Africare In the News

Drink Malawi Study Aims to Reduce Childhood Deaths

Every year 750,000 children die from diarrheal disease.  This means in Malawi, nearly one out of every five children will not live to see their fifth birthday.   What compounds the tragedy is that these diseases are preventable and treatable.

Most diarrheal disease-related deaths are due to dehydration.  Since 1978, there has been a standard Oral Rehydration Solution or “ORS” – a mixture of clean water, salt, and sugar to replace fluids and electrolytes.  This mixture is safe, effective, and inexpensive, and it can be administered quickly and easily with no special training.

So, why are so many children still dying?   It may be because mothers cannot get their children to drink ORS, because it tastes very salty, describing it as “drinking the ocean in glass.”  Many sick children reject the life-saving drink, too young to understand the fatal consequences.

Africare and the University of Malawi have teamed up to find a solution.  Through the DRINK MALAWI Project at The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa, and with support from the Jackson Kemper Foundation, TICWA investigators are assessing a fortified new formula* that is more pleasant-tasting and therefore likely to save more children.  The unique balance of salts and sugars with fast-absorbing citrate gives it a pleasant taste.  Through DRINK MALAWI, we believe that Africare and TICWA are on the brink of revolutionizing dehydration treatment and saving hundreds of thousands of children from a cruel, preventable death.

 

*In partnership with the DripDrop Foundation

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Helping Children’s Brains as well as their Bodies Recover from Malnutrition

Millions of children in Africa go hungry every year. These children suffer during the formative years of their physical and mental development.  Tragically, when a child’s body and mind are denied essential nourishment, they can face many consequences, from stunting to decreased IQ and learning challenges to death.

Health workers and researchers who have watched children suffer from life-threatening malnutrition, specifically severe acute malnutrition (SAM), have armed themselves with emergency treatment tools.  One such tool is Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food.  RUTF, as it is referred to, revolutionized the treatment of SAM for children in Africa a decade ago, saving an estimated 25 million lives to date.  Its widespread use doubled recovery rates from 45% to 90% for what often was a terminal condition in small African countries like Malawi.  When RUTF was developed, the emphasis was on reducing deaths and creating a food with a stable shelf life that promoted recovery and could be used at home.  RUTF was made from locally available crops – peanuts, palm oil, and soybeans.  Today, 3 million children with SAM are treated with RUTF annually.

While RUTF has proven effective in improving children’s physical recovery, recently the same Malawian investigators who developed RUTF believe that the current standard formula is inadequate to stimulate brain recovery.

Africare is working in partnership with Project Peanut Butter, Washington University, Cornell University, University of Texas, and the University of Malawi at The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa to test a new RUTF formula that can support physical growth and provide the fatty acids necessary for brain development. The clinical trial, funded by Unorthodox Philanthropy, Open Society, and Washington University, is testing a slight adjustment in the formula, using newly-available non-GMO high-oleic peanuts. The findings of this study could change the management of malnutrition around the world to emphasize mental development, as well as physical recovery, and create a new global protocol –protecting children’s bodies and minds from the life-long repercussions of malnutrition.

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Africare and Merck Partner to Build a Better Future for the Children of Africa

Africare and Merck & Co., Inc.* collaborated this year to continue our commitment to building bright, vibrant futures for Africa’s children.

Through the MSD Fellowship for Global Health, three Merck employees spent three months in Malawi with Africare to focus on the development of a five-year strategic plan for The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa (TICWA).   With expertise in strategic planning, clinical research, and communication & stakeholder engagement, the Merck Fellows developed a clear roadmap to accelerate TICWA’s success.

“After speaking to over fifty officials from local Ministries, academic institutions, NGOs, and the funder community, we were heartened to learn that the experts that live and breathe in this space see a tangible, palpable need for TICWA to fill in a large gap in global efforts to advance child development and wellness in resource-limited settings.  Africare, through TICWA, is uniquely positioned to drive important translational research to improve child wellness in Malawi and throughout Africa”.   – David Hauben, Merck Fellow.

Thanks to Merck, Africare has a stronger strategic plan to ensure that TICWA is well positioned to advance its mission to keep children well and help them thrive.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to Merck Fellows Shobhna Gopal-Truter, David Hauben, and Susie Wood for their invaluable contributions in Malawi.

 

* Known as MSD outside U.S. and Canada

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Africare’s Innovation Hubs: Creating Local Solutions to Local Challenges

In most African countries, a fever equals malaria. And this is true for kids too. However, new field tests for malaria are revealing that the majority of patients (and children) presenting with fever might not have malaria or malaria alone.  So what do we now do? How do we tell a child’s caregiver how best to help their child back to health if they are not malaria positive?

Africare is tackling this HUGE question that impacts most of sub-Saharan Africa at The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa’s Innovation Hub at the University of Malawi. Through cost-effective research, Malawian researchers are determining how many fevers have more than malaria at their root.

