MUSANZE - With an aim of preventing maternal and child deaths in the country, the Ministry of Health, supported by the joint UN programming that involves agencies like UNFPA and UNICEF, have reaped the benefits of introducing the SMS-for-health programme.
This was revealed on Thursday by the Director of Ruhengeri Hospital, Dr. John Kalachi.
According to Kalachi, this year, 432 Community Health Workers (CHWs) who are responsible for maternal health in the district, were given phones to report on the health progress of pregnant mothers and children.
“This is a pilot project that started in Musanze and partners wanted to know whether the model will work towards reducing maternal and child mortality,” he explained.
“In such a short period of time, we have already realized that through this system, health facilities are able to register and monitor the health of pregnant women and children in the district.”
Demographic Health Survey statistics of 2007 revealed that 750 women out 100,000 die due to pregnancy-related causes annually. 62 babies out of 1000 die before they reach their first birthday (infant mortality) while the child mortality stands at 103 of 1000.
Kalachi noted that one of the main reasons behind such mortality figures is the fact that most women would deliver at home and encounter various associated risks such as infections. Children on the other hand were not followed up as it is under the new system.
“Through our central server, the CHWs register every pregnant woman in their communities. The short messages sent include, location of the mother or child, weight, identification number and any risks that the health worker can identify.”
“The health worker ensures that they acquire antenatal care from the nearest health facility,” Kalachi said.
“Since the information is shared, we can also be able to tell when she will deliver and urge this parent to go to a health facility when the delivery period approaches,” he added.
The official identified various cases where, the CHWs have communicated through the system to call for ambulances in emergency cases where some women could have delivered at home.
Under the same system, it was noted that there are now 2,588 pregnancies and 840 babies that need close follow up in the district.
Dr. Friday Naigwe, an official in charge of health and nutrition in UNICEF, said that this programme will roll out in other provinces since 15,000 CHWs are needed countrywide.
“This system will accelerate the achievement of development goals and enable government to plan well for the population. Annually there are about 400,000 pregnant women and the country has 15,000 villages,” Naigwe noted.
“Clearly 15000 CHWs will each be responsible for about three pregnant women a month hence no woman will deliver at risk anymore, and this will result into achievement of MDG 5.”