Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Giving: Hope for Bangladesh

I am so excited to announce or latest giving partner Hope for the Women and Children of Bangladesh

This amazing organization was started by Dr. Iftikher Mahmood, a doctor from Bangladesh who for the last 20 years has been building clinics and hospitals in his native country where there is so much need.  We are thrilled to be sending pajamas to children in Bangladesh in December.

I learned so much in my conversation with Ashley Pugh from HOPE about the challenges facing women and children in Bangladesh.  One of the problems that HOPE tackles is the prevalent issue of obstetric fistula from which many women suffer.  I learned that the average marriage age in Bangladesh is 18 or 19, but in the rural areas Hope serves, they estimate that the age is closer to 15 years old.  Several factors lead to the prevalence of fistula - a severe tearing or hole between the rectum or bladder and the vagina due to prolonged labor, sometimes up to 7 days.

1)  The young age of the women/children getting married means that they are small in stature, and this makes labor difficult
2)  Most women (up to 90%) deliver at home under the supervision of unskilled family and friends
3) In places like Bangladesh with high rates of malnutrition, the birth canal is weaker just as any muscle weakens without proper nutrition

I was struck in my conversation with Ashley, as I have been in other instances, with the powerful role that malnutrition and cultural norms (such as early marriage and home births), play in creating such enormous challenges for young women.  Many of these factors also contribute to infant mortality, especially traditions of birthing outside of clinical settings, even when they are available.

HOPE is doing amazing work in repairing fistulas and in providing pre-natal care and safe births.  They are embarking on a program to incentivize women to come to the clinic for care.  This reminded me so much of the "baby bundles" we have seen in other places - see my previous post on this in Sierre Leone and even in Finland.  Offering incentives to women - a package of supplies for newborns, including infant pajamas, has far more benefits than simply the gift itself.  Knowing they will receive a gift of much needed supplies for their babies motivates women to get to a clinic to deliver, a fact that can have enormous benefits, even life saving benefits, for mother and baby.

Please check out Hope for the Women and Children of Bangladesh on their website, and see photos on their Facebook page.

This is one of the beautiful young fistula patients Hope healed, I love seeing this beautiful smile and can't wait to see your pajama donations on these precious children in Bangladesh.