The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is launching a global effort to improve the health and development of children under 5 and their mothers. The initiative aims to improve access to nutrition, immunizations, and maternal and newborn care.
The program will support families through the Church’s existing ecclesiastical networks while also collaborating with external organizations that share similar goals.
The Relief Society General Presidency, which leads the Church’s global organization for women, is spearheading efforts to assist families with access to health screenings, nutritional treatment, and dietary awareness for mothers.
“Whenever we do anything to bring relief to others — temporal or spiritual — we are bringing them to Jesus Christ and will be blessed to find our own relief in Him,” said Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson. “We are grateful for the opportunities God gives us every day to love our neighbor.”
“We are committed to help alleviate malnutrition and prioritize the health and well-being of women and children,” said Blaine R. Maxfield, managing director of the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services. “Our goal is to help God’s children reach their full potential.”
In line with this, the Church provides training materials on its website ChildNutrition.ChurchofJesusChrist.org to better educate families about nutrition. The website offers helpful information on how individuals can improve child nutrition in their homes and communities.
“We want to empower families,” President Johnson said. “In many cases, loving parents lack the knowledge to provide adequate nutrition for their children. With greater understanding and resources, they are better equipped to make changes that can have a lasting impact.”
The Church launched a program in the Philippines in early 2019. Children were screened for signs of malnutrition and parents received training and support on the importance of dietary diversification. Currently, these child nutrition initiatives are underway in 12 countries in Central America, Africa and Asia: Guatemala, Honduras, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. Launches are planned in additional countries in the coming months.
Latter-day Saint volunteers and health experts are teaching mothers the importance of a proper diet to a child’s development while helping them with more urgent needs. Through nutritional screenings, families access immediate treatments such as supplemental foods and deworming medications. Ministering efforts also connect them to local medical resources and provide follow-up care and support.
“In instances involving [Latter-day Saints], we’re bringing together the entire congregation,” said J. Annette Dennis, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “We see Relief Society sisters caring for their neighbors. We see young people helping. Not only are young adults helping, but they’ll be better prepared, as they become parents, to one day help their own children.”
“This project is something that comes naturally to women,” said Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “Relief Society sisters are already nurturing others in their homes and communities. Even if they aren’t directly involved [in this initiative], they’re part of a global sisterhood that is making a difference in people’s lives.”
Last year, Latter-day Saints volunteered more than 6.3 million hours of service in 190 countries and territories, according to the Church’s 2022 annual report on caring for those in need.
The Church is also working with charitable and government organizations to identify opportunities for collaboration on key areas of need. In some cases, contributions are made to provide immediate food assistance, while in other instances support is given to self-reliance projects that improve a family’s ability to provide for themselves.
In the Philippines, the Church is supporting the efforts of Caritas Manila. This support is helping provide six months of daily supplemental meals, vitamins and hygiene items for over 1,000 children in different parts of metro Manila.
“Our humanitarian initiative is an optional opportunity for Relief Society sisters.” President Johnson said. “Latter-day Saint women globally are involved in many worthwhile undertakings in their local congregations. Often the best humanitarian outreach is to those closest to us in everyday acts of kindness. When we serve our families and our neighbors, we are part of a global cause.”
In September 2022, the Church announced a US$32 million contribution to the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide emergency food aid for approximately 1.6 million people facing what the WFP calls a “seismic hunger crisis” in nine nations.
Another $44 million contribution to multiple charitable organizations, announced in August 2023, will help an estimated 2 million mothers and children impacted by food insecurity in 30 countries. The funding will go toward malnutrition screening and treatment; nutritional supplements and vitamins; purchasing agricultural tools and providing training; fighting disease through access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene; and education initiatives that promote proper nutritional practices.
“We are grateful for the privilege to be engaged in helping God’s children,” said President Johnson. “As followers of Jesus Christ, we strive to embrace His two great commandments: to love God and our neighbor. With the generous support of Church members and friends, we embrace the opportunity to do the things that He would do if He were here.”