of enrolled women who exclusively breastfed for 6 months after birth increasing significantly in Uganda and Zimbabwe, and the numbers almost doubled in Zambia and Malawi.

You can make a difference for many mothers and babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Please donate today to give a baby the healthy start it deserves.