Fresh air for Malawi’s sick children

Malawi (Blantyre)

The bCPAP is literally breathing new life into African children’s life expectancy. In 2010 Malawi’s under-5 child mortality rate was a shocking 83 per 1000 births, mainly due to a lack of critical health care. This has been steadily declining over the last few years, thanks to innovations such as Friends of Sick Children Malawi’s innovative Bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (bCPAP). This compact device helps babies with acute respiratory diseases breathe.

It is an improvement on the original continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) device that uses air pressure to keep patient’s airways open. The CPAP requires a wall mounted air supply which many hospitals in Malawi lack. The bCPAP’s air pump works on it’s own using a flow generator, is easy to replicate and repair, and it is much cheaper  (US$400 versus US$6,000) After initial trials in Blantyre, a few minor modifications were then made, and it was launched across the country.

Following its successes in Malawi, the bCPAP won the GSK and Save the Children US$1million Healthcare Innovation Award. This has enabled the device to be replicated in multiple sites, and help save children’s lives in Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.

Written by

Claire Gordon-Webster (01 August 2015)


Claire is London-residing British-South African actress and freelance writer for the Huffington Post and Ideas Tap magazine.

Project leader

Mac Mallewa and Queen Dube, Academic and Clinic Head, Friends of Sick Children Malawi (FSCM)

Tags: Awards, Medicine.

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