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Dr. Anita Zaidi, SM' 99, wins $1 million Caplow Children's Prize


MIAMI, FL (December 10, 2013) – Dr. Anita Zaidi, SM '99, a Pakistani woman who left a successful pediatric career in the United States to save children’s lives in her homeland has won the first-ever $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize.

With nearly 18,000 children under five years old dying from preventable causes every day, the Children's Prize was launched in January 2013 by engineer and social enterprise entrepreneur Ted Caplow to fund projects aimed at saving the greatest number of children’s lives in the most impactful and cost-effective way.

From the more than 550 applications received from around the world, a team of experts, that included former HSPH Dean Barry Bloom, selected eight finalists. Doctor Zaidi’s project, which is focused on reducing child mortality in Rehri Goth, an impoverished suburb of Karachi, was the only project among the finalists proposed by a single individual. Her competition included major international organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Plan International.

The $1 million prize will be used by Zaidi to implement a comprehensive program focused on reducing neonatal deaths during the first 28 days of life, the segment of child mortality that has been most resistant to reduction worldwide. Pakistan, a country challenged by extreme wealth inequality and high rates of unskilled home birth, ranks third in the world in total child mortality (with over 400,000 children under age five dying there each year), and has the seventh-highest neonatal mortality rate. In Rehri Goth, one out of every seventeen babies dies in the first 28 days of life, and one out of nine dies before reaching age five.

Zaidi’s project combines several proven methods that support the nutrition and health of mother and child for an entire year before, during, and after delivery including: eliminating malnutrition in both mothers and babies through caloric supplements; fortifying them with vitamins and vaccinations; overcoming cultural barriers to hospital birth; and training community health workers and midwives in order to continue healthy pregnancy and safe birthing practices permanently.

Zaidi estimates the project will reduce child mortality rates in the village by 65 percent and save the lives of nearly 200 children over the next two years. Overall, more than two thousand children will participate in the project, providing each of them with a much better chance of a long, healthy and productive life.

”Dr. Zaidi’s project was selected because of her innovative, comprehensive approach to supporting maternal and newborn health for an entire year surrounding the critical moment of birth,” said prize founder Ted Caplow. “With no administrative overhead and two-thirds of the budget directly dedicated to medicine, medical expenses and nutritional supplements, Zaidi’s project epitomizes the Prize’s mission to cost-effectively save children’s lives and uncover best practices and models for accelerating reduction in child mortality rates.”

“What is innovative about this project is that it demonstrates what a package of child health interventions can do for child survival even in a short period of time,” said Dr. Zaidi. “Such carefully measured impact data are not currently available to policy planners. The project has high potential for being replicated in South Asian countries and other regions where a large proportion of child mortality is concentrated in the neonatal period.”

Zaidi, 49, was among the first group of medical students to graduate from Karachi's Aga Khan University (AKU) in 1988. She is currently an AKU Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health. She completed a residency in pediatrics and fellowship in medical microbiology at Duke University Medical Center, followed by training in pediatric infectious diseases at Boston Children's Hospital and a masters’ degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. In 2000, she returned to Pakistan to work at AKU, which has the country’s only Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatric Infectious Diseases training program. She is also a leading researcher focused on vaccine-preventable illnesses in children and neonatal infections.

Working outside of traditional channels of foreign aid and philanthropy, Caplow created the Children’s Prize to allow anyone with a valid proposal – from individuals to organizations of any size or type – to compete on a level playing field. He took an open and inclusive approach, using the Internet and new media tools to reach potential applicants around the world and attract the widest possible pool of proposals.

While the number of deaths in children under five worldwide has declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals aim to reduce child mortality by two thirds from 1990-levels by 2015.

About The Caplow Children’s Prize

The $1 million Caplow Children's Prize is the largest humanitarian prize dedicated to saving children's lives in the world today. Recognizing that nearly 18,000 children under five die from preventable causes every day, the Children's Prize works outside of traditional channels of foreign aid and philanthropy to uncover and fund the most impactful, credible, and cost-effective, action plans for reducing child mortality. By leveraging the power of new media, the Prize allows individuals and organizations of any size or type from anywhere in the world to compete on a level playing field. The Prize was founded by Ted Caplow, an engineer and social enterprise entrepreneur with a record of developing groundbreaking projects focused on renewable energy, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture. For more information visit www.childrensprize.org.

Photo Credit: Farheen Khan