Tackling West Africa’s Maternal Mortality Crisis

homeBack in 2013, we provided Grameen Foundation with a £15,000 grant to support their work to improve maternal and newborn health in rural communities in Ghana. With West Africa suffering some of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world (Ghana’s 380 deaths per 100,000 live births compares to 8 per 100,000 in the UK), the scale of the task is huge. One way that Grameen have attempted to address this is through a smartphone app, mobiHealth Volunteer, to allow community members to provide safe, accurate information on maternal and child health. The system also allows community health workers to raise the alarm with local community health nurses, who can provide further support and conduct a home visit. In this Indigo-funded project, 21 volunteers reached 430 pregnant women and 524 breastfeeding mothers.

Grameen’s monitoring and evaluation work revealed that overall women and families felt the services rendered by the mobiHealth Volunteer were important. The volunteers came to be seen as a trusted source of help and patients reported higher levels of knowledge and information as a result of their involvement in the project. Data also reveals that of the 430 pregnant women seen, 71% had skilled deliveries. Nationally, the rate of skilled deliveries in rural Ghana stands at around 59%, indicating that the project did provide women with both the incentive and the knowledge to seek professional medical treatment.

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Further work to track the impact of this work is needed, but the model developed by Grameen certainly has the potential to be picked up and scaled beyond this test group. While this task remains beyond Indigo’s remit, we hope that other funders and government agencies will look at this project and recognise the value that it adds in enabling health agencies to reach mother and pregnant women in rural communities.