Healthier Children

Given the level of poverty in Malawi, estimated at 70% of the total population and 90% in rural areas such as our service area, it is no surprise that a significant percentage of young children suffer from compromised growth and development. The reputable health survey conducted by the Malawian government estimates that about 22% of the children under age five in the Mangochi District are “underweight.” Children are underweight when their weight-for-age is significantly below the standardized norms for Malawi.

A study was conducted in November 2008, to see if MCV’s orphans were growing and developing at a similar rate to non-orphans. In this study, the MCV Outreach Team, using a digital scale, took weight-for-age growth measures on 61 orphans (21% of all MCV’s orphans under age five, a good sample size) and 59 non-orphans (all under age five) in ten villages.

Using the standardized growth chart, 1 4 . 7 5% of the orphans we r e “underweight”; 15.25% of the nonorphans were “underweight”. Thus, by this important measure, orphans are doing as well as non-orphans, and both groups are doing better than the district average.

One hypothesis is that MCV nutrition and support services, including food distribution, seed allotments, nutrition supplements, and irrigation/agriculture projects, have positive effects on all children in the 37 villages.

Malaria Prevention

Malaria is the number one killer of children under age 5 in Malawi. These children suffer an average of 5 episodes of malaria each year. Thus, even when death is avoided, their overall health is seriously compromised.

Based on successful studies, MCV initiated a malaria prevention project in 2005. Under this project, malaria prevention education is provided in the villages and all children under age 5 receive insecticide-treated bednets. Follow-up is provided in the villages to assure that the bednets are used continuously and appropriately.

At the beginning of the project, a baseline survey was undertaken, which indicated that 30% of the under 5s had had a malaria episode in the prior month. (This is consistent with government surveys, as well as research studies.) After distribution of bednets (now exceeding 1000 recipients), the percentage of monthly malaria episodes in young recipients dropped by more than 60%, a success rate that has been maintained for almost three years.

It appears that deaths in these children due to malaria have also dropped by more than 50%. This particular outcome needs additional study.

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