Saturday, October 06, 2007

Peanuts for public health saves babies in the poorest countries

Yesterday the Globe and Mail ran a piece by Stephanie Nolan on successful measures to fight infant mortality; she focused on Malawi, where a few simple measures costing about as much as Canadian undergraduates pay for lunch has saved many lives:

The first page of Alfred Malunga's fat village register is taken up by a single family. Mother, father, five children, the last a baby girl named Molly. A red cross has been inked in beside her name.

“I use that sign when someone passes away,” explained Mr. Malunga, the village health worker who maintains the register, two volumes long and 12 centimetres high. “That child died of malaria.”

But turn the page. And the next. There are no more red crosses for 10 pages. Molly is the only child in her village to have died in the past six months.

This is a startling thing in Malawi, one of the poorest nations in the world, chronically short of food and with less than $10 a person spent on health care each year.

This kind of good news is becoming more common:

The application of a handful of simple, low-cost measures, from giving families $2 mosquito nets to encouraging breastfeeding, is spurring a sharp decline in child deaths around the world.

Malawi also pays village health workers to administer these kinds of programs, which is more than some other countries that are equally or less poor do. Alfred Malunga makes the princely sum of $36 a month.

A year ago I had a couple of posts (1) (2) on effective public health measures as a sign and product of true historical progress -- let me be blunt, moral progress.

Reject any analysis of world history that does not dedicate serious thought to this issue. And read the article. Oh, Canadians: your taxes are making a significant contribution to this effor

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