Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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World Health Day is held annually on 7 April and marks the founding of the World Health Organisation in 1948.

For more than 70 years, this day has been used to increase public knowledge and awareness of important health issues.

From diabetes, vaccinations, and breast-feeding; to depression, road safety and physical activity, World Health Day generates global attention on the most significant health and wellbeing topics of our time.

A focus on health equality

In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, a polluted planet and increasing incidence of diseases, the theme for World Health Day 2022 is: Our Planet, Our Health.

This theme will bring global attention to urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy, and foster a movement to create societies based on wellbeing. 

The Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

However, the reality is that an individual’s birthplace can determine the ease in which they can access nearby, affordable, quality healthcare.

The impact of a global pandemic

According to the World Health Statistics 2020 report, only 33-50% of the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017.

With healthcare systems in many countries overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that this access has reduced even further for thousands of children and families since 2020.

The report says: “The COVID-19 pandemic not only draws into focus the need to rebuild resilient health systems with increased access to quality health services, lowered financial cost and a strengthened health workforce, but also calls for the provision of services such as routine vaccinations and basic hygiene and sanitation.”

Obstacles to accessing quality healthcare

For children and families in developing communities, there are three major obstacles to accessing essential healthcare:

Location: In remote and rural areas, health clinics can be located at significant distances from communities. This is often compounded by a lack of public transport, with families needing to undertake long journeys on foot, as they cannot afford other transportation options.

Resources: Even where clinics are established, government budgets may constrain the services they are available to provide. With a shortage of qualified staff, and an even greater shortage of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, these clinics may only be able to offer the most basic of care.

Cost: Children and adults with more complex conditions will generally require the services available at hospitals located in urban centres. While public health systems may offer care that is free of charge, funds are still needed to cover travel, accommodation, and food costs. As they are foregoing earnings during this time, the total sum needed to access quality healthcare can be out of reach for low-income families.

You can support health and wellbeing for all this World Health Day by purchasing one of ChildFund Australia’s Gifts For Good. Healthcare gifts that can be donated to those in need include COVID-19 Protection Kits and Birthing Kits for Mothers.

Supporting rural communities to access healthcare

ChildFund’s health programs are focused on increasing access to healthcare among children and families, by driving both community and systems change, particularly in remote and rural communities.

In Timor-Leste, ChildFund is training Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to address high levels of child malnutrition and maternal mortality.

CHVs like Augusta regularly monitor the growth and health of children in her village, referring them to a health professional when required, and providing advice to parents and caregivers on hygiene and nutrition.

Augusta also supports pregnant and new mothers, recommending that they deliver babies in health facilities rather than at home, and the importance of breastfeeding.

In Papua New Guinea, with COVID-19 infection rates soaring, ChildFund is working with PNG’s Department of Health to ensure rural communities can still access essential healthcare, even where local clinics have closed.

ChildFund PNG’s Integrated Community Health Outreach Services are delivered in remote villages  with the help of ChildFund staff and district health personnel.

These outreach services bring vaccination, antenatal care, tuberculosis/HIV/malaria screening, family planning, growth monitoring, health promotion, and other priority health services to rural villages.

In Zambia, ChildFund is focused on reducing preventable deaths from malaria. The world’s most deadly vector borne disease is particularly dangerous among children, with 57% of malaria mortalities occurring among children under the age of five.

ChildFund Zambia is responding by:

  • educating children and their families about how to recognise the symptoms of malaria;
  • testing children and their families for malaria and providing referrals to treatment; and
  • providing families with insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Health and wellbeing for all

ChildFund Australia health adviser Tracy Yuen says: “In recent decades, we have made significant progress towards achieving improved health outcomes around the globe.

“Life expectancy is increasing, while child and maternal mortality rates have reduced significantly.

“However, if we are to meet targets within Sustainable Development Goal 3 –  ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages  – we need to be better prepared for future global health emergencies, and provide targeted support in those regions where enormous disparities continue to exist in terms of access to quality care.”

You can help increase access to quality healthcare for all this World Health Day. Donate one of ChildFund Australia’s Gifts for Good, or create your own health-focussed Fundraising Event in support.

After a tough year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a gym in Victoria is giving back to children and their families in Zambia in the lead up to Christmas.

Despite facing challenges from the ongoing lockdowns, members of Be Strong Fitness Geelong have come together to raise money for a school in Zambia.

The primary school, a run-down concrete classroom in a remote community east of the capital, Lusaka, is close to Be Strong Fitness Geelong co-director Joanne’s heart.

For two years the mother-of-four has been sponsoring, through ChildFund Australia, seven-year-old Flavian, who attends the school.

Through Facebook and emails, Joanne asked gym members to contribute to a group donation. Together, Be Strong Fitness Geelong members raised $550, which will be used to repair and upgrade Flavian’s primary school as well as provide students and teachers with blackboards.

Joanne says the decision to reach out to members and organise a community fundraiser for Flavian and his community was easy. It was a simple way to make a difference in the lives of many children.

“Be Strong Fitness Geelong is a strong family-valued community,” she says.  “Flavian and his community have become part of our family community here, and being able to contribute to Flavian and his community is a very rewarding feeling.”

“I was so proud of every member of our gym for the contribution they were able to put forward, especially with the current climate affecting a lot of people financially,” Joanne says.

The funds raised by Be Strong Fitness Geelong, in Victoria, will be used to upgrade seven-year-old Flavian’s primary school in Zambia.

The Be Strong Fitness Geelong community has long supported children’s charities and causes in Australia and overseas, says Joanne. “We do a few pop-up fundraisers though the fitness industry and help out where we can with local families or community events.

“We have stayed away from the more traditional style gyms and have targeted inclusion and family groups.  We reach out to kids and teens to give them a safe, healthy and inviting place to hang out with friends.”

Joanne’s right-hand and the gym’s community fundraiser co-ordinator, Katherine, says she was surprised to see images of Flavian’s school.

“It looked quite run-down,” Katherine says. “It just shows how lucky we are to have what we have here, and made me feel good that we could support Flavian and his community.

“Fundraising has always been a big part of the Be Strong community. We’ve had fundraisers for different charities. I think it’s important. We try to be a very community-based gym and give back and do lots of things locally.

“We’re very lucky, especially this time of the year.”

The Be Strong Fitness gym community. Gym co-director Joanne says: “Everyone working for one cause to help bring some joy to another person and their community builds camaraderie.”

With the success of the recent online fundraiser, Be Strong Fitness Geelong are hoping to run more fundraising events in the new year. Some ideas on the table include movie and raffle nights.

“I am hoping with less restrictions, we can run an event to help raise funds and make it a little more interactive,” Joanne says.

“Our gym works hard to support everyone in their goals and in life. Everyone working for one cause to help bring some joy to another person and their community builds camaraderie.

“Seeing how the funds can help Flavian’s community has been very overwhelming. Our members are very proud to have the opportunity to help.”