How 4 mothers are making life better for children

Because PATH focuses on saving lives and improving health, especially among women and children, we meet many remarkable mothers in the course of our work. No matter their location or circumstances, they share one trait: they are all working to provide a healthy life for the children in their communities.

To celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States, we honor four of these women, and their tenacious and loving dedication to making life better for children.

Savita Rai: adapting tradition to give babies a better chance

Woman in a yellow and pink sari holding a toddler kneels in a dirt yard, before a clothesline.

Savita Rai and her grandson, Aakash. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In the Indian village of Amkoil, mothers-in-law like Savita Rai make the decisions in the house, such as whether a daughter-in-law will give birth in a health center and how she will care for her baby. When her daughter-in-law was pregnant, Savita attended a mother’s group where PATH-mentored teachers provided lifesaving information on childbirth and care. When the time came, she adapted her practices and made sure her grandson was born in a health center. “I’ve learned how to take care of the mother and child,” she says. “Now I’m not so worried about my daughters-in-law or my grandchildren.”

Jane Wamalwa: teaching others about deadly diarrhea

Woman in a blue t-shirt looks directly at the camera. Trees in the background.

Jane Wamalwa, who lost three children to diarrhea, helps other mothers understand how to help keep their children safe. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Jane Wamalwa lost three young children to an illness that is both deadly and easily preventable: diarrheal disease. Jane, and other women in her rural Kenya community, knew little about what caused the illness and less about how to stop it. Selected by village leaders and trained by PATH, Jane is now a community health worker taking the fight against diarrhea door to door in her community. Her deeply personal understanding of the disease’s consequences makes her a powerful ambassador for the tools and techniques that can save children’s lives. Continue reading »

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10 years of inspiring stories, and breakfast

Guest contributor Karina Collins is senior events coordinator at PATH.

Young girl holding a cotton ball over an injection site on her upper arm.

Oceane, whose story we told at the 2011 Breakfast for Global Health, received a vaccine that will protect her against a devastating infection of the brain, meningitis A. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

This year, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Breakfast for Global Health, PATH’s annual fundraising event. Since the first Breakfast, the event has grown from a group of 100 supporters gathered in our conference room to an event with more than 1,000 attendees in two locations. This week, for the first time we’re having Breakfast in the city of Bellevue, on the east side of the Puget Sound region, as well as in our headquarters city of Seattle.

Graphic with text reading, "Breakfast for Global Health 2014 lead sponsors." Logo of McKinstry appears beneath the heading "visionary." Logos of Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, and Microsoft appear below the heading "partners."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

In ten years, we’ve told touching stories to thousands of people and raised millions of dollars to catalyze PATH projects. And even though the event has grown and changed, our purpose has always been the same: to come together and share our common belief that innovation can change the world and that there is a role for each of us in this work.

Behind the scenes at Breakfast

I start planning each Breakfast eight months in advance, and by the time you sign in for the event, I’ve seen your name on hundreds of spreadsheets and could probably tell you your email address off the top of my head. (Don’t worry. I won’t, because that would be weird.) I’ve made sure our featured speaker has arrived safely from another corner of the world. I’ve fact checked, proofread, ironed, folded, printed, and arranged hundreds of details all so you can experience and support PATH. Continue reading »

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JE vaccine: the affordable answer to Asia’s “brain fever”

A schoolgirl sits in a white plastic chair as a health worker administers vaccine in the girl's arm.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, we look at vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, the first vaccine manufactured in China to receive World Health Organization prequalification.

Graphic with text reading, "International Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

Often called “brain fever,” Japanese encephalitis (JE) begins like the flu but quickly progresses to a brain infection that kills nearly one in three people with the virus. Among its survivors, up to half suffer permanent neurological damage, such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or the inability to speak.

The disease mainly strikes children in poor, rural communities in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, where four billion people live at risk of JE. Up to 70,000 cases are reported annually. The fate of those who become infected is a guessing game—there is no treatment for JE. The only viable solution is prevention through vaccination.

The vaccine

In October 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave its critical stamp of approval to an affordable JE vaccine to protect children from the virus. Through an innovative partnership with China’s Chengdu Institute of Biological Products (CDIPB), PATH helped to scale up the vaccine—which had been used successfully to protect more than 200 million of China’s children—and prepare it for WHO approval so that it could reach the roughly two dozen countries at risk of JE. Continue reading »

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Rotavirus: preventing killer diarrhea

A crying baby in its mother's arms is given a dose of oral vaccine.

After her children struggled with diarrheal disease, Teresa was determined to get one-month-old Vusi vaccinated as soon as she heard about the availability of rotavirus vaccine. Photo: PATH/Gareth Bentley.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, we take a look at a vaccine to protect children from the most common cause of deadly diarrhea.

Graphic with text reading, "International Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

Rotavirus is as common as it is deadly. Nearly every child, rich or poor, is at risk of rotavirus infection, the most common cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhea. But 95 percent of rotavirus-related deaths in young children happen in low-income countries in Africa and Asia, where access to lifesaving care can be limited or unavailable. Vaccination is the best way to prevent rotavirus, which is highly contagious and resistant to traditional diarrhea prevention strategies like hand-washing and ensuring a clean water supply.

The vaccines

ROTAVAC® is a new vaccine awaiting licensure in India that could transform the fight against rotavirus. At a cost of just $1 per dose, ROTAVAC will protect children at a fraction of the price of currently available rotavirus vaccines. PATH was part of a cross-sector partnership led by the government of India that developed the vaccine, providing technical support on pivotal clinical trials and manufacturing issues. PATH also is working with manufacturers in China, India, and the United States to advance other promising rotavirus vaccine candidates, some of which are now in clinical trials. Continue reading »

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Pneumonia: smart vaccines to fight the number one child killer

Two young children, one with her arm around the other.

Pneumonia kills more young children than any other disease—about 1 million every year. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

Guest contributor Laura Anderson is an editor at PATH.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, we look at the need for a new kind of vaccine against pneumonia. 

Graphic with text reading, "International Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

Pneumonia kills more children worldwide than any other disease. Last year, it took the lives of more than a million children—3,000 every day—primarily in the world’s poorest countries.

Poor access to sanitation and safe drinking water, a lack of health care, and inadequate diagnostic tools all contribute to pneumonia’s toll. Often, parents don’t recognize children’s symptoms in time, and when they do, lifesaving care may be miles—or even days—from their homes.

Meeting these challenges requires a combination of approaches. For more than ten years, vaccines have been a particularly powerful ally. Last year, immunization against the leading cause of pneumonia, the pneumococcus bacterium, saved thousands of lives in more than 100 countries. Yet existing vaccines are complicated to manufacture, too expensive for many low-resource countries, and don’t offer complete protection against disease. To beat pneumonia, we need to keep improving our tools. Continue reading »

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Malaria: is vaccine against a parasite possible?

Five smiling mothers hold their young children on their laps while health workers look on.

These children in Tanzania are among more than 15,000 African children participating in a phase 3 trial of RTS,S, the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate. Photo: PATH/David Poland.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, World Malaria Day, we look at progress toward a vaccine that promises to be the first to provide humans with protection from a parasite.

Graphic with text reading, "World Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

How do you stop a complex and adaptable killer that has survived for millennia?

Malaria is responsible for the deaths of more than 600,000 people each year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. And every year, it sickens some 200 million others. While drugs and insecticides save millions of lives, the mosquito-borne malaria parasite is developing resistance to both. A safe, effective, and affordable malaria vaccine could close the gap in interventions.

The vaccine

A vaccine that protects people from a human parasite has never been developed before, and until recently, many people thought it was impossible. But PATH, through our Malaria Vaccine Initiative, is working with many partners to accomplish an important goal of the malaria community: develop a first-generation vaccine that cuts the number of episodes of malaria in young children by about half, with protection lasting for more than one year. Continue reading »

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Our goal: defeat malaria forever

Woman holding toddler in her mud-brick home, standing in front of a bednet hung above a mattress.

Sharon Atieno shares a mosquito net with her husband and two-year-old son, Ronald. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

Guest contributors Dr. Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell and Bindiya Patel wrote this post to commemorate World Malaria Day. Kent is leader of our Malaria Control Program. Bindiya is a strategy officer at PATH.

Portraits of Kent Campbell and Bindiya Patel

Kent Campbell and Bindiya Patel. Photo: PATH.

Ending malaria is a priority at PATH, and we are proud to be a key contributor to an emerging global campaign that is intensifying the control of malaria illnesses and deaths around the world.

PATH’s portfolio of malaria programs has grown exponentially since our first malaria projects were launched in the 1990s. The span of our program experience, expertise, and available technologies has expanded to meet the rising opportunity to stop transmission of malaria infections altogether.

PATH now employs 115 staff across a diverse portfolio of malaria projects, working with 29 countries and a combined annual budget of $79 million. We take a multipronged approach in fighting the disease through optimizing the use of current strategies and technologies, developing the next generation of tools, and working with countries to demonstrate how to rapidly bring down childhood and maternal deaths from malaria—with the ultimate goal of eliminating the disease community by community.

We can’t stop at malaria control

Not only is PATH’s goal to intensify the development of strategies and tools to reduce the burden of malaria and build toward the eventual elimination of the disease, our experiences over the years have shown us that this must be the long-term goal of all malaria programs, partners, and endemic countries.

Defeating  malaria—and forever ending the well-documented risk of resurgence—is the only long-term goal. Some may argue that sustained control of the spread of malaria is more feasible or cheaper, but simply put, malaria control is not and cannot be an endpoint. Rather, it is part of the natural evolution of malaria programs as they move from an initial phase of scaling up efforts to achieving significant reductions in malaria illnesses and deaths and eventually clearing malaria infections in all people. Continue reading »

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10 reasons vaccines are the best protector of human life

Schoolgirl with a broad smile recieves a shot in her upper arm as her schoolmates watch.

