Keeping a Baby Close to Your Heart

Alicia Adler

Program Officer at Save the Children Malawi

January 9, 2016

Imagine spending at least 20 hours a day, 7 days a week with a baby strapped to your chest. Imagine you must eat, sleep, work and care for your other children along with a tiny baby who depends on your continuous skin-to-skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding for survival. This is the basis of kangaroo mother care (KMC), a costeffective intervention to help meet a premature or low-birthweight babys basic needs for warmth, nutrition, stimulation and protection from infection.blog2

For Malawi, with the highest preterm birth rate in the world (18 per 100 live births), KMC is a critical lifesaving intervention. But too few premature babies receive KMC due to lack of awareness, limited resources, and stigma against both KMC and premature/low-birthweight infants. It is not surprising, then, that direct complications of preterm birth are the second leading cause of child deaths after pneumonia, and result in more than 14 newborn deaths every day in Malawi. 

To commemorate World Prematurity Day 2016 on November 17th, Save the Children staff in Malawi accepted the KMC Challenge. Participants practiced KMC with a baby doll for 24 hours – holding the doll throughout work hours, around town and at home for the night. The challenge was accepted by other partners across the country and globe.

Jessie Lwanda, an IT coordinator said, “By doing this challenge, we are saying, ‘let’s give these babies a chance to survive by showing them love and carrying them close to our heart.’”

I have a passion for every child to survive, said Mavis Khondiwa, a Save the Children grants coordinator based in the United States. Through this challenge I could understand what kind of burden those mothers with premature babies face. I really feel for them.

blog1Over the course of the day, 20 men and women got a glimpse into the life of a mother with a premature baby and all the issues it presents. Through what I experienced as a man doing the challenge, I think women need more help, said Nyashadzashe Kaunda, an awards management officer. Men should also be taking care of the child and helping throughout the whole KMC process, he said

At the end of the 24 hours, colleagues returned the dolls and resumed their normal lives. For women around the country, it isnt so easy, though, as their childs life depends on their continued commitment to practice KMC until the baby reaches a healthy weight. In a country where neonatal mortality accounts for 40 percent of all death in children under age 5, it is everyones responsibility to champion KMC, and not just on World Prematurity Day, but every day. 

Save the Children is helping shift norms around the value of newborns in Malawi through the government’s social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaign, Khanda ndi Mphatso (A Baby is a Gift: Give it a Chance), helping establish KMC sites of excellence in district hospitals, and collaborating with the Ministry of Health to develop a national routine reporting system for KMC services in health facilities.

To learn more about our work to improve newborn survival, click here.

Alicia Adler is a program officer and Global Health Corps fellow with Save the Children in Malawi.

A Letter for Stephano

author-portrait_memory-champiti-quality-communications-coordinator Memory Champiti

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children Malawi

September 20, 2016

The rain poured on endlessly, hammering on the rooftops and turning the sidewalks and roads into vast oceans. Soaked men and women sold goods on the sides of the road. Young girls and boys skipped rope in the rain with resounding, joyful voices. Something about this day made me feel hopeful.

As we slowly drove up to the entrance of the school we planned to visit that day, I could not help but enjoy the beautiful faces of the children outside, clad in their uniforms of emerald green shirts and charcoal grey shorts and skirts. This was how my ninth day at Save the Children had started. I have recently joined the team as the new Quality Communications Coordinator, to ensure the stories and letters our sponsors receive help them understand the great work their donations support.

Stephano in his green school uniform.
Stephano in his green school uniform.

I had been looking forward to this day, as I would see firsthand one of the communities in which Sponsorship works. We would be delivering a letter for Stephano, a 13-year-old boy who attends grade 6 here, from his sponsors.

In the company of Henry, our liaison for Stephano’s community, we got out of the car and were welcomed enthusiastically by the Deputy Headmaster of the local school, Mr. Jonazi, who led us to the staff-room. Just moments after a jubilant young boy showed up beside me. Mr. Jonazi, in his soft spoken voice said, “This is Stephano.” My face quickly lit up. Immediately, we went back outside to retrieve Stephano’s small package from abroad.

