Even with today’s advances in medicine, millions of children around the world still suffer from a lack of basic healthcare, a report from Save the Children has found. In fact, last year alone 2.6 million children died from causes related to malnutrition, an unnecessary condition that is both preventable and treatable. Malnutrition can also affect a child’s long-term mental health and development: healthy children are more likely to perform better in school and earn a higher income in the future.
Ultimately, malnutrition is a denial of a human right—the right to food—that triggers devastating ripple effects.
So, what can be done to help combat malnutrition? We can first focus on ensuring women’s right to health. Governments must expand access to medical facilities, supplies, and medicine as well as doctors, nurses, and midwives who can provide reproductive health and childcare services. This gets mothers and their children on the right track to a healthy future.
But the answer also lies more simply in women’s education and empowerment. Studies show that women who stay in school are more likely to marry at a more mature age, have fewer children, and generally be in good health. In other words, another way for governments to combat malnutrition is to provide women with complete and formal education, the same level of education that men receive.
This report also suggests that the governments of these countries must pass laws that provide mothers with paid maternity leave so that they can care for their children at a critical point of their lives. They must also provide subsidies to businesses that allow women to take the necessary time off if a problem should arise at home, so as not to force a woman to choose between her job security and her family’s well-being. Such laws would respect women’s rights and have the dual effects of allowing women to be productive and successful in the workplace, and encouraging healthy, successful children.
MADRE is currently working with local partners on three projects, Palestine: The Safe Birth Project, Kenya: Mobile Clinics, Rooted Change, and Guatemala: Barcenas Health and Dignity Project, directed toward providing adequate health care services including accessible clinics, midwives, and reproductive education.
You can read more about MADRE’s commitment to women’s health and safety here.