Backed By a Band of Philanthropists, Nonprofit Makes Dramatic Progress in Reducing Childhood Deaths
On the edge of Bamako, the fast-growing capital city of Mali in West Africa, a global health nonprofit and its partners are feeling optimistic about a new way to reduce deaths among young children. A study published on March 12 in the journal BMJ Global Health shows a dramatic drop in childhood deaths in neighborhoods around Bamako after changes led by Muso, a small, but ambitious global health organization. When Muso began its study in 2008, 1 in 7 children died before they turned five years old. Seven years later, the death rate plummeted to only 1 in 142 children—the lowest rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Put another way, that’s 7 deaths for every 1,000 births, the same rate as in the U.S.
“It’s a historic transformation in child survival,” says Ari Johnson, chief executive officer of Muso and lead author of the new study.
Johnson, a doctor and assistant professor at University of California San Francisco, founded Muso in 2005. To achieve the newly reported results, Muso worked with the government of Mali to change how health care was delivered in communities on the edge of Bamako. Muso and the Malian government trained community health workers to go out looking for sick children, knocking on doors, rather than waiting for sick kids to be brought to clinics by their parents. The aim was to reach children in the first hours they showed signs of illness.