Africare In the News

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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Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre Scales Up Africare’s Mwanzo Bora’s U.S. Government-supported SBCC Kit

Approximately 40 participants from 15 different organizations came together for a national Training of Trainers (TOT) training conducted by the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC), co-facilitated by Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program (MBNP), to scale up the project’s Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Kit—Mkoba wa Siku 1000. The kit uses peer support learning to replace negative nutrition behaviors with positive nutrition behaviors.

An estimated 2.7 million Tanzanian children under the age of five suffer from stunting, a measure of chronic malnutrition. But investments in nutrition activities by the Government of Tanzania and its partners have begun to turn the tide, with childhood stunting declining sharply in Tanzania between 2010-2014. During this period, the Mkoba wa Siku 1000, developed by MBNP in close collaboration with the TFNC, has been part of this reversal. Since the project’s inception in 2011, MBNP has contributed to significant reductions in stunting in Dodoma (56 percent to 36.5 percent); Morogoro (44 percent to 33.4 percent); and Manyara (46 percent to 36 percent). These gains have been made been possible through the use of the Mkoba wa Siku 1000.

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Letter from the President: March 31, 2017

Africare President and CEO, Robert L. Mallett

Africare President and CEO, Robert L. Mallett

A little more than three months ago, Donald J. Trump, was sworn-in as the 45th president of the United States.  His status as a political outsider was certainly refreshing to many people who just wanted someone to go to Washington and make things work and help to make life better.  President Trump has brought an interesting and unconventional style of governing to the country.  His campaign theme, “Make America Great Again”, which resonated with many on the campaign trail, is now, with his first budget outline submitted to Congress, about to be translated into policy practice.

However, many are concerned that a more nationalist agenda will mean a retreat from America’s traditional leadership role abroad in development and humanitarian assistance for Africa and other less developed regions of the world.  The Administration’s budget proposals would slash the international affairs budget by up to 31 percent or about $17 billion.  A cut of this magnitude, if approved, is likely to have a devastating effect on Africa.  With just over half of Africare’s revenue coming from the U.S. government, a funding cut like this would significantly impact our programs and the many individuals and communities that benefit from our work in Africa.  So, we, like many other NGOs, are concerned deeply about how the Administration’s budget proposal will affect overall development assistance, and we have joined with others to voice those concerns.

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