A note from Deborah Mensah, Executive Director
Who would have thought that our world could change so drastically over a few short months? The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly changed your sphere in a significant way. Some of us have lost family and friends. Some of us have lost our jobs and livelihoods. Many have struggled with their mental health and emotional well-being as they try and cope with lockdown and isolation. Children cannot play with their friends or visit grandparents like they used to do. School is cancelled and students have had to adapt to new systems, many graduation celebrations have been cancelled. On a global scale, we worry about health systems and services that cannot support the demand and we fear what the long-term economic ramifications may be.
In my years of working in global health, I have seen how infectious diseases ravage communities, health systems and countries. During a pandemic like the one we are facing now, we see that people already living in poverty are the hardest hit. I think of the pictures and reports of mothers in Uganda that I have seen and heard. Time and again we hear of mothers trying to find a way to make it to a health facility to give birth only to be met with limited transportation options due to the lockdown. If they make it to a facility that happens to be staffed by skilled health-care workers, it is often too late.
Having a baby in Uganda was already risky for mothers, COVID-19 has just made it more deadly. I think of our colleagues in Uganda who are working under extremely difficult conditions, trying to save lives with limited tools, equipment and medication.
It is easy to become discouraged during these times, but I am reminded of the old nautical adage “stay the course.” At Save the Mothers our mission has not changed- we envision a world where no mother dies of preventable causes in pregnancy or childbirth and we will “ stay the course” as we continue to navigate towards this goal. With that in mind we know we must adapt and change tactics in the course of this journey. We work to ensure that the mothers we serve in Uganda will not be left behind. The five key ways we are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic:
1) Prioritizing Critical Activities. We want to ensure that while our budget might be finite, funds are going to the most critical activities that will save mothers’ lives. We cannot fund all the projects and interventions we would like to at this time, but we want to ensure that funds are going where most needed.
2) Finding new and creative ways to generate revenue. We are sad to announce the likely cancellation of our Fall Gala, which is our biggest fundraising event of the year. Yet, we are finding unique ways for donors to give or actively take part in fundraising activities. The recent launch of our Peer to Peer fundraising platform and the e-store ( coming soon) are a few of the new ways we will be generating revenue.
3) Staff volunteering time. We have a tiny team here at Save the Mothers, I am the only full-time employee and our Donor Manager and Director of Communications and Digital Engagement support this work part-time. We have all committed to donating time to Save the Mothers to ensure that as much funding as possible gets to Uganda and the mothers and alumni in need.
4) Pursuing new partnerships. While Save the Mothers has always partnered with a wide variety of partners in the government, academic, philanthropic and non-profit sectors, we are pursuing new partnerships that will support our goal of increasing equitable access to basic health services for vulnerable groups such as mothers and children. We are exploring areas of alignment, and innovative projects, that will leverage the talents and resources of Save the Mothers and new partners. Stay tuned to learn more about the impact of these new and innovative partnerships for the mothers, families and communities we partner with.
5) Prayer. While prayer has always been central to Save the Mothers since it was founded 14 years ago, our board and staff both in Canada and Uganda are fervently praying for wisdom, guidance and provision during these tumultuous times. We want to be able to continue to provide the life-saving services needed by women in East Africa where COVID-19 has exacerbated already inequitable access to critical health services. We invite you to continue to be a prayer partner with us!
The World as we know it has changed and there is much uncertainty at Save the Mothers, but for those we serve, our staff, volunteers, and donors- we are committed to staying the course. We are adapting and finding new ways to do the important work we have been doing for many years for mothers, their families and communities. We will not stop until mothers in East Africa no longer have to worry about dying when giving life. We are grateful to all those who continue to partner with us and spur us on as we face new challenges together.