The Potential of Mobile in Nigeria

  • September 8, 2014
  • Uncategorized

Somewhere in Nigeria and as you read this, a traditional birth attendant is severing the umbilical cord of a new born with a rusty blade and applying toothpaste for quick healing, a midwife is using her mouth to suck out mucus from the nostril of a new born to avoid birth asphyxia, a mother is lying down on the bare floor, groaning in labor and risking sepsis in order to give life. A pregnant woman is somewhere on the farm, in the marketplace or in the kitchen fanning wood for fire, oblivious to the concept of antenatal care.  

These are not hypothetical situations, they are examples and practices which continue to turn women and their babies into maternal and child mortality statistics. After losing a close friend at childbirth, I know statistics aren’t just numbers, they are real people.

Stories of women like this formed the basis of my decision and served as motivation for me to establish an NGO called the Brown Button Foundation which trains birth attendants in rural communities, and a social venture called Mothers Delivery Kit Ventures, which provides lifesaving supplies needed by women at childbirth. The goal of both organizations is to create behavioral change and improved skills that can see maternal and child mortality drastically reduced in Nigeria.

Working with the MAMA team as a YALI Fellow has opened me up to new possibilities of improving health outcomes via mhealth in addition to what currently exists. All over Africa, mobile phones are accessing places healthcare facilities have failed to access in decades. As a specific example, using data available as of February 2014, Nigeria, with a population of 177 million has more than 167 million phones, with connection per every 100 citizens at 94.5%. With a doctor-patient ratio of 1:3500, 15% contraceptive use amongst married women ages 15-49 and the percentage of birth attended by skilled birth attendants at 35%, mobile phone access offers incredible opportunities to resolve these challenges.

At MAMA I have learnt that training birth attendants and connecting them with lifesaving supplies is effective and necessary, but putting information directly into the hands of women makes it a complete package. This creates a system of checks, balances and control to ensure that newborns and mothers do not continue to join the growing maternal and child mortality statistics. As MAMA plans to roll out in Nigeria, organizations like mine will look forward to the efficiency it will be bring to antenatal and immunization reminders amongst other benefits.

Now, imagine for a moment how powerful and life changing it will be if the pregnant woman at the farm, in the market place or in her kitchen receives advance notice of her antenatal schedule on her phone. Imagine a new mother helping birth attendants change their practices by simply challenging the use of toothpaste as an umbilical healing balm with the content of her phone messages. Imagine a world where every pregnant woman and mother is informed of possible health challenges and appropriate solutions before they occur. Now that is the type of world we will like to create with MAMA.

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