“All about us there are many who are in need of help and who are deserving of rescue. Our mission in life, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, must be a mission of saving. There are the homeless, the hungry, the destitute.”President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Mission of Saving,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 59
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints focuses on four major initiatives along with partnering with others on Measles Vaccinations and emergency responses around the world. Here is an over view of each of them.
Measles deaths worldwide decreased from nearly 6 million in the early 1960’s before the measles vaccine was licensed to 1.9 million in 1987. In 1999, measles claimed the lives of 873,000 worldwide. It was realized that the mortality rate could be significantly reduced by targeting 47 countries including 31 in Africa.
In 2001, the Measles Initiative, a partnership including the American Red Cross, the United Nations World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began with the goal of reducing worldwide mortality from measles by 90% from its 1999 level by 2010.
In January 2007, it was reported that 360 million children and youth were vaccinated in target countries between 2001 and 2005 resulting in a 60% decrease in the world measles mortality rate. Deaths decreased from 873,000 in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005. The cost per vaccination was 83 cents.
In 2003, the Church joined the Measles Initiative and has committed one million dollars each year in support of the campaign. The Church has also participated in the social mobilization effort that is significant to the success of each campaign. A catchy musical jingle, composed by a young Church member during the Church’s participation in the Madagascar measles campaign, has been translated and sung in 28 languages on dozens of radio stations in subsequent campaigns.
From 2004 to 2008, 59,596 Church members in 32 countries volunteered their efforts in canvassing neighborhoods and helping at vaccination posts
In 2008, the Church participated in measles vaccination campaigns in Benin, El Salvador, Egypt, Honduras, Ivory Cost, Malawi, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.
Measles Initiative Saving African Children
Each year, millions of men, women, and children are impacted by war, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other disasters. In these desperate circumstances, quick response is often the difference between life and death.
The Church continually gathers donations of food, clothes, medical supplies, and relief items. The resources are then pre-positioned in key locations for shipping on short notice. Because of this preparedness, the Church is able to respond immediately in times of emergency.
When the timing of response is critical, international relief agencies have come to rely on the Church for food and materials.
In addition to providing materials, the Church also helps with funds and volunteers. Volunteers often make the most difference in restoring hope in the lives of those in crisis. A recent example is the more than 10,000 days of labor donated by Church members to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and surrounding states.
From 1985 to 2008, the Church has shipped 61,308 tons of food and 132,028 tons of other supplies to more than 150 countries. In 2008, the Church provided assistance in response to the Sichuan, China earthquake, the famine in Ethiopia, the Myanmar cyclone, the hurricanes in Cuba, Haiti and the United States, and 118 other disasters.
Pandemic Flu Prevention
Neonatal Resuscitation Training
According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million babies die each year due to birth difficulties. As many as 10 percent of all newborns have breathing difficulties at birth and require some assistance. With proper training and minimal equipment, many of the deaths of newborns due to breathing problems can be avoided.
The Church works with national health organizations and ministries of health from countries around the world to identify areas where training in neonatal resuscitation is most desperately needed. The Church then sends volunteer physicians and nurses to instruct birth attendants in these areas. These local attendants are then able to train others. This Church program has trained over 80,000 birth attendants.
In 2008, the Church conducted training in 30 countries, including Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, and Venezuela.
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people lack access to clean water. Those without clean water often suffer from water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid.The objective of the Church’s clean water initiative is to improve the health of communities by providing access to sustainable clean water sources. Depending on local needs and circumstances, these water sources include wells (or boreholes), water storage and delivery systems, and water purification systems.Since 2002, the Church has helped five million people in over 4,500 communities obtain access to clean water sources. Clean water projects have enjoyed long-term sustainability because:
Communities are involved in the planning and implementation of each project. Most labor is provided by community members and other volunteers.
Community representatives are trained on system maintenance prior to project completion.
In 2008, clean water projects were done in 26 countries, including Armenia, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, and Vanuatu.
As many as 100 million people worldwide may need a wheelchair and don’t have access to one. Only 1 in 100 can afford to purchase a wheelchair. To be mobile, people with disabilities often rely on family and friends to carry them from place to place. It can be extremely difficult just to leave home. Going to school or getting a job may be impossible dreams.
To help, the Church partners with community organizations serving the disabled. The local partner assesses clients, prescribes a device, and follows up with therapy and support. The Church donates wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, cushions, and other assistive devices – sometimes purchased from local workshops. When requested, teams of therapists give additional technical training to the partner.
