The $1 million Caplow Children's Prize has been awarded to a Pakistani pediatrician who hopes to save the lives of hundreds of newborns in an isolated Karachi neighborhood.
Anita Zaidi will use the funds to continue her efforts to reduce infant mortality rates in Rehri Goth, a fishing village in the Bin Qasim Town district of Pakistan's largest city — a place where residents are so poor and cut off from medical care that 11 percent of local children die before their fifth birthday, usually during birth or within the first month. To address the situation, Zaidi plans to implement five key interventions: provide antenatal care and birth preparedness counseling; improve access to skilled birthing practices at hospitals or at home through trained midwives; deliver nutritional supplements to pregnant women; enhance primary health care for children in the village through micronutrient supplementation; and provide life-saving vaccines for all children. Through those and other measures, Zaidi hopes to reduce the number of infant deaths by two-thirds within two years.
One of the first doctors trained by Pakistan's Aga Khan University, and with additional degrees from Duke and Harvard universities, Zaidi was selected to receive the prize from among five hundred and fifty applicants. The new prize was created by Ted Caplow, an environmental engineer and entrepreneur whose triplets, born prematurely in 2012, spent a month in intensive care.
Zaidi told the New York Times that she also plans to set up a network to transport mothers experiencing a birth crisis to hospital. "The population lives in scattered clusters and is very poorly linked to public transport," she said, adding that most mothers in the area cannot afford private transportation and so are forced to give birth at home. If a crisis like obstructed labor or hemorrhage develops, little can be done. "Many people don’t realize the huge role that good maternal care at the time of delivery has in saving children's lives," she added.