News / Africa

Malawi Uses Mobile Phones to Promote Maternal Health

Hotline worker Hanna James assists a caller at Balaka Centre in Malawi, Jan. 13, 2014. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
Hotline worker Hanna James assists a caller at Balaka Centre in Malawi, Jan. 13, 2014. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
Lameck Masina
Malawian mothers and guardians of young children who live in villages far from health facilities are heaving a sigh of relief, after the introduction of a hotline through which they can access medical advice. VillageReach, a non-profit NGO, is running a program called Chipatala Cha Pa Foni which means Health Center by Phone.  

Malawi has some of the highest mother and child mortality rates in the world.  The maternal mortality ratio is at 675 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, while the under-five mortality rate is 112 deaths per 1,000 births.
 
The figures are largely attributed to limited availability of timely and reliable health information for women of childbearing age, and a lack of access to health care for villagers due to long distances.
 
VillageReach officials say the phone program, which is currently run in the districts of Balaka, Mulanje, Nkhota-kota and Ntcheu, aims to bridge this information gap.
 
“This is a toll-free case management hotline, which means people can call free from any Airtel [mobile phone service provider] phone and can ask their questions concerning any health issues," explained Zachariah Jezman, the program manager.  "And apart from that component, we have also a reminder and tips service.  In addition to that we have protocol approved messages, which are either posted to clients who have personal phone or which can be retrieved by a client without a phone by using any Airtel phone.”
 
According to Jezman, two complementary services extend the health centers' reach by providing Malawians with access to accurate health information.
 
He said the clients are handled by hotline workers who are trained personnel in maternal, newborn, and children's health.  The workers use a simple touch-screen device that records data electronically for monitoring and evaluation purposes.  They are supervised by trained nurses for quality assurance.
 
Balaka Center hotline nurse supervisor Novice Gauti tells VOA the center receives between 25 and 30 calls each day from mothers and guardians who seek medical advice.
 
Gauti said along with providing crucial help for people in remote villages, Chipatala Cha pa Foni has helped reduce queues in the health facilities.
 
“Now the queues at the hospitals are very small compared to the time when there was no Chipatala cha pa Foni, because the mothers were just rushing to the hospital with minor problems," she noted. " But now when they have minor problems or discomfort they can easily and comfortably call us from their home and seek medical advice or medical care.”
 
The program has faced challenges, too.  Jezman cites health facilities' failure to meet the demand for services.
 
“I can give you an example when there was national stock-out of iron tablets for maybe six weeks.  Our system was pushing the message that ‘If you are in the second trimester you need to start taking iron tablets’.  And the clients were going to health centers demanding iron tablets while the health system did not have that,” Jezman recalled.
 
He said another challenge is that Chipatala Cha pa Foni encourages pregnant mothers to start doctor visits in the first trimester, but most health centers in Malawi do not have pregnancy test kits and instead rely on palpation, which sometimes is not 100 percent correct for pregnancy tests.
 
Nevertheless, VillageReach is pleased with the program's results.  The organization's country director, Jessica Crawford, told VOA that VillageReach is working on a strategy to scale up the program to other areas so it can benefit more people across Malawi.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid