Innovative projects that range from traveling rural clinics in Angola to affordable new breathing machines for infants in Malawi are among the eight finalists for the first-ever $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize, the largest humanitarian prize dedicated to saving children’s lives in the world today.
Recognizing that nearly 18,000 children under five years old die from preventable causes every day, the Children’s Prize funds projects aimed at saving the greatest number of children’s lives in the most impactful, credible, and cost-effective way. The Prize is founded by Ted Caplow, an engineer and social enterprise entrepreneur who has developed an array of successful ventures addressing renewable energy, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture.
Working outside of traditional channels of foreign aid and philanthropy, the Children’s Prize was created to allow anyone with a valid proposal – from individuals, such as academicians, researchers, and grassroots advocates, to organizations of any size or type – to compete on a level playing field. Organizers took an open and inclusive approach, using the Internet and new media tools to reach potential applicants around the world and attract the widest possible pool of proposals. The Children’s Prize included a simple online application process that made the competition efficient and accessible to applicants who might lack a dedicated development staff. In all, 565 proposals were received from 70 countries.
“The preventable death of even one child at a time when we are making tremendous advances in medicine and communication is a tragedy,” said Caplow. “This Prize was established to not only uncover and fund the best ideas for saving children’s lives, but also to explore a model for how motivated donors with specific goals can make a direct and personal impact in our global society today.”
According to Caplow, the eight finalists reflect the range of approaches needed to accelerate the reduction in child mortality rates. While the number of deaths in children under five worldwide has declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals aim to reduce child mortality by two thirds from 1990-levels by 2015.
The eight finalists comprise projects in Africa and Asia, including Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, and Pakistan and include plans developed by individuals and organizations large and small. A team of experts recruited from organizations such as Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Miami Department of Pediatrics helped select the eight finalists. The winner of the $1 million prize will be announced in December 2013.
The eight finalists are (in alphabetical order):
• Affordable emergency breathing machine: University of Malawi College of Medicine – This project proposes to significantly expand access to an affordable, new medical technology that will help reduce deaths from severe respiratory distress. Given that a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device costs a prohibitive $6,000 and is technically complex to operate, the University of Malawi College of Medicine, working with Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, developed a $400, easy-to-use alternative, known as the Pumani bCPAP. The project will also fund training for health professionals to enhance neonatal care.
• Traveling rural clinics: World Medical Fund – With the typical Malawian child living more than 30 miles from the nearest medical facility, this project would fund traveling clinics for children in 4 x 4 vehicles. Providing front line, primary medical care, these clinics would carry diverse teams of medical professionals and wide stocks of medicine to inaccessible geographical areas throughout the country. The traveling clinics also bring vital public health education to many with the varied topics that include information about the importance of hygiene, HIV/AIDS or child nutrition. The Prize will also be used to recruit and train Village Health Volunteers who play a key role of the program’s delivery.
• Rapid pediatric medicine: Muso Ladamunen – Recognizing that leading causes of death like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea kill children quickly, this project focuses on early access to intervention by providing doorstep care. Through a proactive approach, this plan proposes to reach 85% of children in rural Mali within 48 hours from the moment they get sick. The centerpiece of the project is the training and mobilization of a network of Community Healthcare Workers who are responsible for both outreach to the community and receiving referrals from within it.
• Seasonal malaria prevention: Plan International Burkina Faso – This project would combat malaria, the leading killer of children under five in Burkina Faso. It would administer a preventative treatment known as Seasonal Malaria Chemoprophylaxis (SMC), a combination of two relatively inexpensive and available anti-malarial drugs, In addition, Community Health Workers in the six districts selected would be trained to find and treat all sick children, as well as educate caregivers about the purpose, benefits, and protocol of the SMC strategy.
• Perinatal & primary care package: Anita Zaida – A physician and professor, Dr. Anita Zaidi would provide a comprehensive package of proven interventions in maternal, newborn and child health to an impoverished fishing village in Karachi, Pakistan. With malnutrition rates at 70% for this indigenous community, the life-saving package includes increasing newborn deliveries through assistance of skilled professionals, providing pre- and post-birth home visits by trained Community Health Workers, supplying vitamins and nutritional supplements to pregnant women and children, and administering appropriate maternal and child vaccinations.
• Comprehensive pediatric care: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – More than 40% of children in the Sikasso region of Mali suffer from chronic malnutrition which makes them more susceptible to deadly cases of malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. This project would support a comprehensive and integrated package of pediatric care designed for resource-poor settings. With a focus on effective delivery, the project would provide vaccination, nutritional supplementation, and primary care -to children under the age of two. Community members will be trained to test, treat, and refer sick children to health centers.
• Water at schools: RISE International – With 62% of Angola’s rural population having no access to improved water sources, this project would build on the success of thirteen previously-installed wells at RISE schools. These existing wells have led to significant reductions in childhood cholera and diarrhea. The Prize money would fund approximately 60 new water wells at RISE schools where the only access to water is the nearest river, which is often unclean because people use it for all their basic needs. These school sites are centrally located in communities to ensure easy access and the opportunity to educate about the importance of clean water, sanitation, health and nutrition.
• Neonatal unit expansion: AMOR – The project would support a major expansion to the Neonatal Department at Afshar Hospital, which is one of only two of its kind in Afghanistan. With the Prize funds, the Neonatal Department, which opened in February 2013, would increase its capacity and expand access to lifesaving medical care through three key initiatives: acquiring additional neonatal equipment such as infant beds, monitors, and CPAP machines; hiring more pediatricians and nursing staff; and providing ongoing professional education in neonatal care.
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