Dr Farouk Jega remembers his training at a major Nigerian maternity hospital. “On the backs of trucks, women arrived in absolute crisis, having suffered extreme complications giving birth alone at home. Others had it even worse. Weak and bleeding, they travelled for hours on rickshaws, pulled by mules and camels, to reach a doctor who could save their lives.”
Every day, over 800 women
die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries. While the maternal mortality rate has dropped in recent years – globally, mothers are 42% less likely to die from complications during pregnancy than in 1995 - there are parts of the world where the figures remain obstinately high, like in Nigeria which alone accounts for
around 14% of the world’s maternal deaths every year.
Angered by seeing mothers needlessly die in labour, Dr Jega joined Pathfinder International
, an international development organisation spearheading the use of mobile phone technology to save women’s lives in countries where being pregnant stands a high risk of killing them. In the developing world, somewhere between
80 and 90% of people have access to a mobile phone. Pathfinder is using that knowledge to better look after pregnant women, and challenge the misconceptions over what is a normal birth.
“People are ignorant, they’ll say voodoo is to blame for women bleeding or sepsis,” said Dr Jega of some of the challenges in Nigeria. Here, 150 community health workers and midwives have been trained to use an app called Commcare, which allows them to track the health of their mums-to-be and tailor health services to them. Texts are sent to women telling them when their next appointment is, and the health worker can see if they attended and what happened.