Changing Maternal and Child Health - Celebrating 20 Years of Care Groups

Dr. Pieter Ernst with Care Group volunteers in Mozambique
Dr. Pieter Ernst with Care Group volunteers in Mozambique

In 1995, a small group of thoughtful people noticed an injustice and were not content to sit back and wait for someone else to do something about it. The problem was that too many women and children were dying from preventable and treatable diseases. 12.7 million children under the age of five died in 1990 alone. Dr. Pieter Ernst worked with World Relief in Mozambique at the time and saw firsthand the unnecessary suffering of women and children. But he knew the potential existed to combat this injustice. All that was needed was some initial training and teaching of health practices and treatments and then local citizens could implement what they had learned. So the Care Group movement was created.

This award winning model of healthcare provides regular health training to groups of 10-15 volunteers in each community. These volunteers, mostly women, are taught the simple health practices like washing hands as well as how to treat and prevent serious illnesses like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. Each volunteer is then responsible for visiting 10-15 of their neighbors regularly, sharing what they’ve learned and caring for any illnesses they come across. This multiplying process not only helps save lives, but the entire community becomes aware of how to prevent these illnesses before they start.

As we celebrate 20 years of Care Groups, we commemorate the millions of lives that have been saved by this method of effective grassroots health education. It’s played an important role in contributing to progress on the Millennium Development Goal of significantly reducing child mortality and USAID's call to End Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths. Recognized as an innovative program, Care Groups have been implemented by more than 25 organizations in over 25 countries.

People like Miseria and her daughter, Lucrencia, know firsthand the kind of life-saving impact Care Groups have. Lucrencia is the youngest of 7 children and was chronically malnourished, thin and unable to walk as an 18 month old. Children in that state used to die because of local traditional beliefs that the disease was caused by spirits that sat on the child, preventing it from growing. But when a local Care Group Volunteer visited their home, she immediately recognized the problem and included mom and daughter in a community training about preparing enriched meals with locally available ingredients to improve the nutrition of malnourished children. Several years later, Lucrencia is an energetic and healthy teenager who is a huge help to her mother.

Miseria and her daughter Lucrencia
Miseria and her daughter Lucrencia

One of the local Care Group trainers recently commented, “After seeing Miseria and her once malnourished child Lucrencia at the brink of death, now full of joy and growing into womanhood I could only thank God for what He has done, not only for Lucrencia, but also for so many other families with similar experiences in Gaza Province (Mozambique) through the World Relief Care Group program.”

To join us in this movement of life-saving empowerment, visit https://worldrelief.org/donate.