A woman in Africa is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in Western Europe. The lack of nurses and midwives in comparison to Europe can have a significant impact on pregnancy and postpartum health care as well as maternal mortality in Africa. However, organizations and businesses are helping to improve the well-being of African women. Here are four mobile services reducing maternal and child mortality rates in Africa.
This mobile platform “connects marginalized and vulnerable girls to online content designed to equip them with knowledge, confidence and connections they need to navigate the complex choices of adolescence.”
Individuals can access Springster’s content through social media channels like Facebook to provide a space for girls to engage in topics like puberty, education, money management and relationships. The app is based on sharing real-life experiences and helping girls make positive choices to change their lives for the better.
A major innovation with the app is Big Sis. Big Sis is a chatbot designed to provide personalized information about questions related to sexual health. This enables girls to find advice and answers 24/7. The app has impacted many girls’ lives with the reassurance and advice from shared stories and experiences from other girls like them. As a result, girls are able to provide guidance and support to each other.
Mum & Baby
This service sends free health information via SMS three times a week to mothers, caregivers and partners. When people sign up for the service, they provide their age, location and stage of parenting they need help with from early pregnancy to taking care of a 5-year-old.
After inputting the personal information, Mum & Baby sends out personalized messages to the user depending on the information given. Along with the messages, there is a free mobile site that does not use data. Instead, it offers articles, videos, tutorials and tools like the immunization calendar, due date calculator and pregnancy medicine checker.
A study was conducted to see the impact Mum & Baby has on people using the service. The study indicates that 96% of users found the information via texts helpful and 98% of users say they would take action to care for themselves or their children.
Of the mothers and pregnant women surveyed, 95% of them say the information they received influenced their decision to breastfeed. Moreover, the Mum & Baby service influenced 96% of participants to vaccinate their children. More than 650,000 children received immunizations as a result of free text messages.
RapidSMS in Rwanda
This mobile service is similar to Mum & Baby in the sense that it shares information via SMS. However, with this mobile platform, community health workers are equipped with mobile devices to collect and use real-time data on key maternal, neonatal and child health indicators.
The service collects data within the “first 1,000 days of life” from pregnancy to childbirth and from the newborn stage until the child reaches age 2. This also includes a broad range of areas of childcare such as antenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, growth monitoring and even death indicators such as maternal and child mortality.
The mobile platform records the indicators and generates reminders for appointments, delivery and postnatal care visits. There is also an emergency care platform called Red Alerts. There is also a creation of a database of clinical records on maternal care delivery.
UNICEF did a study on RapidSMS to measure its effects on maternal and child mortality. RapidSMS has contributed to some changes in the use of health care services and maternal and child mortality and has overall led to improvements in health outcomes for mothers and children in Rwanda.
M-Mama’s Ambulance Taxi
This application “uses mobile technology to connect women in rural areas of Africa to emergency transport.” The project began in 2013 to help women in rural Tanzania gain access to health care where almost half of the women there give birth at home without the assistance of a health care worker. Many mothers and children die from preventable birth complications due to the lack of health systems and delayed access to care. The creators of M-Mama intend to change these circumstances and reduce maternal mortality rates, in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
The process of M-Mama’s ambulance taxi project starts when a patient makes a call to a 24-hour dispatch center. A call handler will then access the condition of the patient using the app, which would indicate whether the patient needs a transfer to a health facility. If health care is required, the call handler will notify the nearest taxi through the app, requesting the taxi driver to take the patient to the hospital. This way, taxis act as a cost-effective ambulance for the patient. The driver will receive payment after safely escorting the patient to the hospital. Since M-Mama’s start, the Lake Zone regions of Tanzania have noted a 27% reduction in maternal mortality rates.
These mobile apps are reducing maternal and child mortality rates in Africa. Through the mobile services’ resources and aid, young girls can make better decisions and expecting mothers can get the help they need despite their remote locations. Reducing maternal and child mortality rates by 1% can increase GDP by about 4.6% in African countries.
However, one issue that stands in the way is the lack of access to mobile phones and the internet. Women in sub-Saharan Africa are 13% less likely to own a phone and 37% less likely to access the internet on mobile.
The more investment there is to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in Africa, the more it will generate social and economic benefits for sub-Saharan Africa. To do that, governments and nonprofit organizations need to work to close the gender gap and develop mobile health services. These efforts will help women become informed and make healthier decisions.
– Jackson Lebedun