New drive to promote reproductive health through mobile phones

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A call centre operator speaks to a patient at Babyl offices. (Steven Muvunyi)

Speaking matters related to sexual reproductive health remains a challenge for Rwandan girls due to cultural norms.

It’s against this background that Babyl Rwanda, a company that provides digital healthcare services, has embarked on plans to provide sexual reproductive health services to young women through its digital platform.

The project, announced on Tuesday in Kigali, will be funded through two grants.

The first grant was secured from Spring Accelerator, a UK-based programme that identifies and supports businesses that can bring life-enhancing products and services to girls, and the second from Dubai Expo 20/20, a programme that seeks to fund, accelerate and promote creative solutions that improve lives.

Although the amount of the grant was not revealed to the media, Tracey McNeil, Chief Executive Officer of Babyl Rwanda, said it is a significant amount of money that will be used to provide reproductive health services to adolescent girls across Rwanda.

“These grants will help us to refine our health services to meet the health needs of young women across the country. This is in line with our mission to put healthcare into the hands of as many people as possible and to make it as affordable as possible,” she said.

“We will try and prevent unplanned teenage pregnancies in partnership with the government as well as work with schools, communities and universities, where most of young women are based,” she added.

Thanks to cultural norms, it is believed Rwandan girls could be more relaxed to explain their health concerns on phone than talking to a doctor physically.

Grace Mugabekazi, the country manager of Spring Accelerator, said this will help to attend to many girls in the country.

“With Babyl’s innovative solutions, we are going to extend more services to girls in a confidential manner. They would serve quite limited people if it was a physical model but because it is technology, they will reach as many girls as possible through mobile phones,” she noted.

“Health is a key service that we think girls should have more access to and particularly sexual reproductive health information and services,” Mugabekazi added.

Babyl started its operations in Rwanda in September last year. Over 380, 000 subscribers are using this system to consult, make appointments, access clinical records as well as order prescriptions on phone.

Health minister Dr Diane Gashumba said the ministry has placed a lot of emphasis on encouraging health workers and health providers to get closer to the citizens.

“Babyl Rwanda is using one device most of us have, a mobile phone, and an advanced technology platform to accelerate our journey to getting quality healthcare to all and orient people who need doctors physically. This innovative programme will use an easy digital tool to improve access to information and services on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, including prevention of teenage pregnancies,” she said in a statement.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw