Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Press Release from Concern Worldwide-Malawi

For more information, please contact:
Joseph Scott
Office: +265 (0) 1 776 811| Mobile: +265 (0) 99 913 4949 Email:

Concern Worldwide competition generates exciting new ideas to improve healthcare for mothers and children in Malawi

Lilongwe, 1st February 2010

Over 6,000 people throughout Malawi responded to the Concern Worldwide national call for ideas, submitting their entries to the Share an Idea, Save a Life competition during October and November of 2009.

In this unique competition, Concern Worldwide asked the public for bold, new ideas to break down a key barrier that exists between life-saving health services and the mothers and children who need them most. While free health services are available throughout Malawi, many families are unwilling to use them because of worries about the quality of care they will receive. This is the challenge for which the competition asked Malawians from all walks of life to share ideas.

“The response was phenomenal. We are thrilled that so many people throughout Malawi were mobilized and participated—not only by submitting ideas, but also by raising awareness,” said Steven Zarnfaller, Country Manager for Concern Worldwide’s Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Initiative. “We received a wide range of ideas. Independent assessors selected by Concern Worldwide from Malawi and from around the world helped assess the 6,136 ideas we received. The entrants with the 29 most promising ideas were invited to the semi-finals on 13 January.”

One of the semi-finalists was Beatrice Kabambe, who explained that her participation in the competition was spurred by a personal crisis from childhood: “A lot of issues motivated me to submit my idea in the competition. But personally, my mum died during labour when I was five years old. I grew up without a mum, and the baby who was supposed to be my brother also died in this tragedy. The death of my mother is still vivid in my memories, and it’s painful to see that many women in rural areas are still dying due to pregnancy-related issues. I hope my idea will help them through,” said Beatrice.

On 13 January, Concern engaged a diverse, multi-disciplinary panel of judges to hear pitches from the 29 semi-finalists. From this group, the judges selected six finalists whose ideas had the most potential and were most innovative.

“The judges were impressed by the quality of the presentations. It was wonderful to see how passionate the semi-finalists were about improving health care for mothers and children. This competition sends an important message about the huge potential within Malawi to find new solutions to the problems we face,” said Thembi Thadzi, a judge, youth activist, and Board Chairperson of the National Youth Council of Malawi.

The six finalists will receive cash prizes and mentoring and technical support to further develop their ideas in preparation for the final round of judging in April 2010. The ultimate goal is to select and rigorously field test up to 3 ideas to evaluate their potential to significantly increase coverage of proven maternal, newborn and child health interventions.

“We want to thank everyone who participated in the competition, and offer our congratulations to the finalists. This is an exciting step toward finding new solutions and saving the lives of more and more mothers and children in Malawi using ideas generated by the people in Malawi” said Balwant Singh, Global Director of Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

For more information, or to request an interview with Country Director A.K.M. Musha and/or Innovations Country Manager Steven Zarnfaller please contact: Joseph Scott, Communications Officer
Office: +265 (0) 1 776 811 | Mobile: +265 (0) 99 913 4949 Email:

Notes for editors:

About Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide (Concern) is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organisation dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. Founded in Ireland in 1968, Concern works in 28 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. We provide emergency relief and long-term development assistance in the areas of education, health, livelihoods, and HIV & AIDS.

Our vision is a world where no-one lives in poverty, fear or oppression; where all have access to a decent standard of living; access to the opportunities and choices essential to a long, healthy and creative life; a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Our work in Malawi

Concern has been working in Malawi since 2002 delivering livelihood, health and education programmes within the four districts of Dowa, Lilongwe, Nkhotakota and Nsanje. Concern is well known for its innovative and quality programmes. In addition to its programmes in four districts Concern supports the Community Therapeutic Care Advisory Service (CAS) which sits within the Ministry of Health to scale up and institutionalise the Community Based Therapeutic Care (CTC), an innovative approach of treating severe acute malnutrition among children. Concern works for the poorest and most vulnerable people and promotes sustainable development approach where people of Malawi, its government and the local institutions are supported to take leadership of the development process.

To find out more information on the work of Concern you can visit our website at

The Innovations Initiative

In 2009 Concern Worldwide began a five-year Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (or Innovations in short) initiative to support the development and field testing of bold and inventive ways to overcome barriers to delivering proven maternal, newborn and child health solutions in six countries. Innovations will start in Malawi, India and Sierra Leone, where significant obstacles to achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals for maternal & child health are present.

Proven healthcare interventions already exist that have the potential to save millions of lives. The challenge is to effectively deliver these interventions so as to reach all the mothers and children who need them.

Innovations in Malawi
In Malawi, Innovations aimed to generate thousands of ideas from new and often unheard voices with untapped natural potential through a competition promoted through a national media and outreach campaign. The competition was open for one month, and is now being followed by three rounds of judging. At the end of the competition, 3 ideas will be selected. The 3 winning ideas will be awarded grants of up to US$450,000 to be rigorously tested at the district level over an 18 to 24 month period in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF. The competition is open only to individuals who are legal residents or citizens of Malawi and to groups or organizations who are composed of legal residents or citizens of Malawi.

Over the past decade, Malawi has made huge progress in improving the availability of healthcare. Developing these healthcare services even further is essential to Malawi’s future.

The Challenge Area

Free health services are available throughout Malawi, but many families, particularly pregnant women, women in labour, and those with sick children, are unwilling to use them.
A key barrier is that many families feel they do not receive the quality healthcare services expected. Some people worry about the quality of care they will receive or they are unwilling to use health services because of negative past experience.

This can result in the unnecessary deaths of mothers, babies and children.

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