Action Meningitis

We launched Action Meningitis in Malawi because research we funded showed meningitis in Malawi is particularly lethal, and that Malawians often delay seeking medical help until it is too late. This means that meningitis and other severe bacterial infections are needlessly killing and seriously disabling a high number of Malawian children every year.

This is our first ever health intervention and it pioneers the use of mobile phones in eight health clinics to provide the rapid triaging of patients. This ensures:

  • Seriously ill children get help fast
  • Meningitis is identified and not misdiagnosed for malaria or milder illnesses
  • Vital data on serious illness is secured for future work and to show the system is working.

Action Meningitis also raises awareness of this hidden disease among the public and health professionals by:

  • Training health workers in recognising serious illness
  • Informing the public through special radio health programming and mobile theatre

Thanks to decades of work in the UK, we have the experience to help Malawi but not the in-country experience. That’s why we worked with our partners, Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) to devise the solution - Action Meningitis.

Why Malawi?

Meningitis is described as a “hidden disease” by the World Health Organization. It often goes unrecognised or is mistaken for other diseases like malaria. Globally it's estimated 5% of all child deaths are caused by bacterial meningitis.

Countries in sub Saharan and East Africa have very high incidence rates of meningitis. A vaccine programme for meningococcal A meningitis (MenA) is making an impact and we are funding a study to understand its effectiveness.

Previous research we funded in Malawi revealed the country’s death rates from meningitis are exceptionally high in comparison with other countries, requiring a fresh approach to healthcare to deliver long-lasting protection from the disease.

Further research identified several barriers which prevented people getting the treatment they need

  • Awareness of meningitis is low amongst the public and health workers – they don’t recognise the symptoms and the need to act fast
  • Training for health workers is needed to enable swift recognition, avoid routine misdiagnosis and ensure emergency referrals to hospital
  • Access to healthcare is limited, people can walk great distances to seek help and then find themselves queuing for hours
Malawian waiting room

The big numbers

  • Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries with a per capita GDP of £113/year.
  • More than half the babies and children who get meningitis in Malawi will die from the illness.
  • At least one in five survivors suffer from life-long after effects that the country is ill-equipped to support.
  • Meningitis is poorly understood in Malawi and people seek the wrong sort of treatment or seek it too late. Deaths can be prevented by earlier recognition and timely treatment.
  • Meningitis Research Foundation has invested £700k into research in Malawi since 2001.
  • Globally, meningitis kills 1,000 people daily.
  • 150,000 children under 15 yrs triaged in last 18months
  • 227 frontline healthworkers trained and empowered to recognise severe illness/prioritise the sickest children

Malawian meningitis voices

Elakisho Petros from Soche, Malawi contracted meningitis in 2011 when she was one week old..

"Elakisho is always ill and I wish that she would get well so she can be like all the other children."

Elakisho's mother, Sarah, tells her story in full

 Prioritising patients
  Raising community awareness
 People and partners
The future

Make a difference.

Please donate and save lives from meningitis and septicaemia in Malawi