To mark the recent International Day of the Midwife we share a story of how one grant holder’s use of smartphone technology is reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in rural Pakistan.
Keeping a woman and her baby safe in pregnancy and childbirth continues to be a challenge for many developing countries, especially among rural communities.
In the Badin district of Pakistan’s Sindh province most of the villages are in remote areas, with little or no real infrastructure connecting them to towns where health centres are located:
100 villages are now benefiting from a UK Aid Direct funded programme, focused on improving maternal health and infant survival rates.
Since the implementation of the 2.5-year health education project, communities have seen:
So, how has this been achieved and how significant a role has technology played in this?
UK-based international development organisation Feed the Minds (opens in a new window), partnered with Pakistan-based NRDP (National Rural Development Program) to establish 100 women’s health committees with 700 members in the area.
Over 100 local women are now trained to become safe, community birth attendants, enabling them to help their immediate families, as well as pass their knowledge on to others.
The community birth attendants are paired up with doctors from health centres. Using smartphones, the doctors provide practical and emotional support for both the attendant and mothers-to-be – working as a cost-effective method for the organisation to achieve widespread local healthcare.
“Using SMS messaging, trained doctors are able to relay messages and instructions to community birth attendants in rural locations, providing them with vital information, whilst supporting mothers during childbirth,” advised Albha Bowe, Programme Director from Feed the Minds.
“Aside from communication via text, the phones are also used to store and access important records about the mother’s health. If a situation or symptoms are presented that are outside of the training of the community birth attendant, they can seek medical advice from the doctor, using the mobile phone service. The doctor then provides feedback on whether they feel the condition can be resolved at home or the individual should be referred to the local hospital.”
Khalida Bibi, a Community Birth Attendant said:
“I have performed 82 deliveries and referred 23 complicated cases to health facilities – saving 7 lives through this smartphone referral mechanism. I have also provided counselling to 371 pregnant women on nutrition, care, family planning, vaccination and hygiene issues.”
To find out more about the work of Feed the Minds, visit their website (opens to charity’s website).