Ensure health and well-being for all,
at every stage of life.
'Does our support really make a difference?’ A popular question in a society becoming more sceptical of international aid. But there is progress! Between 1990 and 2015 maternal mortalities dropped globally by about 44%. That’s huge progress. However, there’s still more to do for the 800+ women who die everyday from childbirth. Isaiah 65 gives a clear call to action.
A tale of two mothers by UNICEF
+ THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. Isaiah 65:20
This verse is significant to one of the charities behind End Poverty 2030. Challenged by the statistics for infant and maternal mortality in Haiti, some of the worst in the world, this vision of healthy birth and long life as a picture of God’s ultimate plan was inspiring and motivating.
Health care outcomes were a huge part of the Millennium Development Goals and continue as a key focus of the SDG’s. That is not to say nothing was achieved, in fact child mortality has reduced over the last 15 years by over 7,000 per day. That’s a Premier League football ground full of children alive every week who would’ve died in 2000. For the figure to approach zero though, for avoidable deaths, by 2030, the pace needs to be upped. It can be done, and with regard to many diseases it looks like it will be done, but overall, it will take an effort, and who will make that effort?
Throughout history the Church have been pioneers in providing health care all around the world. They recognised it as an integral part of the gospel, to heal the sick. Salvation, wholeness and healing have long been linked, linguistically in the Bible’s original words and theologically ever since. Sickness and disease are clear intruders in God’s good creation and anathema to his ultimate intentions and purposes. Different theological attitudes have responded variously to this truth. Some seeing it predominantly as a future hope while being pretty much resigned to the present realities. Others focussing principally on God’s supernatural intervention in the here and now as a sign of that future. While still more seek to alleviate contemporary suffering in every way possible, realising that, in doing so we work with the grain of God’s will as well as in the power of His Spirit. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come’, the vision of ‘Kingdom’ that those 1st century followers would have had was based around passages like this. Medical knowledge and capabilities are good gifts and provide the tools to undertake incredible work, the decision to get that work done, on behalf of the weakest, is a choice for our generation. Could it be that the very many biblical verses about healing and the general overcoming of sickness and disease, are still significant for our time? If so what is our necessary response? Do we have more to say about the God given responsibilities towards health and wholeness in affluent societies? This goal opens the door to wide ranging, world changing action… to heal.
+ DISCUSSION POINTS
- When you think of health/healing, what immediately springs to mind?
- This reflection alludes to a variety of Christian theological and practical responses. What do you think about these?
- Is it realistic to achieve Goal 3? What are the main barriers?
- What biblical verses/promises are pertinent here?
- What are the main health care issues in your community and how might they be overcome?
+ GOAL 3 IN ACTION
Goal 3 presents opportunities to bring about Isaiah 65 in ways previous generations could only have dreamt. Hope Health Action (HHA) provides life-saving health care to the world’s most vulnerable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the world’s most vulnerable who are impacted most by this issue. As one example, about 830 women die every day from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Yet of these deaths, 99% happen in the developing world and most are avoidable. In a developed country, the risk of maternal death in a church member’s lifetime is 1 in 4900. However, if you were a member of a church in a fragile state like South Sudan, the risk would increase to 1 in 54! However, there is good news. The huge drop in maternal mortalities has been thanks to simple, cost-effective interventions from groups like HHA, who run one of the leading maternity and neonatal units in northern Haiti supporting 1,500+ hospital deliveries a year.
+ WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Personal – Make sure you keep a healthy lifestyle through exercise and a balanced diet.
Local – Engage your church in health ministries for the local community.
International – Support HHA, so they can provide safe births for the most vulnerable women and babies.