As I handed him his letter, the joy could not be concealed from his face. He grinned from ear to ear like a Cheshire Cat. He carefully poured over every word of his letter before settling down on a plastic chair outside the school to compose his response, under the now clear and calm skies.

“I am very grateful for my sponsors,” he said earnestly as he finished his letter for them. I carefully tucked his letter away, to be transported back to our main office before making its long journey to the hands of his sponsors.

Stephano sharing his story with Memory.
Stephano sharing his story with Memory.

The days experience truly melted my heart. I now know that I am a part of making a profound difference in the lives of children in this community. Small things, like having a letter to call your own, can help a child feel fulfilled and empowered. As I look forward to my career ahead with Save the Children in Malawi, I am excited to witness more powerful visits with children like this one.

 

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Meet Florence, Nembere Community Volunteer

Florence

Florence

Community Volunteer

Nembere Village, Malawi

July 10, 2015

 

My name is Florence Chokani and I come from Nembere Village. I am a community volunteer who encourages children of my area to go to school. I also teach children in Literacy Boost camps and work as a care giver in a Community-Based Child Care Center.

I started volunteer work with Save the Children in 2010, as a camp leader helping children read and write after school. Then in 2011, I joined Early Childhood Care and Development as a caregiver, where I was responsible for teaching children under the age of six. Additionally, my community selected me to be a Sponsorship Agent, after seeing the passion that I have for my community, for which I helped track enrolled children for their eligibility. This year the community has also entrusted me with another responsibility: representing youth in my area as a Youth Community Based Distribution Agent.

I started volunteering with Save the Children because I wanted to help children in my community. I would love to see an educated community in the future, which will be a breeding ground for development. My dream has always been to work alongside communities in shaping the lives of children. I have been given that opportunity thanks to Save the Children.

I also started volunteering because I wanted to learn new things, for myself as well as for people close to me. For instance, in terms of child development, I have learned how to teach and communicate with children. I have learned how to recognize child problems and abuse and how to counsel children. Above all, I have learned and appreciated how Save the Children’s sponsorship program works and impacts the lives of children, which I gladly share with caregivers and parents.

Volunteering has some added benefits: it keeps me occupied and the community values me a lot because of the support that I provide. I am content knowing that. However, nothing gets me more excited than the children. Whether out of school or in school, they always run to me because they know my presence. Knowing the impact I have on the children makes me feel special – it makes me proud to be a member of the community.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Tapping Into the Core

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Luzayo Nyirongo

Communications & Advocacy Officer,

Lilonge, Malawi

July 9, 2014

 

It’s often advised that when making a decision about a significant other, it’s what lies in the middle of that person that counts. “Look at her heart,” my mother would often tell me. I can say that I recently experienced the value of what lies in the middle, but in a different way.

Early in the morning on February 11th, 2014, I set off for school site visits with a team from Save the Children’s Zomba Sponsorship Program. Accompanying me were Lameck, a field officer, Micah, a Basic Education facilitator, and our seasoned Save the Children driver, Victor. I emphasize his experience because the routes we took were not for the faint-hearted. Not even ten minutes driving out of Zomba’s city centre and you begin to notice how rural its surroundings are. We passed miles of green fields of crops and an abundance of forested mountains in the horizon for about 30 minutes before reaching a narrow dirt road. This challenging, uneven road would lead us into Sub Traditional Authority Ntolawa, which lies in the heart of Senior Chief Chikowi.

2014-02-14_Success Based_Maureen taking a break from playing Pada with friends-7

The Sponsorship Program consists of 56 schools all in Senior Chief Chikowi, with roughly 120,000 students enrolled in them. It startles you how there is such high enrollment given what seems to be a sparse population density in your immediate surroundings. Within our roughly 40 minute drive to reaching the first school, you pass hmainly maize stalk, tobacco and coffee trees. People would go about their daily lives tilling in the fields or walking alongside the dirt road. Out in the distance or by the roadside you’d also occasionally see people standing by their isolated, spaced out homes. Other than a trading center we drove past in a nearby town, scarcely would you come across people in a large gathering. All of a sudden, as we entered the driveway to the first school, hundreds of children started appearing as we slowly made our way into the center of the school building blocks. The children brought us an immediate burst of energy and liveliness. It gave us quite a surprise given the very picturesque and reflective drive there.

