From the Social and International Affairs Committee
Children are the greatest resource and the world’s future, yet social and economic indicators of household welfare reveal serious disparities in their access to social and economic services, and also confirm fundamental inequalities to the support and care they receive. A significant number of children throughout the world are increasingly unable to take advantage of interventions meant to improve their quality of life, notwithstanding the existence of laws, policies, and programmes formulated for this purpose. In this outlook we discover that children are the most vulnerable group, often susceptible to religious extremist violence and killings. The world religions have a role therefore to promote social and economic empowerment of children, families and communities to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability, and enhance their quality of life.
As indicated, the vulnerability of children has led them to being abused and exposed to unsafe conditions. These children have further been exposed to different health challenges including HIV and AIDS, which have made some to be head of families at a very young age. This raises the need to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of all children, ensuring their full development and long-term welfare including their physical and psychosocial development. We need to have more focus on their education; health; Psychosocial Support; Food and Nutrition Security; Socio-Economic Security; Child Protection and Legal Support; and lastly make sure that we protect the rights of Children with Disabilities. We further need to focus on making sure that children have all relevant national legal documents (birth certificates, social security number, etc) especially those who are orphaned and vulnerable. As Methodists, we need to protect children as regardless of their gender, race, color, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed, religion, sex, age, life circumstances, health, disability, stage of development, their capacity to learn, or financial circumstances.
As we focus on children as the church let us make sure that we assist them to improve their survival, well-being, development, and health. For those in HIV stricken areas we need to make sure they are provided with access to HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment; thus ensuring that every child has access and enjoys the best attainable state of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health without any discrimination. In our focus on children with disabilities as the church we need to protect and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all children. We need to also focus on young men who are forced into child labour especially those forced to work in the army, and young women who are exploited for sexual activities.
As we care for the children we need to remember to always focus on their growth in knowing and understanding the Christian faith. We need to help make Christ a part of their daily lives whilst respecting their rights of association. We need to share our Methodist & Wesleyan heritage with children so that the legacy will continue to be alive with them. We need to live and model this life through mentoring them to understanding the church as a safe place for all. Let us speak church in the way our youth speak it, making sure that we don’t lose the core values and principles of the church. Let us learn to listen to and respect the voices of the children. We have a role to care for the rights of these, God’s precious children….
From the Family Life Committee
The feeling of loss comes too early when we lose a loved one. It is even more heartbreaking when the loved one is a young child. Each year, approximately 7 million children, under the age of five, die worldwide due to preventable causes. That is a large number. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), communicable diseases, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles, account for 52% of the deaths. Nearly half of the 7 million deaths are related to malnutrition. (1)
The recently drafted 2015 UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health report indicates, “The under-five mortality rate is a key indicator of child well-being, including health and nutrition status. It is also a key indicator of the coverage of child survival interventions and, more broadly, of social and economic development.” (2) The report provides a framework to address the myriad health issues faced by women and children around the world, which include maternal health and environmental disparities.
At the earliest phase of life, children need a nurturing care-giver, a safe environment and proper nutrition. The lack of these early childhood development essentials plays a role in the failure of one in three children to reach their full potential. Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, while the proportion in the rest of the world dropped from 32% in 1990 to 18% in 2013. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 15 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed regions.
Nearly 50% of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. India (21%) and Nigeria (13%) together account for more than one third of all under-five deaths. (1)
Simple and Affordable Interventions
The interventions needed to save these children are known. Vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplements, insecticide-treated bed nets, improved breastfeeding practices and safe hygiene practices save millions of lives.
These low-cost interventions, which can be provided by family focused health services, are effective and offer mothers the tools they need to remain healthy and to give their children an excellent start.
The Population Division of the United Nations projects that an average of 133 million births each year between 2015 and 2030. (3) Churches and organizations are taking steps to improve global health outcomes around the world. Our own Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty calls us to be involved in the lives of children in meaningful ways. We can contribute to the global effort to end preventable deaths. Our prayers and support are needed by every woman and every child.
(1) “Media Centre Factsheets.” World Health Organization. Web. 29 May 2015
(2) “Global-Strategy Zero-Draft Final.” Every Woman Every Child. Web. 29 May 2015
(3) “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development: 10 Key Facts and Points for Action.” United Nations. Web. 29 May 2015
Suggestions for Action
Pray for families around the world
Study child health statistics – global and local
Volunteer at clinics and early childhood development centers
Host a maternal and child health forum
Support church-wide initiatives
The United Methodist Committee on Relief supports the Nehnwaa Child Survival Project. The project, in collaboration with Curamericas and the Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Nimba County, Liberia has served more than 137,000 people throughout 120 communities including 69,000 children under five, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age.
Nehnwaa has reduced child mortality by 60 percent through community-based primary health programs that promote leading factors of abundant health, like exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and improved access to clean water.
The Global Health Initiative of The United Methodist Church aims to combat diseases of poverty such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as provide health education, advocacy and infrastructure.
The United Methodist Women support maternal and child health through its mission focus on health care.
“A Mother Lined a Basket” Mary Nelson Keithahn, 1997 (UMC The Faith We Sing 2189)
The Birth of Moses
Moses was born at a time of turmoil for the Israelites. Fearful that the Egyptians were outnumbered by the Israelites, Pharaoh determined he would intensify their work. To his dismay, Pharaoh found that the oppression caused the Israelites to multiply and spread. His scheme failed. He was forced to devise a different plan to destroy them. He ordered the midwives to kill all the boys that were born to the Hebrew women and to let the girls born live. However, the Hebrew midwives feared God and refused. They made excuses for the births of Hebrew boys. Resolute in his decision to kill the children, he ordered that all males born to Hebrew women be thrown in the Nile.
Jochebed gave birth to Moses at a time when the life of her son was sure to be cut short. Not able to let him die at the hands of the Egyptians, she hid him for three months. At a point when she could no longer hide him, she placed him in a basket and placed the basket at the edge of the river. Jochebed, as resolute in her decision as Pharaoh had been in his, sent her daughter to watch over her brother.
Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby Moses and adopted him. God’s plan for Moses brought him to a place of love in the household of the one who wanted to destroy him at his birth. Moses not only survived, he thrived.
Is your faith strong enough to defy unjust laws for the greater good?
Where do you place your hopes and dreams?
Do you trust God’s plan?
Almighty Creator God, you are most gracious and merciful to all your children. Father, we thank you for your many blessings. For expectant mothers and those with infants, we seek strength and wisdom. We remember those who experience loss and distress. Please comfort and bear them in your arms. We are grateful for all who help fulfill parenting roles. May all children experience your unconditional love through those who care for their well-being. Give us courage to place our trust in you, O Lord, with the assurance of your faithfulness and goodness. We offer this prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen.