Hundreds of high-risk pregnant women in Tanzania are not surviving pregnancy or are losing their babies as there is no means of getting them to hospital.
In response, a pioneering new toll-free emergency line has been launched by the Vodafone Foundation – alongside its NGO partners Pathfinder International and Touch Foundation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The emergency line – equivalent to 112 in Europe, 911 in the US and 999 in the UK – could help save around 225 women’s and babies’ lives a month, and will see a network of 100 taxi drivers responding to emergency calls, taking pregnant women on what is often a three-hour journey to reach the nearest hospital.
Once women arrive at hospital, the emergency taxi drivers are paid using Vodafone’s mobile payment service M-Pesa. A trial of the taxi service late last year in a small area of Sengerema saved the lives of 323 women and babies.
Previously, there was no way for many pregnant women with serious complications, many of who are teenagers, to get to hospital in the districts of Sengerema and Shinyanga. Despite a population of two million people, only 10 ambulances service the expansive area, leading to large numbers of maternal and infant deaths.
As part of the wider programme, a network of 250 community health workers in Sengerema and Shinyanga have been taught Tanzania’s newborn and child health curriculum, and an additional 209 health workers have been trained in life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care.
Touch Foundation helped improve facilities in hospitals, including building two theatres for Caesarean sections. A mobile application has also been developed for the community health workers, which lists more than 10,000 pregnant women and identifies those who are high risk cases.
Pathfinder International, whose role in the partnership involved working with community health workers and health centres, has separately worked with WeCareSolar to install solar suitcases in 58 facilities for provision of power, making night deliveries possible.
According to Pathfinder CEO Purnima Mane more than 15,000 womenhave been reached as they record a 53 per cent increase year over year in facility-based deliveries.