Malawi Children's Initiative
To improve the lives of Malawian children by supporting locally-led initiatives targeting healthcare, nutrition, and education.
Run for Malawi 2021!!
Building a pediatric hospital in Malawi
Malawi Can't Breathe
The healthcare infrastructure for children in Malawi continues to lag behind the developed world-and many children suffer and die as a result of lack of access to trained staff, medicines, surgical procedures, and basic preventative care.
Our goal over the next few years is to make a giant leap forward. We are currently in the exploratory phase (with the support of the Malawi government) of evaluating the feasibility of building and operating a dedicated pediatric hospital. There are other examples around Africa where pediatric hospitals made a huge difference in outcomes-and we think this is exactly what's needed for the region.
We are hoping to go big this year with our fundraiser. Our goal is to raise enough funds to take a serious look at this project. We want to move beyond supporting basic operations to something bigger.
Feb 14, 2021
The COVID pandemic in Malawi has had a resurgence in the last few weeks, with increased community spread, hospitalizations, and deaths. The healthcare staff are exhausted, many have been sick with COVID, and many have lost friends or family members. The already overburdened hospitals are overflowing, and there is a pressing need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and oxygen.
To fill an oxygen tank costs about $100, and patients are using more than one canister per day. MCI has already raised and donated $1500 toward refilling cyclinders.
Malawi hospitals have scores of Oxygen concentrators in various states of disrepair, all unusable. Oxygen concentrators use a special compound (called Zeolite) to create oxygen from normal air, and can serve multiple patients potentially for years. The cost of repairing a concentrator is approximately $50.
MCI has committed to helping fund the OpenO2 Mobile Workshop, which is already hard at work using their revamped bus as a fully functional engineering workshop to repair concentrators at hospitals throughout the country. The need is so great that the team requires a second bus to reach more hospitals more quickly.
The OpenO2 workshop has secured funds for many of their additional needs (engineer salary, equipment, Zeolite, lodging for team).They have raised $2000 toward the purchase of a second bus, and need an $8,000.
This is a high-yield investment in a Malawian team finding innovative solutions for a critical need. Please help us support them.
MCI raised over $11,000, which has been used toward the repair of oxygen concentrators in several hospitals in the country.
Over the last 12 months our team of two full-time MCI laboratory technicians and a lab secretary has served thousands of families at KCH. The KCH PAediatric Lab has provided essential tests to facilitate the care of all sick children admitted to the KCH Paediatric Department. Our lab performs complete blood counts, chemistry tests, including liver and kidney function tests, electrolytes, and microscopy.
MCI is grateful to acknowledge a partnership with the Spanish Malawi-Salud Association, supported by the Zaragoza city council, who have provided substantial financial support, and UNC Project Malawi, who provided mentorship in the lab's development.
It's the One-Year Anniversary
of the KCH Paediatric lab!!
Click here to donate to support the cost of reagents, staff salary, and machine maintenance so we may continue to provide these essential services.
What is the focus of Malawi Children's Initiative?
Hover over the pictures or click the links to learn more
Access to a quality education is the cornerstone to reducing poverty and improving the quality of people's lives. Malawi Children's Initiative began by funding several local elementary school students whom the Fitzgeralds knew, and in four years has grown to support almost 30 students of different ages and stages of education. We currently provide scholarships to students in university, nursing school, graduate school, and medical school. Two of our former nurse scholarship recipients have gone on to become MCI employees working permanently on the KCH Paeds ward.
In 2018 MCI worked with UNC Project Malawi to build a school Dzama village, located on the outskirts of Malawi, that provides a learning space for almost 100 children.
Four years ago MCI began funding locum nurses to fill in staffing gaps on the Paediatric ward, where there are as many as 500 patients admitted during the rainy season. Today, in addition to locum support, we employ 4 full-time paediatric nursing staff, two of whom are MCI scholarship recipients. MCI built, supplied, and funds the KCH paediatric lab since November 2019, and we have provided the department with computers and Wi-fi access with which to access healthcare resources and digital X-rays. When needed, MCI provides patients with the funds necessary to access studies such as CT scans that cannot be done at KCH. We support the salaries of the tireless hospital social workers, and provide equipment and supplies for the department, including antibiotics, scales and glucometers, when there are shortages on the wards.
In 2017, MCI began by providing meals to patients' families at KCH, many of whom are subsistence farmers without access to funds to purchase food when away from their villages.
In the last 18 months we have focused our efforts on children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The KCH Department of Paediatrics admits about 500 children with SAM per year, and one in ten of these children will die on the wards. Over the last 3 years MCI has worked in partnership with the Department of Paediatrics and a consortium of universities working in Malawi (PACHIMAKE) to strengthen the care of severely malnourished children admitted to KCH. We have helped facilitate a locally-led Quality Improvement project that uses hospital data to address gaps in the cascade of care for this high-risk group of patients. This has included the hiring of two full-time nutritionists on the KCH Nutritional Rehabilitation Unit (NRU), trainings for nurses and clinicians, and provision of supplies when there are shortages.
The Fitzgerald family as they embarked for Malawi in July 2019
Malawi Children's Initiative was created by my husband Dave and myself in 2017, as a way to build bridges between our colleagues, friends, and patients in Malawi and our colleagues, friends, and family in the United States.
In 2011 we quit our jobs in the US and moved with our three children to Lilongwe, Malawi, where I worked as a pediatrician doing outpatient HIV care through the Baylor Pediatric Global Health Service Corp, and Dave worked at a local non-profit hospital. Shortly after we moved we adopted Malawian twin boys (Kennedy and Shane) and I began working part-time in the adjacent government referral center, Kamuzu Central Hospital. Overwhelmed by the tragic deaths of children every day and my inability to help them, and in the context of parenting five children in a foreign country, I blogged about my experience. From these posts, which unfortunately succumbed to the time constraints of our crazy life, we received offers from back home to help the families I wrote about. We began to dream of starting a non-profit to try to actually make this happen.
