Mother and child programmes

Areas of action: building on comparative advantages

Experience gained by the IFRC and other organizations has helped identify those interventions where more resources are needed and where comparative advantages can best be leveraged. The basis for this strategy is the Red Cross Red Crescent’s extensive experience in community-based first aid, and its proven capacity to mobilize significant resources to alleviate suffering and mitigate the effects of emergency disasters.

Although curing diseases is the role of professional health services, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies can play a very important role in helping households and communities to raise healthy children in a healthy environment. Community programmes that promote healthy behaviours, increase vaccinations, monitor the growth of children and prevent malnutrition, diarrhoea and respiratory diseases, are well within the Red Cross Red Crescent developmental initiatives and mandate.

Establishing inter-linking systems of care from pregnancy through childbirth and childhood that engage health systems, households and communities will reinforce these efforts. The Red Cross Red Crescent, with its network of volunteers, is well-placed to provide these important links between health services and communities. The IFRC works with partners that include ministries of health, UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International, the Measles Initiative, Roll Back Malaria and others to increas universal access to care for mothers, children and other vulnerable people.

Education and advocacy

Skills needed for appropriate healthcare-seeking behaviour, psychosocial support and good nutrition are connected. A partnership between parents, the community and health workers is essential to implement strategies that add value to the various services that are necessary to improve maternal and child health.

The IFRC advocates for universal education of girls and women and promotes this throughout its many programmes. For example, through “Mothers’ Clubs” run by some National Societies, women receive education on health and other issues, as well as training that enables them to earn money. Through the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programmes, National Societies provide households with support to meet material, educational and emotional needs in an effort to keep children in their communities and in school.

Promoting immunization

Immunization is the first line of defence and is the best protection against measles and other preventable diseases for which vaccines exist. Immunization programmes should cover as many people as possible to create "herd immunity" and to reduce the number of unprotected children. To better ensure total coverage, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers check whether infants have been vaccinated during household visits and provide appropriate vaccine information to caretakers.

As a member of global vaccination partnerships, such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies work towards ensuring that all eligible children receive vaccinations. The Measles Initiative, which has helped to achieve a 74 per cent reduction in global measles deaths between 2000 and 2007 receives the support of National Societies during national vaccination campaigns while helping to promote routine immunization against measles.


WHO Fact sheets : Reproductive health

Fifth Orientation Workshop on "Maternal and Newborn Health Programming" 29 June to 3 July 2009

New publications on reproductive health

Making pregnancy safer

Launched on World Health Day, The world health report – Make every mother and child count, calls for greater access to live-saving care and interventions. It also advocates a "continuum of care" approach for women and children that begins before pregnancy and extends through childbirth into the baby's childhood.

Millennium development goal 5
In September 2000, the largest-ever gathering of Heads of State and Government ushered in the new millennium by adopting the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The Declaration was endorsed by 189 countries and was translated into eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015.

Guidelines on Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings
The primary purpose of these guidelines is to enable communities, governments and humanitarian organizations, including UN agencies, NGOs, and community based organizations, to establish and coordinate on a set of minimum multi-sectoral interventions to prevent and respond to sexual violence during the early phase of an emergency.

The Millennium Declaration is the most comprehensive international consensus ever reached on how to improve the lives of the most vulnerable worldwide. This document examines the relation between the activities of the International Federation and the areas covered by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Focusing on women and children

Women and children are the focus of our attention for three reasons. 1. Women are more likely to face health inequities because women’s biological make-up demands more care. Pregnancy and childbirthare life events that expose women to greater risks. 2. Women are the gateway to improving the health of an entire population, starting with their children and members of their households. 3. The burden of caring for sick children and the elderly mainly falls on mothers and other female carers. This leads to time off work, loss of income and further impoverishment of families. Poverty, in turn, cuts off access to the resources that give rise to good health, it precludes treatment for poor health, and perpetuates ill-health among women and children. A vicious downward spiral begins that is carried forward to the next generation.