Michael Joseph Frank is the National Director of World Vision International Nepal. He has been leading the organization since January 2009. He has more than 35 years of experience in the development sector in managing relief and development programmes in Africa and Asia. He has served in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, India, North Korea, Philippines and East Timor. He spoke to New spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
What are the possible interventions in maternal child health from INGOs like World Vision International in Nepal?
In Nepal, preventable diseases are endemic and access to clinics and trained health workers is limited. Fewer than 40% births take place in a health facility. A mother’s poor nutritional statusduring pregnancy affects the health of her child. Exposure to infectious diseases, malnutrition, poor hygiene and sanitation and lack of a healthy environment affect the health and development of children. Better health for mothers and children needs to be apriority across Nepal. Through our activities in maternal child health and nutrition at World Vision, weseek to ensure that children enjoy good health which contributes to our child well being outcome. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving maternal child health and nutrition practices, reducing malnutritionin under-five year olds,and improving household-level management of childhood illness, particularly diarrhea and pneumonia. We are also running a campaign called Child Health Now that aims tocontribute to reducing child mortality in disadvantaged areas of Nepal in line with MDG 4.
What is the Child Health Now campaign and how is it going to impact the health of children?
Child Health Now is the World Vision’s global campaign to end preventable deaths of children under five. Through the Child Health Now campaign, World Vision is calling on the international community to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) commitment to reduce maternal and child deaths by 2015 - specifically MDG 4 and5. In Nepal it was launched in 2012 withthe key message “Together we can end preventable deaths”.
How do you see the program at local level?
At the local level, we are working with communities and relevant stakeholders in Doti and Kailali districts with the aim of improving maternal child health systems and practices of government. The intent is to mobilize civil society and support them to influence policies that affect the most disadvantaged children in Nepal and improve community maternal child health practices. We have seen good impact. Communities have developed plans with local government to improve local health facilities using accountability tools like citizen voice and action. This will bring positive changes in child health. At present we are also organizing a Global Week of Action from 1-8 May, an event to attract and increase global attention on the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children under five around the world, not just in Nepal.
Why Global Week of Action?
Global Week of Action is World Vision's mobilization event under the Child Health Now campaign. It is an urgent call for action before the 2015 deadline for Millennium Development Goals is missed and millions more lives are lost needlessly. Governments must live up to the promises they have already made, and, as they negotiate the post 2015 development agenda, we must make sure that the voices of children and mothers are heard, and their health and nutrition are prioritized. We will highlight the urgent need to target the millions of children left out by current efforts, and reach them with nutrition and health services, to ensure that they survive to see their fifth birthday. We will focus on the solutions to preventable deaths and on creating a global popular movement for change so that more children survive beyond their fifth birthday.
What are your planned events for Global Week of Action?
World Vision has worked with different civil society organizations and the National Maternal and Child Health Alliance to mark the Global Week of Action in Nepal. The National Maternal and Child Health Alliance has organized a Letter Campaign asking for more resources and governance on health sector and we have joined hands to support this effort. The Letter Campaign aims to attract and increase national attention on the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children under five in Nepal. People in more than 13 districts of Nepal are participating, by responding to our call to “My Voice for Children's Life” and signing letters. The letters are raising awareness on preventable solutions, requesting policy makers for sufficient resources and good governance so that more children survive beyond their fifth birthday. By participating in this Letter Campaign, individuals can play a vital role as one of the solutions - their voices and participation is crucial to secure governments' action to save the life of children. The campaign aims to see more than 100,000 letters from children and families reach more than 1,000 policy makers, including members of parliament, government officials, civil society organizations and other stakeholders. So it’s a call to relevant stakeholders to join hands to improve the maternal and child health scenario in Nepal.
Can you tell us briefly about World Vision’s programme in Nepal?
World Vision formally started its long-term development work in Nepal after signing both general and project agreement with the Social Welfare Council in 2001. Over the past years, World Vision International Nepal has funded community development in 14 districts namely Bhaktapur, Doti, Jumla, Kathmandu, Kaski, Kailali, Lamjung, Lalitpur, Morang, Rupandehi, Sunsari, Udayapur, Achham and Sindhuli. In 2013, we met our targets in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Kaski and Lalitpur districts so we phased out from there. World Vision is currently operational in 11 districts working to empower vulnerable children, their families and communities in Nepal to improve their quality of life with dignity and peace. Area Development Programme is our primary approach to carry out the transformational development in the community and it is a long term development programme (10 to 15 years) in which we work with the communities and our partners in the sectors of Maternal Child Health and Nutrition, Education, Livelihood, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Child Protection.
Which is the focus of World Vision International Nepal?
World Vision International Nepal focuses on improving the well-being of children through transformational development, disaster management, and advocacy. Our goal is ‘the sustained well-being of children within families and communities, especially the most vulnerable’.