Since 2001, the Church has distributed more than 300,000 wheelchairs in 101 countries.In 2008, the Church distributed more than 50,000 wheelchairs in 46 countries, including Armenia, Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, China, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Uruguay, and Vietnam.
More than 161 million people in the world are visually impaired, of whom 124 million people have low vision and 37 million are blind. Up to 75% of all blindness is avoidable or treatable. The objective of the Church’s vision care program is to strengthen eye care services to the poor by supplying essential technical training, equipment, supplies, and organizational support to assist local eye care professionals and programs.
Using ophthalmologists who volunteer their time, the Church has assisted local eye care professionals and programs resulting in benefit to over 180,000 individuals since 2003.
In 2008, the Church supported vision care projects in 12 countries, including Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Myanmar, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, and Vietnam.
Humanitarian Activities Worldwide
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducts humanitarian activities worldwide. From 1985 to 2008 Humanitarian Services provided more than $1.11 billion in total assistance to needy individuals in 167 countries.In 1996 the Church organized Latter-day Saint Charities as a non-governmental organization to facilitate humanitarian activities in selected countries.
In 2004 Jeff was asked if he could volunteer to go to Peru and teach Newborn Resuscitation. He agreed. I went as a guest. Shortly after that we were asked again to go this time to Bolivia. It was a big eye opener to see how many needs there were in the Medical field in these countries. The Doctors and Nurses do a marvelous job with what little they have.
Shortly after the Bolivia trip we were asked to accept a Part Time Short Term Specialist Mission call in the Newborn Resuscitation Initiative. We felt like it was what we were supposed to be doing so we agreed to accept the call. We have been serving in this work ever since then. There are about six other couples who do what we do in other areas of the world. We meet with them every other Thursday in Salt Lake City along with the NRT Committee. They are all dedicated and we learn so much from them.
We are required to travel to South or Central America about every six weeks to two months. We go first to the assigned country on a development trip. On these trips Jeff and I meet with the Ministry of Health and Hospital Officials. We occasionally meet with partnering organizations such as PAHO. Then we come home and do all of the paper work and budgets for the course which will be taught about four months later. Once the trip is approved we work on the detail via e-mail and phone calls to the Humanitarian Missionaries in the country.
We return to the country with a team of Physicians and Nurses to teach the course. They are two days long. We then travel to the next city and repeat the course. Lately we have been teaching the courses with mostly in country Doctors and Nurses who have already been trained. They do such an excellent job.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints donates all of the training equipment and equipment to supply all of the delivery rooms for the Hospitals and Clinics that participated. We help pass this all out in the graduation ceremonies following the courses. It is so fun to see them accept their new equipment.
We have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful Doctors, Nurses and Therapists on these trips. We have made many friends in many countries.
Part of our calling is to track the success of the program in each of these countries. Sometimes the information is hard to track down but when we do we learn of the differences these programs make.
We have been on about 35 trips now. The countries include Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, El Salvador. Everyone asks if we have a favorite. Our answer is hard as we have loved all of them. I do love Peru because it has such diverse beauty. I think Jeff would favor Argentina. We have not had any country we would not love to go back to.
There are many challenges to this calling. The biggest is probably the extreme travel. We work up until we leave and often it takes us two days to get to our destination. We get off the plane and go right to work or off to in country travel to get to the city we will start teaching in on Monday morning. This can mean a long drive by van or car over often difficult roads. We have had up to 8-12 hour drives over Andes mountains. We seldom do any sight seeing although the sites we do see are amazing. We fly home and arrive exhausted and return to work the next day. One other challenge is working with the political situations in each country. It keeps things interesting.
There are many blessings and irreplaceable experiences on every trip. As mentioned above the friends and people are so wonderful. The opportunity to visit so many hospitals and clinics is such a learning experience. We see how the people can improvise so many things. If they don't have what they need they often take what they have and make do. We walk the streets and never have felt that we are in danger. Well almost never. We attend Church meetings in these countries and see that every where we go the meetings are conducted the same as at home. We have been able to visit many Temples and Church Offices. All the money for funding comes from Humanitarian donations to the LDS Church. Every single dime of it goes to the actual Humanitarian aid being given.
Above all we have the opportunity to serve our fellow men. It is without expectations or strings attached, a gift from our Church to the World. It is an opportunity for LDS members to serve and share their talents. An opportunity for those in need to receive the things they are in need of. All involved benefit. We are blessed and very thankful to be a part of this work.
Newborns in Guayaquil Ecuador
An actual resuscitation in South America.