Developing countries do not always need expensive, high tech solutions to their problems. In this case, a low cost, low tech device was developed by Tanzanian school students to solve a local problem. It has proved a great success and the project continues to expand! see update 2013
The Problem identified in the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania is that there is a significant problem of premature births. This is the result of a several factors like poor diet and the way in which local people do not recognise the idea of prematurity. There is a high death rate among all new born children and local people resist the idea that the death rate is higher among babies which happen to take less time to arrive. The high death rate amongst prematures is part due to the babies not having developed their immune systems and partly that they are unable to control their body temperature. The cruel fact is that they die of cold.
One solution may seem to be incubators. Apart from the prohibitive costs of imported technical machines there is a cultural problem. The premature death rate is about 80% which can be halved by the use of incubators. However, the full term death rate runs about 20% and local people do not distinguish between the two types of birth. What they see is the 40% death rate among the babies put in the incubator and the 20% death rate among those left out. The conclusion they reach is that if the doctors put your baby in that ‘electric oven’ it is more likely to die! They cook it don’t they?
The Moshi Warm-Cot solution is a simple piece of equipment that looks as much like a cot as possible, rather than a micro wave oven! It is built of easily found local materials by workmen with no specialist training. The basic solution is simple box with a lifting plexi-glass lid (to allow the mother to see the baby), a set of up to 4 ordinary 40 watt light bulbs in a space below the sleeping chamber, a heat baffle made from a flattened oil can to direct the flow of warm air through the gap into the chamber and another gap to allow the warm air out.
The benefits have been significant not least because of having one baby in each cot, rather than several together in a bed huddled for extra warm. One baby, one cot has drastically reduced cross-infection and helped many babies survive not only the cold but infections like influenza and malaria too.
News of the warm cots has spread amongst health practitioners not only in Tanzania but elsewhere through conferences like the one arranged by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine . They asked for a model to take to another conference in Uganda and the charity has heard of others in Malawi who have asked for the blueprints.
THANK YOU for your support of this amazing project and thanks to Dr Jeff Carr for his pioneering leadership to make it happen.