Every year, vaccines save the lives of between 2 and 3 million children. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Immunization is one of the most powerful health interventions ever introduced. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates, vaccines save between two and three million children from killers such as polio, measles, pneumonia, and rotavirus diarrhea.

To mark World Immunization Week, which begins tomorrow, over the next week we’re reporting on the lifesaving potential of vaccines against four illnesses that kill more than 2 million young children a year: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. Today, Dr. John Boslego, director of our Vaccine Development Program, gets us started with his list of the top 10 ways vaccines make a difference for children and for global health. His post originally appeared on our sister blog, DefeatDD.

Graphic with text, "World Immunization Week 2014, four vaccines, millions saved, malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

No. 10: Vaccines lower the risk of getting other diseases.

Portrait of John Boslego.

Dr. John Boslego. Photo: PATH.

Contracting some diseases can make getting other ones easier. For example, being sick with influenza can make you more vulnerable to pneumonia caused by other organisms. The best way to avoid coinfections is to prevent the initial infection through vaccination.

No. 9: They keep people healthier longer.

Some vaccines protect people for a limited time and require booster doses; others protect for a lifetime. Either way, vaccinated people are much safer from many serious diseases than people who haven’t been vaccinated, both in the short and long term. Continue reading »

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Innovative partnership connects kids, vaccine in Laos

A pair of hands holding a small photograph of a boy.

A Laotian father holds a photograph of his eldest son, who died of Japanese encephalitis at age 13. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Guest contributor Monica Graham is a communications officer with our Vaccine Access and Delivery Program.

Thanks to an innovative partnership between Microsoft employees and PATH, thousands of children in Laos no longer face the possibility of severe, lifelong brain injury or even death from Japanese encephalitis (JE). Earlier this month they were vaccinated against the disease—the single most effective method of prevention.

PATH and our partners have been working for more than a decade to identify and accelerate the delivery of an affordable JE vaccine with the power to protect millions of children. In Laos, they needed a way to get the vaccine from its manufacturer in China to the children in their villages. Microsoft and its employees stepped forward with a creative campaign that let employees who took part in a health screening designate a donation toward providing the vaccinations in Laos. Their support helped pay for transporting the vaccine.

Two weeks ago, I watched as the first children gathered for vaccinations at a primary school in Xiangkhouang Province, and followed along as the campaign moved from village to village and district to district. Here is some of what I saw:

A large crowd of schoolchildren walks through white awnings. A banner behind them advertises a vaccination campaign.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

On the first morning of the Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign in Xiangkhouang Province, children gathered at the Sibounheuang primary school to get their shots. More than 500 children received protection from  life-threatening infection at the campaign launch.

A schoolgirl sits in a white plastic chair as a health worker administers vaccine in the girl's arm.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Orladee, a nurse at the Pek district health center in Xiangkhouang, spent her day administering vaccines to the schoolchildren.

Man drives motorbike on a dirt road. A woman on the back of the motorbike holds a cold storage box.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

In order to reach rural villages, the vaccine must be transported in cold storage boxes by motorbike.

Health worker injects vaccine into the upper arm of a young boy while another smiling boy watches.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Wa Meng, a father who lost his eldest son to Japanese encephalitis, made sure the rest of his family received protection when the vaccination campaign came to his village of Khonkandone.

More information

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Cervical cancer vaccines: will our best hopes be realized?

Guest contributor Vivien Tsu is director of PATH’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Project and associate director of our Reproductive Health Program.

Portrait of Vivien Tsu.

Vivien Tsu. Photo: PATH/Doune Porter.

Our worst fear back in 2006—when the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer finally came to market at a whopping $120 per dose—was that the girls who most needed it would be the ones least likely to get it.

More than 85 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Those same countries find it difficult to offer screening services, like Pap smears and HPV tests, that have nearly eliminated cervical cancer in wealthy countries. How would these countries ever be able to afford an expensive vaccine? Furthermore, could immunization programs geared to vaccinating babies effectively reach young adolescent girls? And would parents’ concern about cervical cancer caused by HPV override their hesitation to mention a sexually transmitted infection to their young daughters?

Easing the way for immunization

Group of girls in light blue uniforms stand, some holding their upper arms, before a man at a desk filling out records. Photo: PATH/Robin Biellik.

Schoolgirls in Uganda line up after receiving HPV vaccine. PATH/Robin Biellik.

The GAVI Alliance, an international organization that helps low-resource countries introduce needed new vaccines, greatly eased the first problem when they began offering HPV vaccine in 2012. Using the power of bulk purchasing, GAVI and UNICEF worked together to get the vaccine at a lower price. GAVI offered it to qualified countries for 20 cents a dose—and sometimes for free.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking work by PATH to understand cultural issues and to demonstrate and evaluate strategies for delivering the vaccine helped answer the other questions. Yes, the countries could reach the right girls and yes, once they understood the issue, parents would flock to protect their daughters against a deadly cancer. Continue reading »

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