Bread and Water for Africa® to Ship Prenatal Vitamins to Ethiopia to Help Ensure Better Outcomes for Pregnant Women and Infants

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Bread and Water for Africa® to Ship Prenatal Vitamins to Ethiopia to Help Ensure Better Outcomes for Pregnant Women and Infants

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Acute malnutrition among pregnant women and girls and breastfeeding mothers has increased by 25 percent in recent years in a dozen countries, for the most part all located in sub-Saharan Africa, including countries where Bread and Water for Africa® works such as Chad, Ethiopia and Kenya, according to a UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) report last year.

“Poor nutrition in pregnant and breastfeeding women can lead to weak immunity and complications during pregnancy and birth,” stated ABC News in its coverage of the UNICEF report. “Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have in previous studies recorded high infant mortality rates due to various complications.

“Ensuring that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have access to nutrition services and supplements has also been recommended in the report.”

The situation in Ethiopia is especially dire and that’s why this month Bread and Water for Africa® is working with MAP International to ship 129,600 bottles of prenatal vitamins to our longtime partner there, Haramaya University, a top university system which operates an extensive network of clinics and hospitals throughout the country which provides free or extremely low-cost healthcare services for thousands of indigent children, mothers and families.

Haramaya University, through its Community Outreach Program, will distribute vitamins to several hospitals and health centers in the Haraghe region.

Making circumstances even worse, UNICEF reported in March that “As a prolonged heatwave and drought grip several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF is sounding the alarm on the dire situation faced by vulnerable communities who are bearing the brunt of climate change

In the region, 45 million children are living through multiple and often overlapping crises intensified by climate change, including cholera outbreaks, malnutrition, drought and floods.”

In addition, UNICEF reports that “The climate crisis is a real threat to children and communities in Eastern and Southern Africa (which includes Ethiopia).

“The very elements that children need to survive and thrive, including clean water, food, shelter, learning and safety, are being impacted by climate shocks.”

This is the case particularly threatening for infants who are born to mothers who are malnourished themselves and have severe vitamin deficiencies.

In the East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR), a global climate phenomenon characterized by atypical warming of sea surface temperatures across the tropical eastern Pacific known as El Niño is also having a significant negative impact on the country with above-normal rains and flooding.

In response to climate change and other crises in the region, UNICEF reported that it is actively working to safeguard children through programs and services including “ensuring acutely malnourished children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women are reached with treatment services.

“Most countries in East and Southern Africa have stretched capacities, financial constraints, and challenges around cross-sectoral and inter-agency coordination to respond effectively, requiring anticipatory action, early preparedness, and strategic response to help countries at high risk minimize the impact of El Niño.”

And, according to UNICEF, in ESAR it is prioritizing eight countries including Ethiopia that it considers to be “Tier One,” “that are projected to have worse consequences due to El Niño. These countries currently have existing emergencies that El Niño may exacerbate.” (In Ethiopia, those pre-existing vulnerabilities impacting more than 1.5 million people in need are cholera, refugees and insecurity due to internal conflict in the country.)

We are again partnering with MAP International which will provide the prenatal vitamins, with Bread and Water for Africa® paying the cost of about $8,000 to ship a 40-foot container from the U.S. to Ethiopia thanks to the generosity of our supporters, as well as handling the logistics of getting the vitamins to the country.

MAP International notes that “Prenatal care plays a pivotal role in ensuring a healthy pregnancy outcome, and among the essential components of this care are prenatal vitamins.”

Among the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy include nutrient optimization to support the growth and development of the fetus (prenatal vitamins are formulated to provide essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D, among others which are “crucial for the proper development of the baby’s brain, bones and overall health,” as well as promoting the well-being of expectant mothers and reducing the risk of pregnancy complications.

According to MAP International, prenatal vitamins decrease the risk of low birth weight by 12 percent, preterm birth by 8 percent and stillbirth by 8 percent, “with even greater benefits observed in anemic pregnant women.”

Following a shipment by Bread and Water for Africa® of micronutrient vitamins to Cameroon last year, our partner there reported that 400 women, including many who “depended entirely” on the vitamins as their only prenatal supplement that the end result was “100 percent safe deliveries for all women who effectively used the micronutrient supplement for prenatal.”

 And what better outcome could there be than that?

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