A new Facebook and SMS communications initiative, Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises, was launched today by the Women’s Refugee Commission. The project addresses an important information gap for maternal health workers in emergencies, as identified by WRC research. Approximately 25 per cent of women of reproductive age in any displaced population are likely to be pregnant at any given time--the stress of being displaced coupled with the lack of skilled care heightens the risk these women face.
The Mama initiative is a platform for health workers to identify themselves as champions within humanitarian organizations or in the field and to join a community of practice. Maternal health practitioners will be able to seek advice from follow members by posting questions, sharing best practices and lessons learned, tracking own practices/skills and participating in online discussions. Mama also offers a ‘Lives Saved Counter’ application through which the community can show the impact of their work as a collective.
Mama is also an unprecedented initiative as it addresses the isolation faced by many health workers in the field through the use of innovative technology. For the first time, practitioners who may not have access to the Internet or smart phones will be able to send their questions about maternal health to the community via SMS. They are now able to send text messages to a given number, which is then stored on a server posted to the Mama Facebook-group wall through a Facebook application. The other community members can reply to the question and the answer is sent as a text message back to the practioner. The answer is filtered by the community before it is sent back, and has to be recommended ("liked") by three members before it is sent.
The Mama project also involves mentors who provide knowledge on technical updates and answer specific questions. At a specified time of the month, a mentor will be available on chat and will answer questions regarding breaking news or novel research findings. Mama members will then be able to feel that they are part of an active, professional and encouraging community.