News and stories

Providing Lifesaving Transportation, One Taxi at a Time

Dec, 2020

When Regina George began to experience labor pains, the nearest health facility to her was not equipped to care for her complicated twin birth. She needed to get to a higher level facility. Without a way to get there, she began walking home. Christian, a community driver employed by the m-mama program, drove past her at just the right time.

   

On June 24th of last year, Regina George began experiencing intense labor pains, over a month before her due date. She headed straight for the dispensary near her home in rural Tanzania. During her pregnancy, doctors had guessed she was pregnant with twins, and so when she arrived at the dispensary, the healthcare workers knew they didn’t have the capacity to give her the care she and her babies needed. Thus, they referred her to a higher-level facility in Shinyanga, a larger town about 17 miles away. Without any money to pay for transport, Regina left the dispensary and began walking home.

 

Christian Mbuligwe saw her just as she reached the town center, breathing heavily through her labor pains. Christian is a taxi driver and, for 2 years, had been employed by Vodafone Foundation’s m-mama program in Tanzania, implemented by Touch Foundation. That means he has the training and skill to provide emergency transport to women and infants experiencing emergencies before, during, and soon after childbirth. He explains that he felt compelled to help. Christian rushed to action, stopped his taxi to pick Regina up and drove her straight to Shinyanga Regional Referral Hospital, the hospital where she had been referred originally.

 

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Christian (left) and another m-mama taxi driver playing with one of Regina’s boys.

 

Regina was in labor at the hospital for a long time, she remembers, and doctors ultimately opted for an emergency C-section. Three days later, Regina returned home with two healthy twin boys. We recently met up with Regina and Christian, to listen to their story and to hear their perspectives on emergency transport and the m-mama program. They both spoke about the importance of emergency transportation in the rural area. Many women, they explained, don’t have the financial means to pay for transportation to the higher-level facilities, so without the m-mama program, and drivers like Christian, they wouldn’t get the care they need. Christian explains that his m-mama employment has helped advance his own economic position as well.

 

Regina’s connection to the program was a bit unconventional – usually women in need of assistance (or their healthcare worker) call a toll-free number, speak to a dispatcher who triages them and ultimately arranges transport for them by an m-mama community driver like Christian. We’re proud to say that this process has provided transportation for thousands of mothers and babies in critical condition. We’re also proud of stories like Christian and Regina’s, that demonstrate m-mama’s wide-reaching impact on lives around Tanzania’s Shinyanga Region.