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Why The Einhorn Family Foundation funds research in Uganda

The Einhorn Family Foundation has in 2017 donated an additional SEK 300,000 to MANeSCALE (Maternal and Newborn Scale Up), a research project that aims to reduce mortality amongst newborn babies and mothers by training midwives and supplying materials and medicines.

The Einhorn Family Foundation is engaged in numerous global health projects and has donated a total of SEK 3.5 million to MANeSCALE and MiniMax, which is jointly run by Uganda’s Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet.

The purpose of the MiniMax project is to minimise the use of drugs and to maximise the effect of the drugs that are used through the better and quicker diagnosis of children with fever. The first of three sub-projects started in 2010 to give pharmacy personnel training in the testing of sick children. This includes a fever test, a rapid breathing test for detecting pneumonia and a malaria test. Depending on the outcome, paracetamol is administered for fever, antibiotics for pneumonia and other treatment for malaria.

The Einhorn Family Foundation was formed in 2007 with the overall aim to support high-quality research projects designed to reduce child mortality in low-income countries. The foundation focuses mainly on projects in Uganda, one of the world’s poorest countries, where 210,000 children die every year, of whom 70,000 do not even survive the first month of life.

Stefan Einhorn i Uganda

When Stefan Einhorn decided to contribute to research, child mortality in Uganda was therefore a given, not only because the most important thing in life is to save children’s lives but also because collaborative relations between Swedish research groups at Karolinska Institutet and their colleagues at Makerere University are well-developed.

Why are you so engaged in medical research in Uganda?

“It’s up to all of use to help make a better world. When I started to make more money than I needed on book sales and lectures, I wanted to give something back and so we started the Einhorn Family Foundation. I thought long and hard about how to make best use of the money and decided that the most important thing in the world is to save children’s lives. Reducing child mortality has a double effect – it helps to alleviate the terrible suffering that childhood disease and death causes, and it reduces the birthrate. This has a paradoxical consequence that’s also a way of offsetting the current population explosion. Why? Because families have many children on the assumption that some of them will die. But when child mortality drops, women have fewer babies.

“To kick off my concept, I donated a million to Doctors without Borders. I started to wonder what good the money was doing and concluded that clinical research in low-income countries has long as well as short-term effects. The short-term effect comes from the immediate impact such projects have on babies’ lives, while the long-term effect on children’s survival is achieved through the generation of new knowledge. It’s unusual for development initiatives to combine both long and short-term effects, and in that sense we’ve found a niche, a niche that should be developed more.”

What do you hope your support and commitment will contribute to?

“The Talmud says that to save one human life is to save an entire world. You don’t only save one person, but this person’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s also a matter of the kind of world we want to live in. The problems that exist in low-income countries spill over onto us. Infections, epidemics, environmental degradation recognise no borders, inequality breeds terrorism and war. Development has created opportunities but also enormous risks. We’re balancing on a knife’s edge between fantastic development and total ruin. Every one of us has a responsibility, not only for ourselves; we all bear an entire world on our shoulders. That’s how big our collective responsibility is.”

How important and rewarding has it been for you personally?

“Why give? There are all sorts of arguments for why giving is good, and I normally discuss them in my lectures. For example, it activates a pleasure centre in the mesolimbic part of the brain, which plays a key part in the body’s reward system. It’s also human nature to give. We’d never have survived as a species if we hadn’t shared things with and helped each other. Giving your surplus to others is an evolutionary trait brought out by natural selection in humans and other animals.

Our responsibility and our duty is to support each other and to give of what we don’t need ourselves. How will our future look if we don’t help each other? I’ve met so many people who give money to the needy. They are pro-humanity. Those that don’t give aren’t pro-humanity, they’re anti-humanity.

It’s been very rewarding to give to others. And there’s nothing wrong with getting some joy from it. I mean it’s not the reason I do it, it’s the act itself that counts.

To tie all this together, let me quote the Dalai Lama: “Foolish selfish people are always thinking of themselves and the result is always negative. Wise selfish people think of others, help others as much as they can, and the result is that they too receive benefit.”

I wish I had more to give, but I do my best.

Text och Photo: Stina Branting