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Community based care in Blantyre

For more than 25 years, Open Arms Infant Home (OAIH) has been a safe place for vulnerable babies who have no other options for care. Many of these babies have tragically lost their mothers during or shortly after childbirth, leaving them without family to look after them and putting their lives at risk. 

While our infant homes help urgent cases, we often get other requests for support from extended family members who are struggling to provide for children. So, as well as our residential care services, in June we started piloting a community-based care program. This allows us to closely support extended family members in caring for newborns and infants in their own homes. We believe this approach will empower more families, lead to better outcomes for children, and ensure that residential care is used only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.

babies moving home

A new model of care

In June, three babies, Brenda, Emma and Josephine who were cared for in our infant home, were taken back to their families after several home visits, meetings with family members and once their guardians were trained in how to care for their needs. This took place at the Blantyre Infant Home and included learning how to practice good hygiene at home, using mosquito nets and drinking safe water.

We gave the families a pack of supplies including tins of formula milk, toys, mosquito nets, feeding bottles, utensils and Likuni flour for porridge. Matron Eniffer also agreed a schedule of visits to monitor the child’s development and support the family until they are able to support themselves.   

A few weeks into the program, the guardians reported that they were following the advice they were given, resources were being used correctly and babies were feeding well.

Eniffer reports “Within the first few weeks Brenda’s appearance has visibly changed and she is gaining weight fast. Her guardian says she is following the doctor’s instructions very well (Brenda was diagnosed with a heart condition and TB after a long stay in the hospital). So far, the program is going well and no challenge has been reported.“

Supporting families and communities

“The family provides the best environment in which a child can grow. It is nurturing, loving, and caring and facilitates better development outcomes for the child. The family also instills a sense of religious and cultural identity and ensures that children embrace family values.” - Unicef

Meet Brenda! She came into this world prematurely and we welcomed her at Open Arms at just one week old. She was showing signs of ill health, battling suspected pneumonia and diarrhea. To add to this, after two months of treatment, doctors discovered she had a heart defect, but her health was too fragile for them to operate.

Brenda's mother was facing her own struggles with mental health, making it impossible for her to care for Brenda. Our team started working closely with Brenda's aunt who was happy to take on her care. They believed that, with some extra support, Brenda could be well-cared for at home and so we supported her return


In July, Brenda was making great progress. She was gaining weight, and her family received some financial help to get her the medication she needed from Central Hospital, as their local health center couldn't supply it. She continued to steadily putting on that all important weight and her aunt was managing her care well.

By September, Brenda had doubled her weight! She loves to play with her cousins, can sit down and play with her toys, and she has even got her first tiny teeth. Brenda is learning to feed herself and enjoys playing with her food and exploring. She has fortified flour porridge in the morning and evening and a serving of nsima with her family every afternoon.

Brenda July 004

The pictures capture Brenda's incredible journey over the past three months, and although she still needs medical attention, her family is doing remarkably well with the support of Open Arms. Our team are talking to Brenda's aunt about ways to empower the family economically too, which will be crucial for Brenda's future. Her aunt has a garden where she grows crops for food, and we're exploring ways to support her with this in the future.

You can help

We are piloting this new programme alongside our infant homes and community outreach services and we would like to roll it out to offer more families support. You can help make this possible by clicking here and making a donation today so that we can help more children like Brenda.

Chikondi With Brenda
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