Having a baby is more dangerous in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else on Earth, according to the World Health Organisation.
The numbers are telling. Infants aside, around 380 mothers die per 100,000 as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. The official aim is to get those numbers down to 185 per 100,000 or less.
But that’s going to be a challenge.
In Ghana, much like the rest of the developing world, the healthcare system doesn't stretch as far as it does in wealthier countries. Nor does the information required to ensure pregnant women and their babies stay safe during pregnancy and childbirth.
In rural Ghana great superstition surrounds pregnancy. Some women refuse to leave the house for crucial early-stage antenatal care for fear of ‘revealing’ their pregnancy too early. A belief in the Eni Boni, or ‘evil eye’ looking on them and taking their baby away is, for them, too big of a risk.
The sad irony is that combined with limited healthcare provision, neglecting care in the early stages of pregnancy likely results in higher rate of infant mortality.
But there is great hope for would-be mothers in Ghana in the form of a mobile phone app.
Ghana is a developing country in which there are more active cellular connections than there are humans. It’s the perfect test bed for an app that utilises mobile technology for the common good.
Enter Mobile Midwife.
More than just an app
And it works.Mobile Midwife is an app originally designed by tech company Motech. The app has been altered by the Grameen Foundation to connect Ghana’s pregnant mothers to regional antenatal and postnatal healthcare systems.
Women signed-up to the service receive weekly messages updating them on the status of their pregnancy. The messages offer information that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
There are reminders of when to go to appointments, when to give up manual labour, what to eat, when to have vaccinations and other beneficial practices.
Ghana’s nurses have also found the system helpful. They input patients’ data into a consolidated database and can monitor which patients are due relevant care at the right time.
Another benefit of this mass data collection is the ability to see the broader picture of maternal wellbeing in a particular region. This may eventually be the case nationally.
There remain challenges in reaching the women who are arguably most at risk. Remote areas that have little or no phone coverage, or sectors that aren’t plugged into the grid are unable to benefit from the service at present.There’s no question that the integration of the app has been beneficial. But how much further can it stretch?
The Grameen Foundation will soon hand over the operation of the system to Ghana’s health authority. Potential users in remote areas will have to wait and see what changes will be made to accommodate their increasing needs.
We even have a midwifery programme in Ghana itself. With us you can work directly with women affected by issues discussed in this post.If, like us, you take healthcare in the developing work seriously, why not look into one of our many programmes situated all over the world.
Click here to find out more about what we can do for you.