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Emergency Maternal Transport in Developing Countries
In 2017, across the globe, 810 women died each day from preventable pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Women face 15 times the risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications compared with women in developed countries. In this region, over half of the women do not have access to emergency obstetric care during labor, citing financial concerns or issues with accessing emergency maternal transport to hospitals. Vodafone and Transaid are organizations working to mitigate the barriers pregnant women encounter in accessing emergency maternal transport in Africa.

During an obstetric emergency, every second a pregnant woman experiences a delay in skilled care, the higher the risks of stillbirth, neonatal or maternal death. Many cases of maternal mortality are due to severe bleeding after childbirth, postpartum infection and blood pressure disorders. All of these are preventable and treatable with timely and skilled care. Urgent emergency maternal transport to adequate health facilities can be the difference between life and death.

Accessing Emergency Maternal Transport in Africa

Demography and Health Survey data from more than 40 countries revealed that while 50% of women cite finances as the primary obstacle for seeking obstetric care and 37% reported transportation challenges. In addition, 37% cited distance to be their main barrier. Access to mobilized vehicles in developing countries is incredibly rare. For example, only one vehicle is available for every 3,000 people. For comparison, in the U.S., there is one vehicle per 1.19 persons.

A study in rural Ghana found that 65% of women use public transport, 29% walk, 4% use personal cars and 1.6% ride by motorbike. However, much of this transportation is inaccessible because of high costs. The distance to an adequate healthcare facility is highly determinant of maternal outcomes, especially in rural areas of developing countries. A study in Southern Tanzania by Lancet Global Health found that “living more than 35 km away from a health care facility has a much higher likelihood of maternal mortality compared with those only living at a distance of only 5 km.”

Even when vehicles are available and distance is not a barrier, insufficient and dangerous road systems inhibit transport to hospitals. In developing countries, poor road networks make access to skilled healthcare challenging, especially for remote, rural areas. With road conditions unsuitable for many vehicles, women have few viable options.

Effective Interventions: Transaid

Organizations involved in transportation interventions often include direct provision of transportation or monetary schemes. This eliminates the financial burden on families seeking emergency maternal healthcare. Dependent on each community, organizations tailor the intervention to best support the residents.

Transaid, in partnership with the National Union of Road Transport Workers, has implemented emergency maternal transport interventions in Nigeria for more than a decade. Transaid’s project “focuses on training and encouraging local taxi drivers to transport pregnant women to health centers.” Drivers are incentivized to volunteer because they receive permission to park in front of the loading queue. This can “potentially save many hours of waiting for passengers.” Transaid has also had a huge impact through its More Mamaz campaign in rural Zambia. The More Mamaz campaign has trained 236 drivers and safely transferred more than 3,500 women to health facilities. The percentage of women delivering at health facilities rose from 64% to 89% from 2014 to 2017.

Vodafone

Vodafone, a mobile technology company, working in conjunction with Touch Foundation, created the m-mama program, a mobile technology program that connects women in rural Tanzania to local taxi drivers acting as “taxi ambulances.” The 24/7 dispatch center is called in an obstetric emergency and the dispatcher skillfully assesses the patient’s condition and connects them to a network of more than 100 taxi drivers responding to emergency calls. Upon arrival at the health center, drivers receive their pay instantly via Vodafone’s mobile money transfer system. Additionally, the service has also trained over 250 community health workers in the Sengemera and Shinyanga states of Tanzania. Vodafone’s successes have led to a partnership with the Lesotho Ministry of Health in South Africa to expand this program.

The Impact of Emergency Maternal Transport in Africa

The results of interventions have been promising. When South Africa issued 18 dedicated vehicles for maternity care, there was a “sustained reduction in mortality.” Similarly, in the Gambia, a “freely available ambulance service in connection with women’s obstetric needs correlated with substantially reduced pregnancy-related mortality.”

In an effort to provide safe, timely and reliable emergency maternal transport to specialized obstetric care, organizations have shown great innovation in how they train, incentivize and mobilize communities to improve outcomes for pregnant mothers.

– Brittany Granquist
Photo: Flickr

Internet Access Helps Impoverished Nations
As of 2018, 4.1 billion people currently have internet access. This is roughly 95 percent of the world’s 7.1 million population. According to a data graph constructed by Our World in Data, the majority of this internet access is in North America and Asia. Comparatively, on average only about 20 percent of the population of Africa has internet access. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of India’s population lives under the poverty line and only 26 percent of the country’s population has internet access. Internet access can help impoverished nations, though, which is why there are efforts to bring it to places it is not available currently.

Connecting the Globe

Providing a country with internet access is more than just access to the internet. It is also about global connections. Internet.org is an organization that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created, which explains that the internet should be a global right. This is due to the wealth of information that the internet contains. Global Citizen also asserts that if Africa had access to the information that the internet provided, it may be able to jumpstart its infrastructure.

