Global Healthcare: Moms Helping Moms
My little brother, Mark, was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 16 years old. But his struggles began shortly after birth when he nearly died from a rare disease and later suffered from ADHD and learning disabilities all throughout school. I watched as my mom, a mother of six, fought for information, diagnoses, solutions, and later, for Mark's rights. She became educated, advocated on Mark's behalf—and on the behalf of countless others suffering from mental illness. She then educated other parents on how to have hope, how to fight, and how to parent. At a time when she couldn't even discuss his illness with her neighbors due to the stigma associated with it, my mom was relentless in doing everything she could to be the best parent possible and to help other parents in similar situations have hope, gain information, and be the best parents they could be to their mentally ill children.
When I visited Africa a year and a half ago, I saw this same desire in mothers there as I saw in my own mom—the desire to have access to information and to have the healthcare options available to raise healthy children. I also recognized the desire to help other parents who have been through similar circumstances.
I learned of one such example recently—Toma Mamout—a mother of seven from Chad, Africa.
Four of Toma’s children died young, one from Polio. Her loss became her calling. Not wanting others to experience similar loss, she worked to encourage mothers in Chad to vaccinate their children. Working in both a hospital and at the West Mongo health centre, she runs the day-to-day work of the program—from vaccinating children to holding education sessions with mothers.
According to Toma, on her rounds to the more distant villages, the semi-nomadic local communities “refused until recently to allow their children to be vaccinated, out of ignorance and fear.”
Meeting regularly with authorities and health organizations that cooperate in setting up Polio campaigns and routine vaccination drives seems to have made huge inroads in helping raise awareness and help the people there to resolve their concerns.
Similarly for my mom, a little information made a lot of difference. My brother, now in his mid 30s, isn't out of the woods. His will be a lifelong battle with ups and downs. But awareness, access to information and medication, and help from organizations like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill have made a huge difference.
Global Healthcare: How You Can Help Make a Difference
Mothers in Africa need the same kind of resources, but unlike my mom who had access to ample resources here in the U.S., African mothers need our help. Awareness is one step. Having access to the vaccines is a critical next step. The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible, especially when we consider that 25 years ago, 125 countries were Polio endemic and today, thanks to awareness and vaccines, we are only three countries shy of worldwide eradication. This is just one disease children in Africa face, but a positive example of how, with the help of vaccines, a disease can be eradicated.
Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global healthcare and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!
This story comes from UNICEF and is part of [email protected]’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by [email protected] and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Ilina Ewen's post on Dirt and Noise! Go to www.shotatlife.org/impact to learn more.Photo courtesy of UNICEF.