From what children experience in their mother’s womb and in their family home, from how they are either loved or neglected, the seeds are sown—for wellness or illness, for peace or for brokenness. At Maternal Life International we hold pregnancy, birth, and early childhood as sacred, as worthy of our finest care and most passionate protection. We walk alongside couples to support and strengthen them in their commitment to each other and their children.
By providing practical, life-affirming, and innovative health programs that help strengthen marriages and improve maternal care, MLI not only saves lives, but fortifies the family: the essential foundation that guards and guides these children for the rest of their lives.
1) Utilizing a couple-based approach. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” MLI’s programs take this to heart and seek to recognize, affirm, and strengthen the couple as the fundamental unit of social and behavioral change, encouraging them to “go together” in order to “go far.” From the platform of a healthy and respectful marriage, a wide range of benefits emerges: fewer HIV infections, less domestic violence, improved food security, better parenting, and improved health care decision making. A woman who has an involved and supportive partner is also more likely to attend prenatal care and more likely to utilize skilled birth attendance, thereby lessening the risk of maternal and newborn death.
2) Improving healthcare training and facilities. Reducing maternal and newborn deaths requires scaling up of health care facilities which provide basic and essential obstetrical care, as well as improved training in evidence-based obstetrical care. MLI helps train midwives, physicians, and nurses, provides “safe birth kits” with basic equipment and medicine for labor and delivery, and designs mobile blood-bank and surgical units that enable providers to offer emergency care in a sterile, safe environment.
3) Building local partnerships. MLI works in tandem with local community leaders to design, produce, and replicate its programs. Doing so ensures that the programs are culturally appropriate, are responsive and relevant to the particular needs of each community, have broad buy-in among leaders and participants, and build the capacity of local providers so that impact is sustainable over the long-term.
4) Generating new solutions. From its inception, MLI has had a “passion for the practical” and has built its programs from the ground up to address the real life situations of families and health care providers. To improve the success and implementation of its programs and meet ongoing and emergent challenges facing the communities in which MLI is active, MLI continues to design and implement new program models and delivery methods, and to invent innovative sustainable infrastructure solutions.
MLI believes all these components support one another and reinforce positive change. If a husband is supportive of his wife, she is more likely to receive good nutrition, utilize antepartum and labor and delivery services, and breastfeed her child. With high-quality obstetrical care and safe facilities, women and babies are more likely to live on to care for their families. These couple-based health-seeking behaviors enhance maternal health and prevent childhood malnutrition and stunting. Furthermore, couples who respect, support and communicate with each other are more likely to avoid HIV, emerge from poverty, and provide food security for themselves and their children.