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Patricia Erb

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When the Love of a Parent Alone Isn't Enough

Posted: 09/21/2012 4:41 pm

2012-09-21-savethechildren.jpg Morzina, 25, Modhubag slum Dhaka. Photo credit: Paulina Tervo/Save the Children

Morzina, 25, lives with her elderly mother and two young daughters. Her daughter, Borsha, aged two and a half, is malnourished, and suffers from repeated illnesses and developmental delays. Save the Children works with an organisation called Nari Maitree (meaning Woman's Unity) to provide primary healthcare and clinics, and work with women and children, like Morzina and Borsha, to improve nutrition and education.

Parents experience pain when their child struggles or is sick. For most Canadian parents the struggles their children experience are challenges at school, broken friendships, and illnesses that are brief and have limited health consequences, much less life altering ones.

Of course even in Canada, where we have public health and school systems as well as a myriad of support mechanisms for parents and kids, sometimes our children have a serious health crisis, or a monumental personal challenge that shakes them and causes us as parents deep pain and long sleepless nights of worry.

Recently, my university-aged daughter had a serious accident that had her in the hospital for several weeks. She will require prolonged rehabilitation but she is determined that this won't set her back. I have been unbelievably proud of her as she has dealt with this challenge, and we are fortunate that she had access to one of the best hospitals in Canada to treat her. I have always been moved by the parents I meet doing my work, I now feel I have a new and deeper understanding of their desperation when they can't stop their child's pain or fix their problems.

For over 25 years I worked for Save the Children across Latin America. We worked in the poorest communities and I witnessed the pain of parents who would have done anything they could, if they could to help their hungry child, their sick child, their child who wanted to go to school but couldn't for lack of money. Since becoming CEO for Save the Children Canada, I have visited emergency nutrition programs in West Africa working to save the lives of children suffering from acute malnutrition. It has always been difficult to look into the eyes of these parents. The eyes of the parents of children sick from malnutrition have always struck me as the most desperate.

Next week I will be travelling to Bangladesh with chef Roger Mooking and bloggers PhD In Parenting -- Annie and Orysia Andryo. Why Bangladesh? It is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a small landmass with a large population. We are going to see the need but more importantly we are going to see and share with Canadians the progress being made even when the challenges are great.

Bangladesh has succeeded in reducing child mortality, improving access to health care, and is working to reduce chronic malnutrition. Even though it is not experiencing the economic growth of its neighbour, India, the development improvements are greater.

Bangladesh has been tackling the Millennium Development Goals head on: focusing on the poor; increasing their investment in social services like health; strengthening grassroots institutions; and working effectively with international NGOs like Save the Children. These are lessons that can be applied in other developing and middle income countries, and dare I say in developed countries where the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.

I have visited Bangladesh in the past but this will be my first time visiting our rural health and nutrition programs. I am looking forward to sharing with our guests, supporters, and Canadians the Bangladesh success story that Save the Children and our partners had a part in writing and looking into the faces of parents who can now dare to have hope for the health and future of their children.

 

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