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Community Action to Save and Improve the Lives of Mothers and Their Children

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Life seemed to have lost its meaning for Zareena Bibi. Her babies died, one after the other, very soon after they were born. Her family had become distant, and she too became convinced that God was unhappy with her.

Zareena is a resident of Jampur, a Union Council of Rajanpur district. Zareena, like many women who live in far-flung rural areas of Pakistan, had little access to health care services and little knowledge about where she could get health care.

Sughra Bibi, a Community Support Group Coordinator with a local NGO, the Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD), was conducting routine home visits and found Zareena in a very sad state. She had given birth to five stillborn babies and had become psychologically disturbed after suffering so many tragedies. And she was pregnant again.

Sughra, trained and tasked with spreading the word about the importance of quality medical care along with key health and hygiene practices, took action at once, getting to know Zareena's family. "Zareena's mother-in-law told me about Zareena's condition. I knew instantly that this was the time to refer her to a doctor at the nearest health facility," she said.

Access to a doctor changed Zareena's life.

"Sughra took me to a doctor who advised me on my health and antenatal care. She also gave me a tetanus vaccine and prepared a vaccine schedule which I followed, and I had a healthy pregnancy," said Zareena. "I cannot express the happiness that I feel every time that I look at my two-year-old son. I visit my doctor regularly now, and not only that, I encourage other women to seek regular medical services only from a trained health care provider."

Community initiatives like this are formed with support from Johnson & Johnson by UNICEF and local partner NGOs in selected, high-risk areas. Volunteers address specific health areas such as mother and newborn child health, nutrition and immunizations utilizing Community Action Process, a UNICEF initiative that aims to provide communities with the knowledge and tools needed to take development into their own hands.

Group members are trained and organized to implement awareness-raising activities in their community, such as improving access to health care centers in coordination with local Lady Health Workers and other health care providers. The NGOs working on Community Action Process are primarily aiming to assist the provincial governments in expanding the health agenda, and ensuring access to rural, difficult-to-reach areas with support from UNICEF.

But what Zareena does now exemplifies yet again why investments in maternal and child health are so critical. She is healthy, and so is her baby. And she shares the benefit of her knowledge, playing an active part in the health and well-being of her community, by encouraging others to seek the care and information they need.

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Editor's Note: Johnson & Johnson is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.