I discovered something special in these schools. The teachers and the students possessed a drive within them unlike anything I had seen. At the first school, I had the chance to chat with the Principal, Edmand Kuwanda. He, along with 11 other staff, teaches a school of 1,428 students. The number is quite precise because he had just finished completing the student records that very day. He proudly pointed me towards a poster in his office written ‘707 boys and 721 girls’ to be exact. At the second school, the staff to student ratio was just as startling with about 10 teachers to 950 students. I couldn’t help but wonder how these understaffed schools managed to successfully teach that many students. It must be a very challenging task. With no doubt in mind though, the answer to how they managed was because of their determination to do so.

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I learned that one of the major reasons why schools are understaffed in rural areas is because of rural to urban migration. People often seek better lives in cities or in the other way around, do not migrate to rural areas to teach. As I was standing and watching the children play with Principal Kuwanda, something was telling me to ask him why he hadn’t also chosen to take that route. At that very moment I was taken aback as I watched him ponder, looking at the playground with a face of content. I no longer had the urge to ask. The satisfaction and joy in his expression explained why he had been teaching at this school for the past 10 years. There was definitely something he saw in those children and the community that gave him and many other teachers the passion to teach.

It was amazing to see the teacher-student relationship in both schools. There was a sense of trust between them almost. I could see that the teachers believed in the students, which drives them to stay on teaching at these schools. The students in turn reciprocate that belief in them by giving it their all. I heard great testimonies from students about how they have succeeded in school with the help of their teachers. In one case, an 11 year-old girl named Blandina told me with joy about how she can now read after being unable to for a while.

As we took off in the morning, driving along that jagged road, gazing in the distance, I wasn’t sure what to expect at our destinations. The positive stories I heard that day were a pleasant introduction to my first site visits with Save the Children’s Education Programs. People sometimes have a notion that knowledge and information ought to be transferred from the outside in when dealing with rural, hard to reach places. My experience however was different, the transfer of information occurred the other way around. In the heart of Chikowi, it was the people in the communities that encouraged me, educated me and gave me uplifting joy. Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Tell us how your sponsorship inspired you!

Stumped on Letter Writing? Here’s a Few Tips!

Chester Maneno- Sponsorship Field Officer

Chester Maneno, Sponsorship Field Officer

Malawi

March 2014

 

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 171 out of 187 nations, and 85% of the population lives in rural areas, including Zomba where we implement sponsorship programs. People in these areas have different perceptions about the Western world, which is why I’m sharing ideas on what sponsors can write to their sponsored child.

Many people in rural areas think Western people have a lot of money and everything they need in life, hence they do not struggle as people in this part of the world do to have a successful future.

Sponsors, therefore, should regard themselves as role models to these children and tell them about the advantages of working hard in school. In Zomba, the fact that there is little interest in education among both children and their parents is a big challenge, and the mention of hard work in school from sponsors can be very helpful.

Malawi Zomba, Misozi Sikula with her letter 2Sponsors should avoid asking children to write about what they would want sponsors to do for them as this poses a challenge for field staff when the child or the parents want a follow-up to what they requested. Statements like “I hope the money I send every month will help you achieve a better life,” and “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you,” are culturally sensitive and contradict our program’s community orientation.

It would be better if sponsors concentrated on encouraging the child to go to school and study hard so they can realize their dream of what they want to become. Children should also be encouraged to share information about their culture, their family and their holidays. These topics bring a smile to the child’s face, and they feel connected to the sponsor.

Making a Community-Wide Change

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 Natalie Roschnik, School Health and Nutrition Advisor

Niankorobougou, Malawi

January 9, 2013

Part 1

Today I visited Niankorobougou, a village 45 km South of Sikasso town, which in February 2013 was officially certified a “clean” village in which open-air defecation has been eradicated.  It truly has been a radical transformation from a year earlier when human feces could be found all over the village. P8210035

How did this village change so much in less than a year? The answer is Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach pioneered in Bangladesh that leads communities to feel disgust and commit to making important changes.

