Rwandan Healthcare: RapidSMS’ is saving thousands lives of mothers and children
Rwandan healthcare is claimed to be one the best in Africa. Its use of mobile technology is rated one of the best in the world . Every minute in Rwanda, thousands of mothers’ lives and their children under age of two are saved by short messages sent by Community Health Workers using the technology dubbed ‘RapidSMS’.
Information technology is one of the sectors developed quickly in Rwanda, and is serving the community to report new pregnant women and difficulties they are facing. With this database, the Ministry of Health in Rwanda tracks the progress of a pregnant woman from day one till she gives birth.
All pregnant women are registered and followed by Community Health Workers with regular reports being sent via SMS. They follow up on all risky and risk pregnancies and are provided with reminders through SMS sent from the central hub.
The database operates across the 15000 villages of the country to ensure effective health services delivery to pregnant women and their children.
Rapids SMS is used in Rwandan healthcare for medical monitoring program for pregnancies and babies aged up to two years . It was set up in 2009 with the backing of the UN children's agency UNICEF.
MUKAMPARAYE Césalie, a mother of five is one of 45,000 Community Health Workers in Rwanda, living in the rural area of Kigali city, Ndera Sector, Gasharu Village. She says that with RapidSMS, it became easier to them to report new pregnancy and connect them with nearby Health Centers.
“I am among health workers in charge of sending a RAPIDSMS if there is a new pregnant woman or when anything happens to one of those I take care of. After notifying the Health Center [under Ministry of Health], they also call us back to ask information about women we take care of and we also follow up those women at their homes to assure they are in good conditions. It happens that they meet difficulties but we report it at time and the majority is peacefully handled.” MUKAMPARAYE says.
“I type ‘PRE’ when notifying that pregnancy has been confirmed by the Health Center, and then ‘NP’ to mean that there is no problem with her if it is the case.” She added.
Once details from a community health worker are recorded in the database, the software automatically generates a date for her next prenatal visit.
The Health Worker sends basic information of the woman including the identity number if it is her first pregnancy for the center hub to communicate to her for the next appointment reminding.
At any Health Center, the one in charge always check on the list of pregnant women and call health workers to gather updates about registered ones. This helps tracking any complication and risky pregnancy that might lead to death of a mother or a child.
In addition, the database is used for preventing child mortality. Community health workers record new born and always follow up their lives, given breastfeeding from the first day to six months. Another round starts with six months to two years which reduced children mortality significantly.
The number of stunted infants in Rwanda declined also due to this constant follow up made up on pregnant women and children under age of two all via the RAPIDSMS database.
Overall, Rwanda has registered huge progress in maternal health, according to World Bank data. The infant mortality ratio for babies under one year of age was 31 deaths per thousand births in 2015, just below the world average of 31.7 - a significant advance from 2009, when the rate stood at 47 per thousand.
Over the same period, the maternal mortality rate in Rwanda healthcare was cut by almost a third, from 411 to 290 deaths per 100,000 births.
The problem in recent years was “lack of information of the pregnant women who weren’t conducting regular checkups. And children were dying of ‘pneumonia’ which we overcame through the proactive RAPIDSMS.” One community health worker argued.
Jean d’Amour UMAZIMPAKA
Medical Lab Scientist specializing in Medical Research and Laboratory Diagnostics in Rwanda. Passionate about technological innovations in medical laboratories as tools for point of care diagnosis.