To support and encourage this type of local innovation, Africare, in partnership with Dalhousie University, has formed a local Innovation Hub that provides training and mentoring, cross-discipline collaboration, and seed funding to test out solutions in real world settings.  Too often in most of the continent, best practice and new evidence are not brought to bear in the community, because proposed changes are not locally-driven. The need to foster, mentor, and support local innovators to work on solving local problems has been recognized by African leaders as an urgent problem.  Lack of training, funding opportunities, and mentors have proven to be major obstacles.  Obstacles that Africare is working to overcome.

At TICWA, Innovation Hub teams are working to explore what they would consider the most pressing local issues for child survival and wellness.  Teams are granted modest seed funding, and then are mentored for a year to find community-based solutions to the local challenge they identified.

Current projects that are being tested at TICWA’s Innovation Hub include questions as diverse as figuring out how well homemade mosquito traps work to determining how many feverish under-five children at a health facility in Chikwawa, Malawi have more than just malaria.

Africare’s Innovation Hubs are equipping Africa’s innovators to tackle local challenges right at home.

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Africare Awarded for Innovative Mobile App Developed to Measure Anemia

Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program (MBNP) team received one of three USAID’s Global Development Lab’s “Innovation to Action Awards” last week in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes the impact this innovation will have: breaking the cycle of malnutrition and anemia passed from mother to child, and engendering good nutrition and health in the crucial first 1,000 days of life, ensuring children grow, learn, and thrive.

The Africare-developed Hb Meter is a mobile device app for Android® smartphones developed to help program staff measure anemia levels in communities in Tanzania. It can tell if a person is anemic within 15 seconds without drawing any blood. Simply put an index finger on the device and the camera’s flash is able to filter through the skin to measure relevant blood levels, categorizing the result as “severe”, “mild”, or “no anemia” in line with World Health Organization standards. The app provides the results electronically on site, and can feed the data directly into health systems databases and dashboards, codified and anonymized to protect the privacy of each individual.

MBNP Testing at Muhimbili Hospital, Tanzania

Before the app trained staff has to draw blood, run a test, and read the results to diagnose anemia; this process took several minutes and was dependent on the individual being comfortable with having their blood drawn. The breakthrough of this invention means easy, fast identification of anemia without specific clinical training requirements, needles, or test kits; especially useful when working with infants or vulnerable adults, and in remote areas.  The cost of the test was also greatly reduced from about 62 cents per individual to 1 cent per individual.

An indicator of poor nutrition or underlying illness, anemia results in poor health, including loss of energy and reduced physical capacity. In Tanzania, over half of all pregnant women, and more than 1 in 3 women are likely to be anemic. Anemia in pregnancy is associated with illness and death of both the mother and baby, including increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth, and low birth weight. Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program, funded by USAID and implemented in Tanzania, aims to eliminate 20% of all anemia in the first 1,000 days of life using social and behavior change communication to improve nutrition.

Throughout the continent Africare has been recognized for its program implementation excellence. As a top global innovator in Senegal, Africare received the Innovative Solutions Award to Prevent Infant/Maternal Deaths at the “DevelopmentXChange” Saving Lives at Birth Conference for a groundbreaking ICT platform to improve care in pregnancy, delivery and right after childbirth for both mother and baby in remote areas of Senegal.

Africare’s MBNP team was honored for this breakthrough mobile app at an award ceremony during Global Innovation Week held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington D.C.

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Pi Kappa Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Are Champions for Africare

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Members of Pi Kappa Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority put the Africare donation link on its chapter web page to encourage donations. They say: “This is such an easy way to get the word out and we can donate from our smart phones and computers.  We know every dollar counts as we overcome poverty, hunger and illness in many African communities. We are excited that other chapters will follow our lead and become Africare champions.”  Africare and the AKA sorority have a long and special history. Pictured are members making personal contributions. 
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Africare salutes Stephen D. Cashin, Chairman of the Board

Africare is proud to salute him as our Chairman and for his life’s work in devotion to the people of Africa.

Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, conferred the honor of Knight Commander into the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneer on Stephen D. Cashin, Chairman of the Board of Africare.  He was honored for his work as an investor and philanthropist in Liberia for the past twenty years.  Mr. Cashin invested in a number of companies soon after the war in Liberia, principally the International Bank of Liberia and the Insurance Company of Africa, both of which have become leaders in their respective fields.  He has supported many causes in Liberia, including Africare’s efforts to establish birthing centers, the John F. Kennedy Hospital, and Think Liberia—an initiative to support at-risk girls.  He has also supported numerous education projects, including the reconstruction of the Elizabeth Tubman Institute and the Liberian Education Trust.  As part of his involvement with the Jesuit Refugee Service, he has supported the efforts of the Jesuits in Liberia in building the Holy Family Parish in one of the areas most affected by the war.  For his work with the Jesuits, Mr. Cashin received a special commendation from Pope Francis.

Africare is proud to salute him as our Chairman and for his life’s work in devotion to the people of Africa.

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