Reducing child mortality rates
This three-year project was carried out in nine of Malawi’s Traditional Authorities. The project was designed to address the significant health risks facing children and mothers in the Lilongwe District. The project was designed to reach approximately 130,000 children under five years of age and 43,000 pregnant women and post-partum mothers.
This project employed the Community-Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (Community-IMCI) approach to deliver a package of lifesaving health services for children in hard-to-reach communities. This strategy promoted the prevention of illnesses as well as the prompt recognition and appropriate treatment of the most common causes of childhood deaths (i.e. pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition). The Community-IMCI approach has three main areas of focus: (1) improving the skills of health workers, (2) improving health systems, and (3) improving family and community practices.
Project strategies included training community members so they could play a role in mobilizing households to practise proper sanitation, hygiene and health practices to improve the health of people in their communities. More than 2,000ommunity leaders (traditional chiefs, village headmen, religious leaders) and at least as many other volunteers participated in the training on key practices that affect the health of children under age five as well as the health of pregnant women, including: (1) Physical growth and mental development through breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, and making sure children are fed properly so they are receiving the vitamins, minerals and protein they need to thrive; (2) Preventing disease by immunizing children, practicing proper hygiene, using bed nets to prevent malaria and having the knowledge required to prevent HIV transmission; and (3) Appropriate home care or actions to manage children when they are sick or injured and preventing child abuse. Community education was provided through drama, poems, songs, demonstrations and home visits.
SOME FEATURED RESULTS:
In the words of a project beneficiary: “I have two children, a girl and a boy. I did not exclusively breastfeed my first child - I introduced porridge to her when she was just two months old and she frequently had diarrhea. But I exclusively breastfed my second child for six months and after that I introduced porridge, water and other foods. I have observed a very big difference between my children – my youngest is growing healthy and strong. After I had my second child, I stopped taking the older one to the under-five clinic because I could not carry both children to the clinic, which is six kilometres away. Our volunteer encouraged me to take the older child for growth monitoring until she reached 59 months and to ask my husband to help me take care of the children. My whole family now sleeps under insecticide treated nets to protect us from mosquito bites and malaria. We are very lucky that we have two volunteers from my village who visit us at least twice a month to teach us about good sanitation and hygiene and healthy cooking practices. The volunteers always check the children’s passbooks to make sure their growth is being monitored. In addition, all women with children under five meet together once a month to learn about the six food groups. This has improved my cooking and my family is now eating a balanced diet.”