News / Health

South Africa Service Uses Text Messaging to Help Expectant Mothers

South Africa Service Uses Text Messaging to Help Expectant Mothersi
X
May 10, 2013 5:40 PM
An innovative program combining maternity advice and mobile phones is launching in South Africa, and could affect the lives of millions of mothers and babies. The service has already been launched in Bangladesh, and will soon come to India. With more, here’s Anita Powell in Johannesburg.
South Africa Service Uses Text Messaging to Help Expectant Mothers
Anita Powell

An innovative program combining maternity advice and mobile phones is launching in South Africa, and could affect the lives of millions of mothers and babies. The service has already been launched in Bangladesh, and will soon come to India.
 

By 2014, there will be more phones on this planet than there are people, according to the United Nation’s telecoms agency.


That startling comparison gave birth to an idea:


Why not use mobile technology to give health information to plugged-in women, who often hold a child in one hand and a phone in the other?


The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action is doing just that with an innovative text-messaging program that sends out information about pregnancy, childbirth and early childhood. The program launched this week in South Africa and is already in use in Bangladesh. India is next.


In keeping with its simple approach, the program is known as MAMA.


The program’s appeal boils down to several simple numbers. A shocking 21 children under the age of five die every minute of largely preventable causes. Three out of four people have mobile phone access. And in South Africa, the program is free for users of two of the country’s main phone providers.


An expecting mother might receive two to three messages a week. The messages provide encouragement, warning signs and important reminders from early pregnancy through the baby’s first year.


Digital entrepreneur Gustav Praekelt heads a foundation in his name that is working on the project.


"What the MAMA global program felt is that, by providing the right information at the right time, we can radically improve the health outcomes for mothers in South Africa and other developing countries in Africa. And so how the program really works is to make that information available, for free, on every single mobile phone available to mothers in South Africa," Praekelt said.


Dr. Vivian Black says the service will give valuable knowledge to patients like hers at this university-affiliated clinic in inner-city Johannesburg.


"One of my experiences over the years is that when patients come in with knowledge, the amount of time you actually spend working with them can be much more focused on the problem at hand rather than a lot of education on things that would improve the problem at hand, but is not a critical issue at that time," Black said.


This is one of MAMA’s success stories. Nine-month old Damian’s mother, Natasha Ncube, started the program when she was pregnant. MAMA advised her to breastfeed exclusively, so she did -- and Damian is healthy and happy.


"Like they send messages like, you have to love your child, sing to him, massage your tummy, he can feel you, something like that," Ncube said.


She says she recommends the program to friends -- and so does Damian, in his own way.


His first word, after all, was "mama."

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs