News / Africa

Cell Phone Text Technology Helps Promote Health in Senegal

Kids from nearby villages gather at the Mbosse health clinic to watch a play on malaria prevention
Kids from nearby villages gather at the Mbosse health clinic to watch a play on malaria prevention
Amanda Fortier

A pilot project in rural Senegal uses text messaging to remind women of upcoming doctor’s appointments and local health meetings.  

Health reminders

The sound of a text message, recognizable the world over, but in a small village tucked away down the sandy back-roads of Senegal, a few short beeps can be vital reminders.  For mothers living in and around the Mbosse, receiving an SMS (cellphone small message service, text) from their doctor’s helps keep themselves, and their babies, alive and healthy.

At the Mbosse health clinic, a hundred kilometers northeast of Dakar, villagers are gathered from more than a dozen nearby communities.  On one side of the courtyard are the men. They sit on white plastic chairs in the sand and under the shade of sprawling tents.  Off to the side, three young kids put on face paint and costumes in preparation for a skit on malaria prevention.

Next to them, on colorful woven mats, is a group of mothers.  They balance babies on their laps and spoon-feed a grainy mixture of dried fish, millet, tomato and peanuts into their tiny mouths.  In a corner, four young women sit around a board game called "safe motherhood" in the local Wolof language.  A young woman called Ndeye picks up a card from the deck.  It is a picture of a pregnant woman carrying a large bag on her head.

Ndeye says this card means that a woman who is pregnant should not be carrying heavy weight.  It is a risk.  It can be bad for her and bad for the baby.

Empowering families

It is all part of a five-year health plan funded by USAID to helping improve family health in rural Senegal.  150 women were given cell phones to keep them informed of upcoming doctor’s appointments -- before, during and after pregnancy -- to remind them of vital immunizations for their babies and to invite them to different health talks at the Mbosse health clinic.

Deguène Fall is in charge of the community health programs for Plan International in Thiès, one of five nongovernmental organizations collaborating on the SMS program.

Fall says it has been an excellent project for areas where women have difficulty in accessing health clinics -- either financially or geographically.  

Fall says that, before the cell phone project started, women only learned about health matters through discussions.  But many felt there was too much talking and got bored.  Fall says, when they came for their pre-natal consultations, doctors would write their next appointment down, but most of these women are illiterate.  Even with immunizations, they would forget because they were out working in the field or too busy helping in the house.  Fall says that now that they receive direct messages they do not usually forget.

Fatou Tine is a 25-year-old mother of four.  She joined the text message program a year ago during her last pregnancy, but continues to attend meetings on other health topics, such as diarrhea, malaria prevention, HIV and family planning. Fatou is illiterate and so is her husband.

Tine says the project has been useful for her because her last pregnancy was a lot easier than the three before.  Two days before every doctor’s appointment she got a text message.  But, because she cannot read, the person she lives with helped her.  Tine says that, in total, she received three messages during her pregnancy and four messages after to remind her about getting her baby vaccinated.

Health-care workers at the Mbosse clinic estimate about 95 percent of the women who receive texts do show up for their appointments.  And, many also join in the regular health meetings, bringing their friends or husbands along.

Program helps to keep health cost down

The costs of visits range from about 20 cents for a child and 65 cents for an adult.  Food and nutritional advice is 30 cents and medication is free.  Although these prices are subsidized by the state, it can still be a lot in an area where a single visit to the doctor can mean half a day’s income.

The African Child Policy Fund ranks Senegal 13th in health expenditure, below Burkina Faso and Chad but well above Ghana.  The Senegalese government spends slightly more than 12 percent of its annual budget on health.  That is more than richer countries, such as South Africa, Morocco or Egypt, but still falls short of targets, set by African leaders to spend 15 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) on health before 2015.

David Mugawe, an executive director of the African Child Policy Fund, says traditional means of communication are being sidelined.  Media is playing a big part in creating awareness and passing on information at a low cost.  Mothers can share experiences and learn from each other.

Mugawe says fathers are also being targeted because they make many of the decisions at home.  He says they are the breadwinners and have access to resources, so they need to be supportive of the mother by going to health centers with them, supporting the well-being of their children.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid