Fathers in Honduras get involved in mother and child health
High in the mountains of Honduras is the
indigenous Maya-Chortis village of Aguacaliente. The village of 1,325 people is a 50 minute motorcycle ride from Copan Ruinas. Former pastor German Evelio Fuentes Benites, 29, is using his oratory skills working for the Red Cross in the village. In Honduras, family health is usually seen as the responsibility of women. But in the areas of Copán and Santa Bárbara, fathers have started taking on new roles, as active and engaged participants and advocates of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH).
“It is important to show confidence in your own knowledge, and confidence in the capacity of the volunteers. I set high standards with the community and they reach those standards,” says Benites.
Thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada, the REDES (meaning Networks) project began in 2006. It’s implemented by the Canadian Red Cross in partnership with the Honduran Red Cross, the Honduran Ministry of Health, municipal organizations and local communities. In Honduras, many women and children have limited access to health services, and suffer from poor health. The project strengthens community networks to improve MNCH by supporting national mother and child health strategies, and gets dads involved during pregnancy, birth and post-partum activities. In the past two years, the project saw a 62 per cent reduction in the number of infant deaths.
Through a gender-focused strategy, people like Benites are trained to educate community members on promoting health and better nutrition for children. Communities are also taught to recognize danger signs in pregnancy, and during and after birth. Health support groups for men give fathers the education they need to support and be active in their families’ health.
“I am convinced that the best solutions to local problems are found in the local community,” says Benites.
The Canadian Red Cross has been active in maternal and child health in Latin America and around the world since 1997. Over the past seven years alone, the Canadian Red Cross has invested more than $70 million in MNCH projects in 20 countries, reaching more than 12 million people directly, and 40 million indirectly.