News / Africa

Used Mobile Phone Campaign Improves Maternal Health

Mariama Diallo

The daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and a former model helped to kick off a campaign in Washington Tuesday to collect 20,000 used mobile phones.  The aim is to improve maternal and child health in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal. 

They came out in big numbers to drop off their used mobile telephones to help improve conditions for pregnant women half a world away.  For former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, the idea echoes the motto of her father's foundation - the Clinton Global Initiative.

“Everyone who wants to make a difference can and should," Clinton said. "The burden in how to turn good intentions into real action shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge.”

And easy it was - basically, register a donation and drop a phone into a bucket.

Tracy Cunningham says she gets a new phone every two years. “They were just sitting in a box, so I wanted to do something good with them,” she said.

Celeste Bagley says the donations are for a good cause. “It’s a way to build telecommunications capabilities in developing countries," she noted, "and I think it’s a great thing to do.”

Proceeds from the mobile phone collection drive will be used to fund mobile health technology in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal.

These mothers at the Kikula Health Center in the DRC are celebrating new life in a country that has one of the worst child mortality rates in the world.  

Former model Christy Turlington Burns is the founder of Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization group that supports maternal and child health.  She says this was a great opportunity for her to participate.

“We found that in all the different things we threw out there, people could rally around cell phone drives.  It’s something that everyone could do," Burns said. "People got and understood the value of being linked to a facility in an emergency situation.”

Tierney O’Dea is the campaign manager for Hope Phones, one of the sponsors of the phone collection drive.  She explains her group's connection to a recycling partner. “If you send them an iPhone, they’ll pay us a $100 for that iPhone and they’ll resell it.  Even with old phones, we get $2 or $3 for it; they recycled those responsibly. We use those funds to buy new appropriate phones for the field that has our software on them and make them into medical communications devices,” she explained.

For Kathy Calvin from the United Nations Foundation, the message is simple. "If you can help save a woman and give her a chance to have a healthy baby by simply donating a phone, that's a powerful opportunity for you to engage and connect with someone else," she said.

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