Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 2 out of 3 global maternal deaths related to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Our M-Mama program is changing that with its Emergency Transport System (EmTS)–an innovative solution that uses digital technology to triage a patient remotely 24/7 and dispatch an ambulance or community driver to bring the patient to a health facility, a process that takes an average of two minutes.
In July, members of Touch Foundation’s Board of Directors visited Usanda dispensary, a small rural health facility located within Tanzania’s Shinyanga region. They spoke directly to women who had experienced life-threatening complications during labor and needed the EmTS to reach quality care. We met their healthy children and also the taxi drivers who responded to the dispatcher’s call and transported them to safety.
Anna shared her experience during her prolonged labor. The healthcare workers at Usanda dispensary determined that Anna was facing an obstructed labor and would need an emergency C-section to save her life and her baby’s life. Through the EmTS, healthcare workers connected Anna with a community driver who transported her—by that point unconscious—to Shinyanga Hospital, where she immediately underwent surgery and delivered a healthy baby girl.
Agnes was similarly transported to Shinyanga Hospital for an emergency C-section due to a prolonged labor. When Agnes awoke from surgery, she was shocked to learn that she had been pregnant with twin boys! Such surprises are not uncommon when access to healthcare, like prenatal services and ultrasound scans, is limited.
The taxi drivers shared a different perspective and reinforced how the EmTS is a market-based solution. According to one driver, before the EmTS, taxi drivers were sometimes called for medical transport and at times, would not be able to negotiate a reasonable rate with the patient. But that has changed with the implementation of the EmTS. Now, pre-negotiated rates are paid directly to the drivers upon completion of their trips and at no cost to the patient. Trips are often long distances, and the average taxi rate is $45.
Today, M-Mama is up and running in all six districts of Tanzania’s Shinyanga region, providing life-saving emergency care to 90,000 pregnant and post-partum women and their newborns. Since inception, M-Mama has transported more than 8,500 women and newborns and in two years, this cost-effective program will be fully adopted by the Tanzanian Government. Furthermore, based on the demonstrated success of M-Mama, the government is interested in expanding the innovative program throughout the country. And, excitingly, we are also expanding M-Mama to Lesotho as part of a sub-Saharan Africa expansion plan with Vodafone Foundation.
A special thanks to Pathfinder International, an integral M-Mama partner, for organizing the meeting at Usanda dispensary.