This article was published on May 14, 2012

A new SMS-based monitoring system aims to cut Africa’s childbirth mortality rates

A new SMS-based monitoring system aims to cut Africa’s childbirth mortality rates
Sam Wakoba
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Sam Wakoba

Sam Wakoba is Senior Technology Reporter at HumanIPO. Sam Wakoba is Senior Technology Reporter at HumanIPO.

With recent statistics showing Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio at 488 per 100,000 live births, a new monitoring system for expectant mothers is set to ease the number of deaths during childbirth.

The app ensures the health workers, midwives and the pregnant mothers share health information and care tips using SMS and prepaid calls. The system, which offers prepaid mobile phone credit for checks and health information updates, allows expectant women to call or send SMS to health experts for free, for information on antenatal care and delivery services.

The expectant mothers are also called for follow-up and care aside from being prompted on antenatal classes and advised on birth plans and childcare, including breastfeeding. Developed following a partnership between USAID, the Government’s Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, and Medical Services, the system has already been applied in eleven Kenyan counties.

Reproductive Health Advisor for Aphia Plus, Kamili Dr. Ruth Jahonga said the pilot project has ensured that pregnant women in the area are registered by health providers who call or send SMS messages to find out about their conditions.

The system is a plus to both the mothers and the health experts, as it will not only reduce the number of deaths but it will help them curb the causes of it, says  Dr. Jahonga.

The Kenya Service Provision Assessment Survey of 2010 found out that at least 56 percent of pregnant women deliver at home under the care of untrained midwives and according to Dr. Jahonga, most of them die due to pregnancy complications such as hemorrhage, obstructed labor, hypertensive disease, sepsis and ruptured uterus. Dr. Jahonga says the system has helped reduce the deaths. She stated that since the start of the pilot project in February last year, up to 50 women are attended to each month.

Dr. Jahonga told HumanIPO that high poverty levels in the country make airtime expensive, hence it is more sensible to receive airtime, send SMS and call the women for free to monitor their health in a bid reduce infant mortality rates in the counties.

The expectant mothers are unable to access antenatal care because of poverty, leading to high infant mortality rates. CIA statistics indicate Kenya’s infant mortality rates at 43.61 deaths per 1000 live births. “We want to ensure that the lives of both the mother and the child are safe guarded,” Dr. Jahonga said.

This story originally appeared on HumanIPO.

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