Not even the scorching sun could dissuade Community Health Workers (CWHs) to assemble at Gastibo District headquarters in the Eastern province to receive mobile phones.
“Today, we are here not to only give out mobile phones, but what we are doing is strengthening the M-health (M-buzima) or mobile health. This initiative is intended to support Community Health Workers in maternal and child health interventions by advancing the health of all Rwandans,’’ said Health Minister Dr. Richard Sezibera.
According to Dr. Sezibera, the M-health targets improving delivery of health care services like Family Planning, reducing maternal and child death, and fighting malnutrition.
“Community Health Workers will ensure that all expecting mothers especially those in rural areas get skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, including access to emergency obstetric and newborn care, postnatal care, preventing HIV and malaria during pregnancy,’’ he explained.
With improved communication and technology, Dr. Sezibera said that “Rwanda should show the world that no mother should die while giving birth.”
“It is your responsibility to make sure that all mothers attend antenatal care, give birth at a health facility and get quality care and treatment,’’ he said.
Cecil Uwamahoro a community health worker said the mobile phones have come in handy. She can now send a short message on her cell phone and informs the nearest hospital of an expectant mother in labour who has no means of transport
“I can also alert the hospital about an emergency. The hospital will then send an ambulance,’’ she adds.
Uwamahoro explains that the most important components of M-health are the magic toll free numbers 912, 115, and 114.
In any case of an emergency, Community Health Workers dial 912 to report a case. The Ministry of Health has standby ambulances that are always ready to respond to any emergency.
115, is used by Community Health Workers to submit their reports. In the past, Community Health Workers would travel long distances and make several trips to the health centers to submit reports, with M-health, communication is instant. Currently all Community Health Workers are able to send and access vital health information using cell phones.
114 is used by Community Health Workers to report any cases of negligence at the health centres and district hospitals. This is especially for cases involving expectant mothers.
M-health is built on the principle of using the cell phone technology to support public health. The Ministry of Health believes that the technology will help Rwanda to achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5.
This marks the beginning of a new chapter aimed at easing delivery of public health care at the village level in an era where the world of medicine combines with the world of technology to make healthcare delivery timely and precise especially in Rwanda’s rural areas where communication and transport are still a challenge.