15 March 2007
Alima Mzanga, 22, receives a baby cap for her 4-day-old daughter made by Pamela Owen of Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of Save the Children's campaign to newborns' lives. (Save the Children USA/2007)
Efforts to reduce infant mortality in Malawi got a big boost today as U.S. and Malawi officials marked the arrival of 75,000 baby caps made by knitters and crocheters throughout the U.S. as part of Save the Children's campaign to save newborn lives worldwide.
Malawi Health Minister Marjorie Ngaunje and U.S. Ambassador Alan Eastham presented the first caps to new mothers and babies in the maternity and kangaroo mother care wards of Bwaila Hospital.
Each year in Malawi, 16,000 babies die during the first month of life. A baby cap — which helps to keep newborns warm — symbolizes one of the simple solutions in a package of health measures that can save many of these young lives.
"We know Americans care about saving the lives of newborn babies in Malawi," said Paul Mecartney, Country Office Director for Save the Children. "And American knitters and crocheters made 75,000 baby caps to prove it. Birth should be a time of celebration. By working together, we can make this a reality for all families, no matter where they live."
Research shows that more than half of newborn deaths in Malawi could be prevented if mothers and children had access to a simple package of health measures, including skilled birth attendance, antibiotics to fight infection, immunizations for tetanus, and education on breastfeeding and essential care for newborns.
The 75,000 baby caps made by U.S. knitters and crocheters arrived in Lilongwe on March 9th. The caps will be distributed through the Ministry of Health and CHAM to new mothers and babies at hospitals throughout Malawi. The distribution of caps will be incorporated into ongoing Ministry of Health efforts to increase awareness among expectant and new mothers about proper care of newborns at birth, including keeping the baby warm.
The idea for the caps project was spun from U.S. knitters and crocheters themselves, who contacted Save the Children after seeing media coverage of Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers 2006 report, released in May. The report noted that the first 24 hours of life are the most dangerous time for babies in the developing world. Of the more than 4 million newborns who die each year, 2 million die within the first 24 hours of life. Several news reports noted that something as simple as a knit cap could help save a baby's life.
Dozens of individuals contacted Save the Children to see how they could help and Caps to the Capital was launched. Knitters and crocheters were asked to use their skills to make a cap and their voice to show support for the need to do more to help newborns survive globally. More than 280,000 caps were sent to Save the Children. The caps will be distributed to mothers and babies in Malawi and Bangladesh, two countries chosen because of need and their governments' commitment to maternal and child health.