Tanzania’s free SMS health campaign helps pregnant women, new mothers

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Expectant woman

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infants who are partly breastfed or not breastfed at all may face a higher risk of death from diarrhea and other infections.

The global health body recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life. Breast milk not only protects newborn babies from infection, it also lowers mortality among malnourished children.

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Child breastfeeding from its mother

In Tanzania, the government came up with a campaign to improve maternal and newborn health.  The campaign involves sending text messages on subscribers on staying healthy during pregnancy and after giving birth.

The campaign, Wazazi Nipendeni, ” Parents Love me” was introduced three years ago and currently some 125000 pregnant women have registered for the free text message.

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Pregnant woman receives a maternal health text message

More than five million text messages have been sent to subscribers, who get health information and reminders for doctor’s appointments direct to their mobile phones – many of them in distant parts of Tanzania. This according to news24.com

According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, with 25 million subscribers, the country has the highest rate of text messages sent per month in East Africa.

Tanzania has made some progress in preventing deaths from complications related to childbirth, but has failed to meet a Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal deaths to 193 per 100 000 live births from 454 per 100 000 by the end of 2015.

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Couple receives maternal health text message

The government blames the failure on the shortage of skilled health workers and well- equipped clinics, lack of funding and poor awareness of reproductive health issues among women.

The campaign had earlier targeted pregnant women, but now involves both women, men, midwives and nurses.

Pamela Kweka, an official from the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they realized engaging women alone was not enough, hence they needed to involve all members of the society to make the campaign more effective.

One woman, Rahim explained to the Thomson Reuters Foundation how the SMS campaign had helped her a lot through her pregnancy until she was able to have a safe delivery.

Rahim would receive SMS reminders on her clinic appointments, advice on what she needed to know during and even after pregnancy.

 

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