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Double the Challenge, Double the Relief

Field Report by Elisa Preston

HONDURAS – At the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy, wishes and dreams take center stage as the parents eagerly anticipate the birth of a healthy child. In most cases, care is taken to ensure a proper diet, enough sleep and a healthy level of physical activity for the mother. In Latin America, extra care must be taken against the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the pest responsible for the multinational outbreak of the Zika virus.

For healthy adults, the virus may pass through their system with little or no consequence. For pregnant women, however, the virus can be easily transmitted to the baby, and can cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is misshapen and the brain is underdeveloped. The condition may go undetected during pregnancy, depending on available care for the mother.

First-time mom Sara was surprised when her twin girls were born with microcephaly. The only symptom she had during pregnancy was a fever, which she thought nothing of. When she, and her husband, Allan, discovered that their twins had special needs, they were anxious about their future.

“I loved them since they were in my womb…but we worried about how we were going to do it,” she said.

The twins’ medical needs are significant, creating a financial burden for the family. Sara stays home to care for the girls, leaving only Allan’s salary — a salary that often falls short of meeting their most basic needs.

When Operation Blessing International learned about Sara and Allan’s plight, the couple had depleted their stock of diapers and other supplies. Operation Blessing provided food, diapers, medicine, vitamins and household supplies to Sara and Allan as well as other families facing similar struggles.

Then, through OB Honduras’ microenterprise program, the young couple was provided with everything they needed to start a small business right in their own home selling beauty products and even clothes.

Having their own business has allowed Sara and Allan to earn enough to offer their twins developmental therapies that will encourage appropriate brain growth for both girls. The anxiety Sara feels over the challenge of raising children with special needs is lessened as she and Allan work together to secure the financial future of their family.

Operation Blessing’s Zika response includes a multi-country effort to help slow the spread of the virus. In various Latin American nations, OBI has distributed mosquito repellent and bug nets to prevent pregnant women from getting bitten. In Honduras, community health workers go door-to-door educating men and women on how to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illness. OBI is also battling the dangerous mosquitoes with innovative biological methods. Through these efforts, OBI is lowering the risk of microcephaly.

Meanwhile, families like Sara and Allan’s can experience great relief as they tend to their babies. Although having children with microcephaly was not in their plans, their new financial autonomy gives them hope of a stable and manageable future.

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