The use of mobile telephone in Africa has spread so rapidly that in 2001 mobile phones first outnumbered fixed lines, and by the end of 2012, 70% of Africa’s population was expected to have a cell phone. Communication has never been so easy and it has opened up new opportunities across the globe.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with technical partners, developed a low cost, user-friendly survey methodology that allows data to be collected using inexpensive and widely available cell phones.
The new system is called Rapid Mobile Phone-based survey (RAMP), which is sufficiently flexible to be used for a range of tasks in many fields. “We are now producing preliminary results within 24 hours and a full draft report of a survey within three days,” says Mac Otten, RAMP developer for IFRC. “This allows us to analyze the data quicker with the end result being that we can adapt interventions quicker to the needs of the most vulnerable.”
Recent results from a RAMP survey in the Kenya project are impressive: 90% of households own at least one net and net use is at 80% for the total population. Net distribution, combined with a community approach to malaria treatment called the Home Management of Malaria project, demonstrates that empowering communities to respond comprehensively to malaria is part of the winning formula to beat the disease.
But malaria is not the only problem.
In Kenya, where 35% of children under five are stunted, 16% are underweight and, one Kenyan woman in 35 faces risk of maternal death, having the right information at the right time is vital to save the lives of both mothers and their children.
“There hasn’t been a nutrition survey in our project area for a long time,” says Mwanaisha Marusa Hamisi, Assistant Secretary General for Coast Province, Kenya Red Cross Society. “Although we knew nutrition was an issue, the information collected through RAMP will allow us to better target volunteer actions. We need to tackle specific attitudes and behaviours to achieve results.”
The project in Kenya is now moving towards comprehensive maternal and child health actions at the community level to provide broader health services closer to the people who need them most.
– Essee Oruma