  1. Men, women and children led by Save the Children agents and trained community volunteers do the “walk of shame” around the village, noting the feces. Nothing is said but the person responsible feels shame.
  2. They map out the village in the dirt, using white chalk, sticks and leaves to mark the rivers, wells, school and maternity center, then putting little piles of ash to show where they found feces.
  3. The community volunteers lead a few simple activities that make them realize that by defecating in the open air, they are eating and drinking their own feces. The one which made them feel most disgust was when a plate of feces was placed next to a plate of rice. The flies immediately come and go from one to the other. The plate of rice was then offered around and everyone turned their head with disgust. They still made faces when telling me about it a year later!
  4. The community commits to eradicating open-air defecation and improving the hygiene situation in their village.

 

Part 2

 

In Niankorobougou, the community committed to building an additional 10 latrines (in addition to the 45 existing ones) and actually built 18. They also improved the 45 existing latrines to include soap or ash, a cover on the hole and a drain to let stagnating water out. Every well now has sticks planted around to hang the buckets (they used to leave them on the ground) and every Sunday the whole community cleans the village. The men remove grasses and rubbish and the women sweep.

 

Today in Niankorobougou, six months after the village was certified, all those I spoke to – the village elders, the women and sanitation committee members – still feel passionate about keeping their village clean. One woman says that when she visits other villages, she finds them really dirty. Everyone also says the village and children are healthier. There are fewer mosquitoes, fewer flies and fewer health problems, particularly malaria and diarrhea.

 

“Last year in July, we had at least 30 cases of malaria and this year, there have been fewer than 10,” they tell me. They are very proud of their village, and I was so impressed that all these changes came from the communities themselves with no external financial support.

 

Save the Children has implemented this approach in 20 communities realizing equal success in each one. In the next couple of years, the team hopes to scale it up to all 250 of the current sponsorship-supported communities.

Getting Ready for BlogHer ‘12

I am incredibly excited to connect with all of the amazing women at BlogHer ‘12, an annual conference that brings women in social media together. One of the most powerful ways to deliver a message in social media is through video. That’s why I want to share this video with you, which we’ll screen at BlogHer ’12. It includes shots of multiple health workers from all over the world. I met one of them, Madalitso Masa, along with her son Patience, who lives and works in a rocky and mountainous part of Malawi where she helps prepare women for a healthy pregnancy.

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The Hope and Power of Education

Nomsa Mkandawire, Communications OfficerNomsa Mkandawire, Communications Officer

Zomba, Malawi

July 20, 2012

It’s slightly after 12 noon and a bit hot in Zomba, the eastern district of Malawi. My colleagues and I are visiting a primary school where Save the Children is constructing a school block. The maize has not yet been harvested and we have to pass through fields. As we walk on a winding path, an old drunkard shuffles by. I swiftly dodge him and he stands in front of my colleagues, just for a hand shake. Suddenly it starts showering. 

We quickly reach a nearby compound. Two boys are playing and goats are grazing. We are in Lone Maluku’s compound, she smilingly comes out to welcome us. Lone Maluku is a mother of seven and has two children in the Save the Children sponsorship program. She says she is the proudest mother in her village and is reassured knowing that her children, 9 year-old Catherine and 7 year-old Kingsley, are sponsored and in school. “It is clear that education is the key to any development of every
human being. Look at me, I did not go to school and that is why I look like this,” she sadly points to her clothes and regretfully smiles.

Lone Maluku at her home2She continues, “You know, if I had gone to school I would never have had seven children at my age, and besides I would have found a job like other educated women. Life is tough without education. I am very hopeful that my children will finish their education, it is of paramount importance to me.” Lone says she is grateful to Save the Children for delivering these programs and is confident her children will have a bright future.

“I know my children will make it in life, every day I tell them to work extra hard if they don’t want to be like me,” explains Lone, now with a child on her back as she prepares lunch for her family. 

It suddenly occurs to ask her age. She replies, “I think I should be thirty-something because I was born in 1972. You see I dropped out of school early and I don’t know many things.’’

“I have to trek long distances early every morning to look for firewood and water, sometimes it is so cold but I have to go on. You have to understand me when I say that I wish I had gone to school and my children must be educated,” says Lone stressfully.

Life may be hard now and regrets may echo in her ears, but one thing is clear for Lone Maluku, education is the surest way to achieve a better life.

