Church Aid Program Saves Over 400,000 Lives

SALT LAKE CITY -- One of the central pillars of the humanitarian aid program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- training medical staff and birth attendants how to resuscitate oxygen-deprived babies at birth -- has the potential to save the lives of more than 400,000 babies in developing countries.

Neonatal resuscitation training is just one of the major initiatives on which Church Humanitarian Services focuses. Others are water projects, wheelchair distribution and vision treatment training.

According to Humanitarian Services, neonatal resuscitation training -- courses designed to instruct medical professionals and birth attendants in ways to reduce infant deaths caused by birth asphyxia or lack of oxygen -- were taught in 23 countries in 2007.

In a six-month time period last year, 176 neonatal resuscitation medical personnel were trained in Ukraine alone.

"When just one physician is trained, he or she will go on to train others, which in the long run turns into thousands of lives being saved," Dean Walker, manager of major initiatives for Humanitarian Services, said.

The humanitarian initiative program is carried out largely by volunteers. In the case of neonatal resuscitation, doctors, nurses, therapists and other specialized medical professionals take time away from their comfortable circumstances to train those in other countries.

With the close of 2007, year-end figures for Humanitarian Services show major activity in several areas of emphasis in addition to the work of saving babies at birth: 950,000 people benefited from clean water projects, 60,537 wheelchairs were distributed, and 9,100 people received vision treatment.

A 2007 year-end review by Humanitarian Services shows that the Church's relief efforts for those areas affected by the 2004 tsunami were continuing three years later.

Within the first week of the waves reaching Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, Church-donated relief supplies of water, food, hygiene kits, medical supplies, body bags, blankets and clothing had been distributed to hard-hit areas.

Mormons across the globe responded, as did many people of other faiths, by contributing money for tsunami relief projects. The Church joined with four other organizations: the International Organization of Migration, Islamic Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, and International Relief and Development.

The Church assisted in building 16 schools, 902 homes and 3 community centers. Victims were given new equipment, such as sewing machines and fishing boats, to provide jobs for local people. Hospitals were given vital medical equipment, and schools received computers.

The emergency response of the Church after the tsunami was to meet the immediate needs of the victims. Beyond food and medical supplies, the long-term plan focused on self-reliance: providing survivors with the material to rebuild lives and the skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

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