Light in Liberia as infant mortality rate drops

By February 1, 2011

Liberia (MNN) — Five years after a new government put an end to a decade of difficult conflict and war, Liberia is still trying to pick up its pieces.

As people have made their way from refugee camps over the last few years, they have often returned home to find their houses, clinics, and schools destroyed. There is nothing to do but rebuild.

Medical Teams International has assisted throughout the country in much of this rebuild process over the years. The ministry entered Liberia after the country's former president fled, in order to support the hundreds of thousands who had been displaced amid civil war. Immediate aid was delivered to sustain the many victims and refugees.

As the country has gotten more stable, though, and as Medical Teams International has received more funding, the ministry has been able to do more and more work in the country. Desiring to continue providing for those they helped when the entered Liberia in 2003, the ministry has gone into villages to help in the rebuild process.

One of the main initiatives for Medical Teams International has been in the resurrection of medical clinics. The ministry is doing more than just setting up buildings, though. As they have rebuilt, they have been able to address some vital medical needs.

Perhaps the most compelling of the solutions Medical Teams International has been able to provide is their great strides in lowering Liberia's obscene infant mortality rates.

President of Medical Teams International Bas Vanderzalm says much of the issue has arisen from a lack of education on the subject of health.

"They've been living in these temporary situations, and now when they go home, much of what makes their children sick is the lack of clean water, poor sanitation, and just basic things that we take for granted," explains Vanderzalm. "So we are helping to train these mothers in things they can do to keep their children healthy; or when their children get sick, what they can do to help them recover again. And what that means is, it's reducing child mortality rates in significant ways.

"We found in some places in Liberia where we were working, children under the age of five were dying at a rate of 20 percent. In other words, one out of five children was not living past the age of five. Now, because of the work that we've done there, we've reduced those child mortality rates to less than 10 percent, and they're going down below five percent."

Even more exciting, as children are getting healthier, more and more people are becoming interested in the Lord who governs Medical Teams International and their partner churches. "Often when we meet physical needs, that's when people open their hearts as well to the love of Christ for their spiritual needs," says Vanderzalm.

Pray that this work would continue to attract people to the Gospel, and that fewer and fewer lives would be lost due to such preventable causes. Pray also for stamina and spiritual vitality for the believers working tirelessly on these projects.

Learn more about Medical Teams International's work and history in Liberia here.

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