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Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

Doh!-ville – Don’t forget the children, G8

Nora O'Connell Nora O’Connell, Save the Children Senior Director of Development Policy and Advocacy

Deauville, France

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The beautiful seaside village of Deauville, France, where the G8 leaders just held their annual Summit, is a long way from the villages of Malawi – in more ways than one.

The big story at the summit was the Arab spring – the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere – and how global leaders can support the people of those countries in creating lasting peace, stability and prosperity.

The G8's package of help for the Middle East is timely and important – but key pledges to the developing world still need to be delivered. We don't want an Arab Spring to be followed by a barren summer in Africa.

In Malawi, there is a different kind of uprising happening, but there the government is leading the charge. It is a movement calling for the end of needless deaths of thousands of mothers and children, mostly from preventable and treatable causes.

Malawi is symbolic of the transformation that can happen when a government, even of a poor country, commits itself to a goal and develops sounds policies, programs and partnerships to achieve it. They’ve prioritized proven approaches, like training community health workers, giving vaccines and fighting malnutrition – things that can help prevent and treat leading killers of children, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. And Malawi has achieved results – from 1990 to 2009, under-5 mortality rate has dropped by half.

What does this have to do with the G8? Because even committed countries like Malawi need donor support to stay on track, save lives, and create a brighter future for their countries.

At their previous two summits, G8 leaders made important promises to help developing countries that are struggling with maternal and child health and hunger. In Deauville, the G8 affirmed those commitments, but they need to turn that pledge into action by tackling the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers in the poorest countries. Training just one of these could help deliver lifesaving treatments to hundreds or even thousands of children and save many lives.

The U.S. will have two key moments in the next few months to deliver on its promises. The first is on the 2012 spending bills. Congress has to resist the temptation to sacrifice these proven programs in the name of cutting the federal deficit. Programs to fight global poverty are about half of 1 percent of the federal budget, so cuts to these programs won’t help families in either Michigan or Malawi.

The second moment will come in September in New York when health workers will be top of the agenda at a U.N. summit. In its accountability report, the G8 acknowledged how these workers are critical to health progress. Now the US should come to the U.N. with its plan to help meet the shortfall of 3.5 million health workers and empower those who are already working to save lives.

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 Meet local health workers and the children they help to survive. 

Malawian Grandmother Takes on the Role of a Lifetime

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Eileen Burke, Save the Children, Director of Media & Communications

Westport, CT

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 

This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network

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I read this week that the Associated Press named 88-year-old Betty White 2010 Entertainer of the Year, another honor to add to her long list of accolades as chief comedian. Approaching her ninth decade of life, the beloved Betty shows no signs of slowing down.

I was reminded of a similarly spry octogenarian whom I met in September 2009 during a visit to Save the Children’s health programs in Ekwendeni District in Malawi. Faida Simeza, age 89 (according to voter registration records in her possession), decided late in life to take on a new role as caretaker to moms and newborn babies in her village. It all began one day four years prior when a health worker came to her village to enlist grandmothers and grandfathers (known locally as agogos) in a new training program to help mothers and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth. “I had lived here long enough and had seen so many problems with mothers and newborns. I decided I had to go and find out more,” she told me.

Through the program, agogos are trained to counsel mothers through home visits on proper care during pregnancy and before and after childbirth. They also learn how to alter cultural practices that may be carried out with good intentions but are harmful. Sitting on straw mats under a canopy of trees, Faida and a group of agogos shared some of the changes they had made since the training. “Don’t feed ashes to a woman to speed up labor.” “Don’t apply rat feces to a child’s cord.” and “Don’t place a newborn baby on a banana leaf on the ground – he will get hypothermia.”

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In her role as an agogo, Faida (above) visits Lucy and her one-day-old baby at home.

Faida, though illiterate, works with the local public health officer to meticulously record her visits with women and babies in a book that is kept by the village chief. Since she finished her training, she has helped with the delivery and care of 10 healthy newborn babies in her village.

She will never get Hollywood awards for her role as an “agogo” in her village. But for Faida, walking around her village and seeing babies alive today because of her training is reward enough.

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Eileen Burke visited Ekwendeni last year to help film the Living Proof Agogo VideoRead the recent report on the Ekwendeni Agogo Approach, which includes the training manual and qualitative assessment report.