Community resilience | Global initiatives
Reaching beyond national boundaries, Providence works alongside partners to fully live our vision of health for a better world. We make health impacts by investing in programs and services that honor the leadership, expertise and goals of communities around the globe. In solidarity with our partners and local communities, we respond to the root causes of disparities, improve infrastructure and provide education in countries that are historically underserved.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been clearer that our health is interrelated and dependent on each other. Providence has continued to partner with local experts and residents on the ground to take community-informed action.
Hand hygiene is a strong defense against COVID-19 and other viruses. Globally, two in five people do not have access to clean water and soap while 25 percent of the world’s health care facilities do not have running water. Increasing safe water sources and infrastructure for more sanitary health care environments will improve health and help slow the spread of COVID-19. To begin closing the gap on this disparity, Providence prioritized water access, sanitation and hygiene for communities across the globe in 2021 using WASH, a strategy promoted by the United Nations.
Since 2014, Providence has advanced WASH in Guatemala to mitigate widespread and profound deficits in basic services at the Ministry of Health and community level. Our partnership with Medical Teams International supports the Guatemalan Ministry of Health as it makes critical WASH improvements at local health facilities serving 120,000 patients. This work includes repairing damaged sewage disposal along with installing other vital components of the sanitation system including toilets, sinks and showers at the facilities. In addition, the global program enables local community health workers to provide WASH education. As these improvements have moved forward, families in these communities have seen their children’s health improve.
WASH practices used by Guatemalan communities have helped reduce diarrhea in young children from 43 percent to 22 percent.
WASH improvement has been a key lever in decreasing waterborne illnesses and fortifying health by reducing vulnerabilities that contribute to infection and disease susceptibility.
In 2021, in tandem with a Vatican call to action to reduce WASH disparities in health care facilities, our global team partnered with two health care facilities in Malawi, Africa, to strengthen their WASH systems and ultimately improve health outcomes.
Limbe Health Centre: Around the world, COVID infections in newborns are up to 20 times higher in lower-income countries due to lack of sanitation infrastructure. Partnering with Seed Global Health and the Malawi Ministry of Health, Providence supported more than half of the WASH and infrastructure efforts at the Limbe Health Centre in Blantyre. This includes installing water tanks, faucets and running water, latrines, sinks and wash stations for Malawi’s first midwifery ward. The site will train up to 520 midwives and support more than 9,000 deliveries by 2024.
Namalaka Health Centre: Despite serving over 14,000 people, the Namalaka Health Centre in Mangochi does not currently meet WASH water, sanitation and hygiene standards. Providence supported Catholic Relief Services with a grant to pipe in freshwater, improve latrines and sanitation and hygiene management, and establish safe disposal of infectious waste. This investment will improve COVID-19 prevention measures and in the longer-term create a safer facility with water, sanitation, and hygiene management processes while ensuring safe disposal of infectious waste.
In some more remote communities in Guatemala, the predominant method of cooking inside has been wood-burning stoves without adequate ventilation. These stoves can cause negative respiratory health outcomes and require significant use of wood for daily food preparation. Through an integrated maternal and child health program sponsored by Providence, our Guatemala partnership with Medical Teams International engaged 490 families in a transition from wood-burning stoves to clean-burning stoves, including information on how to operate the new stoves.
Helping 490 families in rural Guatemala transition to clean-burning stoves has reduced pneumonia among their young children from 29.3 percent to 3.7 percent.
This switch reduced the negative health and environmental impacts of burning wood inside. The results have been significant. In 2021, our mid-term program report showed incidences of pneumonia in kids younger than age two decreased from 29.3 percent to 3.7 percent. Further, this program has reduced wood consumption by up to 70 percent and also reduced time spent by families gathering wood. Incorporating education and sustainable practices for community members also have a positive impact on their local environment.
With the pandemic limiting our caregivers’ ability to travel for in-person mentorship, Providence developed an innovative teleMentorship program to continue our global support. In 2021, Providence partnered with multiple organizations to launch three teleMentoring initiatives for continuing medical education, specialty growth and ongoing capacity building in rural, historically underserved geographies of Guatemala, Nigeria and Uganda.
In Guatemala, working with Medical Teams International, thanks to work completed in 2021, providers from Providence are poised to serve as clinical mentors to Guatemalan Ministry of Health providers in El Quiché. All mentor providers speak Spanish (the language of the mentee providers). Following consultations with local providers, this partnership is strengthening continuing education in maternal and child health, emergency obstetrics, and monitoring and evaluation.
In Nigeria, we partner with World Telehealth Initiative. Using Teladoc technology, Providence caregivers are collaborating with Nigerian providers in the Opoji Kingdom. This effort is also integrated with work advanced by Urban Health 360 and Precious Gems. Collaboration with multiple partners has improved capacity in Opoji and reduced the need to refer more complicated health cases to other regions of the country.
In Uganda, Seed Global Health, our emergency medicine specialists work with regional specialists and a network of 1,000 Ugandan clinicians through Project Echo’s virtual model for knowledge sharing and community empowerment. Our efforts support the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s goal to develop emergency medicine as a local specialty for the first time.
To serve communities abroad, our strength is our ability to work with organizations on the ground. These groups understand the local needs and advocate for the people while partnering with them to build local capacity for immediate and long-term improvement in health outcomes. Thanks to our innovative caregivers, technology and strong local relationships, even in the most challenging times, we remain committed to our global partners and our belief that health is a human right.