By: Mariko Rasmussen, Program Assistant at Women Deliver
How did a small landlocked country recovering from genocide become a model for development in Africa? With clear objectives and investment in technological innovation, Rwanda is making significant progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals 5 and 4. The Rwanda Ministry of Health is working together with partners to improve maternal and child health. From 2000 to 2005, maternal mortality rates decreased from 1,071 to 750 per 100,000, and efforts are being bolstered to continue progress.
Much of the strategy behind these efforts has been focused on reaching out to rural areas by training health workers. In August 2008, the Rwanda Ministry of Health launched a training program to teach basic nursing and midwifery skills to traditional birth attendants. This is in combination with other programs to develop human resources and skills, with the goal of producing 60,000 trained community health workers total, so that each village has one worker trained in maternal health, one in child health, and one in community health.
Further, the Rwanda Ministry of Health is investing in mobile health (mHealth) technology. In August 2009, the Ministry launched an mHealth (M-Ubuzima) initiative to support community health workers in maternal and child health interventions by utilizing mobile technology. 432 community health workers, who are responsible for maternal health in the Musanze district, were given mobile phones equipped with Rapid SMS tools. These mobiles allow health workers to report difficult cases, complications or emergencies to the nearest clinic or hospital, and improve maternal health information tracking by capturing data about pre-natal health, delivery, and birth outcomes. The pilot project has produced hopeful results, and the goal is to give mobiles to all maternal health workers across the country and eventually to all community health workers.
mHealth technology enables better healthcare delivery coordination and impact by capturing timely and accurate data, especially vital in Rwanda’s rural areas where communication and transport still pose major challenges. Other data, like volume and type of drugs required and population growth rates, will allow the Rwanda Ministry of Health to target interventions where they are needed most and plan more effectively. And it is a plan that is well on track to reach an important target - to reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent by 2015.
Flickr photo: cswphotography