We believe that mobile technology can help overcome some of the key issues that contribute to maternal morbidity and mortality in Tanzania.
Obstetric fistula is a disabling condition that leaves women incontinent as a result of prolonged or obstructed labour. On average there are 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year in Tanzania. Untreated fistula can lead to chronic medical and psychological problems and women are often socially excluded, extremely poor, and geographically isolated.
Corrective surgery is simple and inexpensive yet estimates suggest up to 24,000 women have been left untreated and suffering with fistula since the millennium. Research highlighted that one of the biggest barriers to these women accessing treatment, is the cost of travel to get to medical facilities where they could receive corrective surgery.
On average there are 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year in Tanzania. Untreated fistula can lead to chronic medical and psychological problems.
The number of women who have benefitted from the programme.
In 2014 the Vodafone Foundation began to explore ways to expand the mobilising maternal health programmes, to implement mobile technology solutions to enable women to receive timely medical support and intervention before and during labour.
In January 2011 the Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom Tanzania partnered with the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation hospital in Tanzania (CCBRT). The partnership aimed to increase the number of obstetric fistula surgeries performed each year by integrating mobile technology into the patient referral process. Using Vodafone’s M-Pesa money transfer, CCBRT are able to send funds to enable some of Tanzania’s poorest and most marginalised women to pay for a bus ticket to bring them to hospital for treatment. This is the ‘Text to Treatment’ model.
CCBRT has recruited a network of ‘ambassadors’ that works throughout Tanzania helping to find and refer women suffering with obstetric fistula in some of the most isolated parts of the country. Within an hour of referral, CCBRT sends funds via M-Pesa to cover the woman's travel costs to hospital. On arrival the patient presents their ticket value and if correct the hospital forwards a $3 incentive payment via M-Pesa to the referring CCBRT ambassador. This payment is made by CCBRT to help strengthen and expand their ambassadorial network. This network is vital in allowing CCBRT to increase the number of women they treat annually.
Using this simple infrastructure the number of patients treated for obstetric fistula at CCBRT rose from 168 surgeries in 2009 to 338 surgeries in 2011, an increase of over 100% in two years. In 2014 the number of surgeries had increased to 724 and over 60% of women who came for surgery were admitted via the M-PESA ‘Text to Treatment’ system.
The Myo challenge
In 2012 the Vodafone Foundation launched the ‘Moyo’ challenge, an internal fundraising campaign that aimed to raise money to get women to treatment. Over $15million has been raised for the programme since the launch, including close to $1million from employee fundraising globally and support from donors.
Prevention is better than cure
The Vodafone Foundation has partnered with USAID to expand the existing programme in Tanzania to help rural health workers identify women at risk of complicated births and transport them to health facilities where they can give birth safely.