HOUSTON -- (June 9, 2010) -- A newly modernized pediatric hospital ward and children's clinic in Malawi will provide access to improved facilities for children in a country with one of the highest childhood mortality rates in the world. Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe is the primary referral center for the estimated 2.5 million children living in the central region of the country.

The improvements, celebrated at a dedication ceremony today in Lilongwe, are the result of a public-private partnership between the Malawi Ministry of Health, Baylor College of Medicine's International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic foundation of Abbott, the global health care company.

Renovations completed in May

Rehabilitation of the pediatric ward was completed in May 2010. Work included the complete renovation of the inpatient ward and building a new annex staff building and short stay emergency care ward, which has improved sanitary conditions and reduced crowding. Previously, multiple children were housed in each bed, increasing likelihood of transmission of diarrhea and other diseases.

Improvements were also made to the Under-Five clinic, which serves children under five years of age. These renovations are scheduled for completion in June 2010. Depending on the season, this clinic can see up to 200 patients daily, with a monthly workload of 2,500-3,500 outpatients. Most of the children admitted to the pediatric ward at KCH are first evaluated at the Under-Five clinic.

"This rehabilitation project has multiple benefits, including improved infrastructure and continuity of care linkages between the hospital and our children's clinical center of excellence," said Michael Mizwa, senior vice president and chief operating officer of BIPAI.

Goal to improve health

It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of all children who are patients at KCH are HIV positive or have been exposed to HIV. For this reason, BIPAI opened the Baylor College of Medicine-Texas Children's Hospital-Abbott Fund Children's Clinical Center of Excellence on the campus of Kamuzu Central Hospital in November 2006. The center, which specializes in outpatient pediatric and family-centered HIV/AIDS care, refers an average of four to five children a day to the hospital for necessary treatments or acute care. The construction of the center was also supported by the Abbott Fund.

The major goal of these projects is to improve overall health outcomes of children in the region, with an emphasis on improvement of emergency care.

"Better primary care for our youngest children transcends all individual programs," said the Honourable Professor Moses Chirambo, M.P., Minister of Health of Malawi. "We need the help of our partners to bring the heavy investment needed, to make a lasting impact on our nation's pediatric mortality rates."

To help address the need for health care workers in Malawi, including the lack of government doctors available to staff the KCH clinic, BIPAI has placed a pediatrician on staff and is supporting training for clinical officers, medical interns and clinical officer students, nurses and health services assistants.

"Increased attention and resources for sick children at the initial point of care can improve patient outcomes," said Dr. Peter Kazembe, director of the Baylor-Abbott Fund Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence, Malawi.

"The Abbott Fund is pleased to once again support the efforts of the Government of Malawi and Baylor in advancing health care for children in Malawi," said Andy Wilson, vice president of the Abbott Fund. "The modernization of the pediatric ward and clinic is a reflection of our work to help expand access to health care in countries around the world."