Four biochemical engineering students from the University of Malawi (Unima)’s The Polytechnic are this June expected to leave for a six-week-long innovation internship at the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health in Houston, US.
The internship is part of the Essential Solutions and Technologies (Nest) package which integrates frugal engineering, education and private-sector partnership in the improvement of neonatal health in developing nations like Malawi.
While in Houston, the four students, Tiwonge Nyirenda, Charity Anisha Matola, Blessings Nyoni and Christopher Dzuwa, will take part in developing prototypes that would be used to reduce preventable deaths in children below age five.
One of the instructors at The Polytechnic’s biochemical engineering studios Matthew Petney said Malawian health workers operate in a very difficult environment when it comes to the prevention of neonatal deaths.
He cite limited resources and a heavy workload as some of the challenges health workers are facing in the country.
“That is why we need more innovations to support the country’s health facilities in reducing under-five deaths, 45 percent of which are preventable. So we are working with the College of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and The Polytechnic to ensure this number is reduced further,” Petney said.
Petney said the project has already developed a new innovation, the Pumani device, which helps newborn babies breathe.
This device, if used correctly, has the potential of increasing the survival rate of newborn babies in the country,” Petney said.
Charity Matola said she was excited with the opportunity the journey.
“I wouldn’t say much; only that this trip will expose me together with my fellow students to various technologies and innovations out there, I can’t wait to get there,” she said.
Malawi is one of African countries that met the world’s goal to reduce under-five mortality, yet newborn mortality remains high.
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