31 March, 2018

World Health Day: Changing health outcomes one farming community at a time

KBQB women at the hospital in Sumatra
by Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand

As we reflect on World Health Day, consider this one story of hope.

In Australia, the maternal mortality rate is one in 10,000. In Indonesia, the lifetime risk of a mother dying during pregnancy or child birth is 22.8 for each 10,000 live births. In nearby Papua New Guinea, this is a staggering one in 20 women.

Australia’s mortality rate for children under five is 3.7 per 1,000, while in Papua New Guinea it is 54.3. Meanwhile, a child dies every three minutes somewhere in Indonesia.

These sobering statistics illustrates the gaping disparity in health outcomes between developed and developing nations. And while it is hard to fathom how any of us could change these statistics by making a choice in the coffee we purchase, this is indeed the case.

As we reflect on World Health Day, consider this one story of hope.

On the eleventh day of every month, 100 children from around Central Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia, visit the local hospital for their regular health check-up. 

Mei Yeni, the hospital’s chief midwife, usually works alone, but on this eleventh day, her team expands to four trained staff who help her provide medical care. For the children and their families, these monthly hospital visits are an essential first step in what will probably be a lifetime of access to healthcare.

The hospital provides healthcare to the community that lives around Koperasi Baithul Qiradh Baburrayyan – a coffee growing cooperative in Western Sumatra that’s known as KBQB for short. Since KBQB started selling its coffee on Fairtrade terms, the cooperative has democratically chosen to invest its Fairtrade Premium in farming, business and community projects. One of these projects is the children’s and women’s hospital where Mei Yeni works, helping pregnant women give birth, and caring for newborns and children.

The hospital is just one example of how Fairtrade – and the people who choose to support Fairtrade brands – has a profound and positive influence on people’s lives.

Mei Yeni’s maternal and paediatric health centre in Sumatra is just the beginning. In Papua New Guinea, 99 per cent of farmers in two Fairtrade certified cooperatives have access to a healthcare centre, and half of those say it is located within a half hour from their home. 

The United Nations has set a critical goal to secure universal healthcare by 2030. Achieving this goal requires everyone’s efforts. By working with farming communities to ensure they receive a fair price for their coffee, Fairtrade is improving healthcare services where they are desperately needed.

And by choosing that cup of Fairtrade coffee, consumers can do their bit to improve health services and help people in developing communities create a better future for themselves.

Molly Harriss Olson
CEO Fairtrade ANZ

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