In 2013 we returned to the United States, but it wasn't until 2017 that we formalized MCI as a non-profit (5 kids and a fellowship got in the way). Since 2013, through my position as faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, I have been fortunate enough to travel two months per year to Malawi (yes, I leave Dave alone with all 5 children). My academic work at KCH has allowed me to develop and maintain close relationships with both the staff on the ground and the departmental and hospital leadership. This has provided a unique opportunity for MCI to make data-derived decisions about how and where to provide support, and for us to get to know the people who we are supporting. In July of 2019 the Fitzgeralds moved back to Lilongwe for a year as a family of 6 (one in college). During our time in Malawi MCI made significant progress; we opened the KCH Paediatric lab, hired 8 employees in a formalized partnership with the Ministry of Health, and began a quality-improvement project for severely malnourished children. Unfortunately COVID cut our family's year short, but that has not gotten in the way of MCI's work.
Our experience working with the people of Malawi has changed our lives. Dave and I are honored to call Malawi our second home, and continue to be inspired by the tireless dedication of our Malawian colleagues. Since its inception, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our donors here in the US, who have contributed financially, held fundraisers, and served on our board. Without their support we could not have grown from a dream into an organization that is actually able to do good.
Although the work in Malawi is daunting, especially in light of the challenges posed by COVID, MCI is committed to providing Malawian children with the same access to education and healthcare that our children have. We are deeply grateful to our Malawian friends for their leadership in formulating our directives, and equally grateful to our donors for helping us build these bridges.
News and Updates
October 28, 2019
LAB NEARING COMPLETION
It is with gratitude and hope that we'd would like to announce that the Malawi Children’s Initiative, with support from KCH Hospital, UNC Project Malawi and UNC Pediatric Global Health, will be opening the Kamuzu Central Hospital Pediatric Lab on November 11, 2019!!! Meet Chisomo and Farai, our first MCI-funded employees (and Mr. Senzani of the KCH Lab)!!!
September 17, 2019
MCI ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN
MCI is funding Webster, an ultrasound technician, to attend Makerere University in Uganda to further his IT and computer skills. Webster played an integral part in bringing internet access, along with digital radiography to the Pediatric Department. We are proud to support him. His education and future work at Kamuzu Central Hospital will help improve clinical care for countless children.
May 20, 2019
PEDIATRIC LAB UPDATE
The cabinets have been built and the walls have been painted in the lab that is currently being built in Kamuzu Central Hospital for the pediatric department! This lab will change the way providers deliver care--- children will no longer wait for days or before it is too late, for a diagnosis. Click the photo to be directed to our gallery that contains other progress photos!
May 1, 2019
PEDIATRIC LAB CONSTRUCTION
The construction has begun for the pediatric department at Kamuzu Central Hospital-- the tertiary referral hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi! This lab will help the hospital's clinicians make life-saving diagnoses sooner and with better accuracy. As of now, the room has been cleared, an air conditioning unit and burglar bars have been installed, and benches are being built. We look forward to uploading pictures as we make progress! Additonal photos can be found in our gallery.
April 5, 2019
24 HOUR RUN
The 24-Hour Run and Festival for Malawi raised over $32,000! There were over 100 runners and 400 people at our festival!! Renovations for the lab in Malawi begin this week! THANK YOU to the runners, the pledgers and donators, and the friends and family who made this happen. We are so honored and overwhelmed by the love and support.
November 14, 2019
Today we officially opened the KCH Pediatric Lab. Thank you to everyone who has supported us, and please spread the word. This is just the beginning!
September 9, 2019
LIFE SAVING CT SCAN
A month ago this young man was in bed barely able to breathe, unable to lie down and sleep due to his pain and inability to catch his breath. He was not responding to 2 months of treatment for tuberculosis and was near death. However, a CT scan funded by MCI revealed his diagnosis of Lymphoma, not TB. He is now undergoing cancer treatment and thriving.
Special thanks to those who funded the CT -Cappy, Seth, Susie, Christina, Chris, Trish, Ann and John.
May 18, 2019
COCKTAILS FOR MALAWI
Thank you to our sponsors and attendees for joining us at our second annual Cocktails for Malawi. It was a memorable night with cocktails poured by TOPO and music played by Notasium. We raised over 15K that goes directly to our initiatives benefitting the children of Malawi. Click the photo below to view our full gallery of the event!
March 25, 2019
Founders of MCI, Drs. Elizabeth and David Fitzgerald honored by 97.9 The Hill news station as Hometown Heroes. Click the photo to hear the full story!
Meet our first group of students in their new school!
As a mother of five, I think the take home message is that these mothers and these parents love their children just as much as we do and that these children feel pain and fear and suffer just as much as our children would and we have the direct opportunity here to improve their care and give them a chance to survive and thrive and grow and play.
Dr. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Co-Founder
Every penny donated goes directly towards our initiative to better the lives of Malawian Children
Become a Sustainer
Set up monthly contributions. Even the smallest donations can go a really long way in Malawi. Click the "Donate" button or email us and we'll see you up!
Host an Event
We are thankful for our community's support. Some previous examples include dinner parties, the 24-Hour Run, and elementary school partnerships. Have an idea? We'd love to help you plan!
How to Help
You can contact us or donate by check to:
Malawi Children's Initiative
PO Box 1401
Carrboro, NC 27510
MCI is a 501c3 non-profit
EIN number 82-0674504
All funds donated to MCI are used for care and education in Malawi, minus financial fees for donations and for money transfers.