M-mama: connecting pregnant women with emergency care in Africa
When Regina George began experiencing intense labour pains shortly before she was due to deliver twins, she headed straight to the clinic near her home in rural Tanzania.
Regina George’s twins were safely delivered
On arrival, she learnt the healthcare workers did not have the capacity to give her the care she needed. They referred her to a hospital in Shinyanga, a larger town about 17 miles away. Despite the pain and severity of the situation, without any money to pay for transport, Regina had no other option but to walk home.
A taxi driver, Christian Mbuligwe, saw Regina walking along the road and spotted that she was in labour. For two years, Christian had been employed by Vodafone Foundation’s m-mama programme in Tanzania to transport women in obstetric crisis to healthcare when other emergency transport was not available. Having completed training with programme delivery partner, Touch Foundation, he had the skills and know-how to safely transport Regina to hospital.
Christian rushed to action, stopped his taxi to pick Regina up and drove her straight to Shinyanga Regional Referral Hospital, where she had been referred to originally. After a long labour that ended in an emergency C-section, Regina returned home with two healthy twin boys three days later.
Christian (left) and another m-mama taxi driver playing with one of Regina’s boys
m-mama emergency transport
Vodafone Foundation’s m-mama programme connects pregnant women in some of the most remote parts of Africa to emergency care, to save their lives, and often that of their baby too.
If a pregnant women is in need of assistance, she – or her health worker – can call a toll-free number, to connect to a trained dispatcher who will remote triage them using the m-mama app. Following an assessment, the dispatcher arranges free emergency transport – an ambulance, if one is available, or a local registered driver, like Christian.
With ambulances in short supply, Regina and Christian both emphasise the importance of alternative emergency transportation in the region. Many women lack the financial means to pay for transportation to the higher-level facilities, so without m-mama - and drivers like Christian – they are unable to access the care they need.
On safe delivery of patients to care, the driver is paid instantly by M-Pesa mobile money transfer. To date, m-mama has helped to reduce maternal mortality in the Lake Zone regions of Tanzania by 27%. Following this success, Vodafone Foundation announced a new partnership with the Ministry of Health in Lesotho to expand the programme to the southern African country, where they expect to transport the first patients from January 2021.
Learn more about our work in Africa here.
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