The Mama Effect


A mother and child in Senegal. Photo by Jake Lyell.

There is a commercial I frequently see on TV selling financial planning services. A husband and wife sit in front of the desk of the financial planner, and he explains how he can help them plan their finances and reach their dreams. The couple, immediately and simultaneously, utters their dreams out loud: him, a motorcycle, and her, a home remodel.   

Whenever I see this ad, I think about how true it is! This ad encapsulates one of the many stereotypical but yet true differences between men and women. Women often prioritize their home and family, and men often have other interests (in my personal experiences, a cooler, newer, faster car or motorbike can be one of them). That’s not a negative on men; we are just hard-wired differently.

I know the same is true for men and women in countries and communities living in poverty around the globe. Mothers have the greatest impact on how well children survive and thrive in life. At ChildFund, we call it the Mama Effect.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we are launching the Mama Effect campaign today. Our theory is that when a mother is healthy, safe and empowered, her children are likely to follow in her footsteps. We’re aiming to raise $80,000 to make life a little easier for mothers, helping their sons and daughters have a brighter future. To learn more, visit our donations page.

Personally, I love the name Mama. My kids generally call me Mom, but when they are being especially affectionate, they call me Mama. That name always sends a little thrill through me. 

We’re thrilled and proud to hear that Procter & Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water project has delivered its 7 billionth liter of water to a family in Brazil. ChildFund has had a longtime partnership with P&G in efforts to disrupt poverty worldwide, and this project — part of P&G’s commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative to save one life an hour by 2020 — is very close to our hearts. Clean water is a necessity for children everywhere to achieve their potential.   

Where Does Ebola Come From?

The dreaded and deadly Ebola virus has raised its ugly head again. This time the breakout has occurred in West Africa, starting in the country of Guinea and spreading rapidly to neighboring Liberia. Sandwiched between these two countries, Sierra Leone’s people are naturally nervous it could cross its borders as well. ChildFund works with children, families and communities in all three of these countries, and we have started educating communities so they can protect themselves.

According to Davidson Jonah, our field operations support director, ChildFund has mounted a response to the outbreak in these three countries, providing hygiene kits to families and running awareness-raising activities. We are working with the national governments, the World Health Organisation, Doctors Without Borders and other health-related NGOs.

The medical answer to “Where did this virus come from?” is easy yet frustrating: They don’t know. The real-world answer is also simple: poverty. The virus lives and travels around in animals of the forest; no one is sure which ones, but bats are suspected. From time to time, the virus is transmitted to humans. How? Because poor, hungry people eat bats, apes and other wild animals — found dead or captured alive — because they have little other food to eat. The virus has to find a home in only one human host before it can start spreading rapidly to others through bodily fluids.


A U.S. Army researcher works with the Ebola virus, 2011.

Because Ebola is so threatening to our closely intertwined world and so deadly to whoever gets infected (death rates are often as high as 60 percent to 80 percent for those infected), I’m confident that WHO staff and our own CDC officials are already making progress in these countries. By providing their impressive technical and logistical knowledge, they will be able to isolate those infected, stop further transmission and find the first case. That index case will help answer the medical question — “Where did this virus come from?” 

But what about that underlying cause of extreme poverty and hunger? Is the world doing enough to answer that question and solve that problem? Hunger and poverty are not as deadly as the Ebola virus but they’re no less serious, particularly to the one out of every four children in the world who are malnourished. Many of them would eat a bat or an ape if they could, rather than letting their stomachs go empty.  

#TBT - A 2011 visit to Honduras

#TBT - A 2011 visit to Honduras


“To Kill a Sparrow” (by CIR

“To Kill a Sparrow” is a short film revealing the plight of woman in Afghanistan who are imprisoned for so-called “moral crimes”: running away from forced marriages or domestic abuse, or falling in love and marrying against a father’s wishes. “Sparrow” tells the story of Soheila and her lover Niaz, who are sentenced to prison for daring to live together as a couple. Soheila is defying her father’s order to marry a much older man. If Soheila persists in refusing to submit to the arranged marriage, her father and brother say they will kill her “even if she moves to America.”

Children wearing masks at an Early Childhood Development center supported by ChildFund in western India. Photos by Saroj Pattnaik.