This Uber-like taxi service is saving pregnant women’s lives in Tanzania

Felista Richard holds her newborn baby in Sengerema, Tanzania .


When 28 -year-old Consolata went into labor in rural areas in Sengerema, Tanzania, it was by no means picture-perfect. She was extremely fatigued, and soon started suffering intense pain.

“I was in bad shape, ” she announced. “I couldn’t do anything because I was tired.”

Without knowing exactly what was wrong, she knew she needed to get at a clinic instantly for her baby’s health and her own. But Consolata’s district, with a population of 500,000 people, has only three ambulances. Getting to a doctor in time seemed impossible.

So she took out her mobile phone and dialed a special hotline amount to get an “ambulance taxi” a revolutionary characteristic of the Vodafone Foundation’s maternal health program in Tanzania’s urban Lake Zone. Health proletarians connect pregnant women in emergencies to a local area network of vetted taxi motorists, who are paid via the popular mobile money structure M-Pesa to pick them up and get them to clinics, fast.

“I reckoned my child and I were going to die.”

One of these automobiles brought Consolata to her nearest clinic, where she gave birth to a healthy child boy named Kurwa. But medical doctors investigated her and met the sources of her severe agony: she was unknowingly carrying another child. She needed to be relocated to a hospital in Shinyanga, but with still no ambulances available, they called another taxi through Vodafone’s service.

“I reckoned my child and I were going to die, ” Consolata announced, in a video detailing her story.

She gave birth to her second child in the back seat; when she ultimately arrived at the hospital, she was hemorrhaging, but recovered after a few days.

Because of the time saved with the ambulance taxi service, which has been likened to an “Uber for emergencies, ” Consolata and her twins subsisted. And it’s only one example of the first-of-its-kind program’s impact , now saving the lives of 200 mothers and newborns in Tanzania every month.

Since it launched late last year in the districts of Sengerema and Shinyanga, the ambulance taxi service has helped 3,523 women in emergencies, either while in labor or suffering complications in the middle of their maternities. There are more than 130 motorists currently under the network. In comparison, only 10 traditional ambulances exist between the two districts, which have a combined population of 2 million.

According to Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, 90 percent of maternal health emergencies in those districts are now administered by the ambulance taxis.

“We’ve realise an 80 percent decrease in the number of fatalities in pregnant women being transported during emergencies, ” Dunnett announced, likening it to women in these districts use traditional ambulances. “So, we’ve realise a dramatic reduction, which translates to 200 lives saved a few months mothers and newborns within only two districts that are on the program.”

It’s all part of a purpose, he announced, to use mobile technology that gets pregnant women in some of the deepest rural communities access to lifesaving treatment.

A “mobilizing maternal health” poster is put up in every health clinic with information about a toll-free hotline for emergency transport.

Image: Politenes of Vodafone Foundation

In Tanzania, the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth 454 deaths per 100,000 births is among the highest in “the worlds”. Even though the government has built commitments to help, maternal death rates haven’t declined in seven years. And more than 36 million people in the country( 70 percent of its total population) live in rural areas with restricted access to basic health services.

“She lived with obstetric fistula for over 30 times. Which is just unbelievable. It only shouldn’t happen.”

The Vodafone Foundation started to help, financially, in 2010, substantiating a charity hospital called Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania( CCBRT) in the towns of Dar es-Salaam. The hospital shed light on a longstanding trouble: every year, Tanzania checks an estimated 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula, a condition that leaves a woman incontinent because of prolonged, obstructed labor. Many of these women have no access to C-sections, a midwife, or a clinic.

“I recollect satisfying a dame, and I requested the interpreter how age-old she was, ” Dunnett announced. “She was in her 70 s, and she lived with obstetric fistula for over 30 times. Which is just unbelievable. It only shouldn’t happen.”

So, as a corporate footing, they wanted to move away from simply writing checks and use the company’s expertise in mobile technology to prevent the problem, rather than cure it.

With the support of spouses such as USAID, Pathfinder International, and the Touch Foundation, Vodafone launched its$ 5 million “Mobilising Maternal Health Program.” One of its main features is a customized mobile app to civilize 250 community health workers, and help them pinpoint women who might benefit from the program. To date, 46,000 pregnant women are recruited, so health workers are aware of who they are and the status of women are aware of services available to them. The program also instructs health care providers, and includes dedicated efforts to improve health facilities.

Omari Mabula drives a taxi that helps get pregnant women to clinics through a brand-new maternal health program.

Image: Sala Lewis/ Vodafone Foundation

But the cornerstone of the program is the ambulance-taxi service and the accompanying 24 -hour toll-free maternal emergency hotline. A pregnant girl can call, and a health proletarian will identify the emergency and dispatch one of the ambulance-taxis to her location via GPS.

Each driver is a neighbourhood taxi driver who knows the field well, and is carefully interviewed, selected, and informed of their particular role. One of the biggest incentives is that they each receive a sizable $40 fare they get half when they pick someone up and the other half when they safely deliver her to the hospital.

“I imagine the charm of it is that it’s a simple program.”

The service is completely free of charge for the pregnant women; all menus are paid via M-Pesa through the program. At $40 per menu, that’s only about $140,000 for pays to help pregnant women so far, constructing it an extremely cost-effective solution.

“I imagine the charm of it is that it’s a simple program, ” Dunnett announced. “It’s based upon mobile money, which is pretty much universal in certain areas of Kenya and Tanzania. I imagine the benefit is that the taxi motorists are very keen on the services offered. Remember, a $40 fare is a huge fare … I think that’s another critical factor of the reasons why it works.”

The motorists don’t have any specific health teaching their persona is exclusively geographic in scope, cutting down the travel period that women in rural Tanzania often face.( Dunnett announced a woman’s excursion to a hospital could be a two to three days’ walking while in labor or, “if they’re lucky, ” one day on the back of a motorcycle .)

But many wives will already be traveling with a neighbourhood community health proletarian or midwife. The automobiles are also equipped with compressing belts, which can stop hemorrhaging on a long drive to a hospital, drastically increasing a woman’s chances of survival.

There are, of course, some obstacles. Mobile coverage can be spotty in especially remote regions, and the rainy season constructs urban streets particularly difficult to trek and reach women in need.

But the transportation service’s existence alone has had a proved, tangible impact on the lives of women and newborns. Now, the major challenge is to bringing it to scale. The Vodafone Foundation is looking at another 10 districts to bring the programme is, but they want to make sure they get it right first.

“For us, the real objection is to scale it up into the next 10 districts, to learn everything we are in a position, and then to find a sustainable commercial modeling for this, ” Dunnett announced, explaining that it needs to go beyond philanthropy. “That’s critical for a long-term, successful intervention.”

Rehema Sanane, 30, holds her child in Sengerema, Tanzania, in March 2016.

Image: Sala Lewis/ Vodafone Foundation

Dunnett also said you can’t just simply bringing technology and expect it to solve the problem it’s a matter of strengthening the health care system itself in Tanzania. If a woman is picked up by a taxi and taken to a clinic where there aren’t adequate services, you’re not really helping the situation. Infrastructure work is crucial to enable the system to work effectively.

“I imagine the opportunities offered by the program is extraordinary, ” he announced. “I imagine the innovation of using mobile technology to turning these vehicles that are already there into ambulances is very simple but, as “youre seeing”, very impactful.”

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