Causes of Lack of Internet Access

Weform.org explains the following reasons for lack of internet access across the world:

  • Countries do not have the proper infrastructure to provide their people with an internet connection. According to the United Nations (U.N.), however, the establishment of 3G networks could be one effort toward improvement.
  • A 3G network currently covers only 60 percent of the world. By 2020, the U.N. expects that 97 percent of the world will have full 3G coverage.

  • Cost is also a major factor because 13 percent of the world’s population currently lives under the poverty line.

  • People in these countries do not always have the skills necessary to properly use the internet. Also, 13 percent of the global population is illiterate.

  • Eighty percent of internet content is only available in 10 different languages and less than half of the global population speaks these languages.

Looking Toward the Future

Internet access can help impoverished nations see major improvements. Google created a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country of Nigeria in 2018. Global Citizen estimated that this could generate $300 billion for Africa’s total GDP by 2025. The Nigerian government is taking notice of the efforts led by Google. President Yemi Osinbajo visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and attended the launch of the Google hotspots, according to Global Citizen. This shows that an increase in technology not only improves conditions for a nation’s people but can also help local governments understand how internet access can reduce poverty.

Another way internet access can reduce poverty is by providing support for those suffering from poverty. Telecommunications company Vodafone launched Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club. Esoko states that the organization provides over 1 million farmers with phones. This allows access to numerous services including farming tips, weather updates and nutrition tips. According to Dela A. Kumahor, who served as a design expert on the project, research showed that farmers often feel restricted by their low amount of technology literacy and lack of business sense. According to The Guardian, Vodafone has done the research to show that mobile-focused agricultural services could lead to a $34 billion increase in 26 different markets by 2020. The service has also rolled out in Turkey, where 500,000 farmers have signed onto the project. This has led to a $100 million increase in farmer productivity.

Internet access can help impoverished nations that need relief. The internet provides jobs, services and connections that allow people, governments and industries the opportunity to help their countries fight global poverty. Improving agriculture and providing services are just two of the ways that internet access can reduce poverty.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Technology in South Africa

One of many struggles associated with living in poverty is the inaccessibility of health care. Just as health insurance coverage and the costs of health care are common topics of debate in the United States, other nations have their own difficulties with providing medical care to their citizens living in poverty.

In South Africa, ranked by the World Bank in 2018 as one of the most economically unequal countries in the world, 40 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2015. Poverty’s impact on the population is clear; in 2014, the life expectancy at birth in South Africa was 64.1 years, with the country ranking 190 out of 223 countries. Clearly, access to health care in South Africa is lacking. Recent innovations in health care technology in South Africa are helping to provide medical care to those living in poverty.

New Health Care Technology in South Africa

  • Health Information for New Mothers: Vodafone, a phone service provider, has launched a tool called the Mum & Baby. The service provides free health information to pregnant women and new mothers. The service, which launched in 2017 and has more than 1.4 million users, provides access to articles, videos and tutorials about prenatal health and caring for a new baby. Although this service is available only to Vodafone users and thus is not accessible to mothers who do not have access to a cell phone or who use a different provider, it is still a step toward educating women about their health.
  • Drones That Transport Blood: The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) collects and provides blood for transfusions in South Africa. Although SANBS reports that less than one percent of South Africans are active blood donors, the organization’s work makes a huge difference in South African health care by providing medical treatment to people undergoing surgeries, trauma victims and those with anemia. However, blood collection can only do so much; if the blood cannot be safely and quickly transported to where it is needed, it cannot be used. This is particularly problematic in rural areas. In the past, blood has been moved from place to place by helicopter. Recently, SANBS has reported that it will begin using drones to transport blood. This will be faster and less expensive than helicopters and are designed to ensure the blood is kept safe during the journey. This technology will assist SANBS in saving lives efficiently in South Africa.
  • An App Fighting The Stigma of HIV: As of 2016, an estimated 7.2 million South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS, more than in any other country. Like in many other places, there exists a stigma around HIV/AIDS which can prevent people from getting the care they need. Zoë-Life, a local South African development organization, and Keep A Child Alive, an organization which provides support to children affected by HIV/AIDS, have launched an app together with the aim of helping health care professionals provide HIV/AIDS education to children in a way that does not stigmatize their experiences. The KidzAlive Talk Tool App recently piloted with great success, uses animations and games to help children understand HIV/AIDS in an age-appropriate way. In an interview with IT News Africa, Zoë-Life Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Thomas reported that “primary caregivers participating in the pilot study were more willing to give consent for their children to receive HIV testing and counseling.”

As large swaths of the South African population continue to live in poverty, these health care technologies are saving lives in South Africa. The South African government has laid out a plan, called the National Development Plan, with the goal of eliminating poverty in South Africa by the year 2030. The results of this plan are yet to be seen, but in the meantime, these organizations are making strides using technology to make health care in South Africa more accessible.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay