Putting the power of health in every MAMA’s hand

MAMA mainly operates best in regions where maternal-related mortality rates are high as well as mobile user rates. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action is an international service provides health messaging through mobile phones. As the company celebrates its second anniversary, the launch of MAMA South Africa is the first step in introducing the service to the African continent.

So far the program is stationed in Bangladesh, India and now South Africa. For now in South Africa, mothers can go to the askmama.mobi website, phone in every Monday for weekly tips or partake in a USSD-based interactive quiz service. The South African service has also been adaptive as portals has been added to the popular mobile chat service, Mxit and includes voice services for mothers with low literacy. The program wants to pull-off a nation-wide service that will consist of a weekly SMS reminder from 5 weeks pregnant until the child is one year old. Information includes what types of food to eat and reminders of when to visit the clinic for example.

India and Nigeria has the highest ratings in child mortality. In South Africa, one out of 140 women die because of maternal causes. The most dangerous day of a South African’s life is his/ her first. This is because 37 percent of new-born babies don’t make it pass day one according to Save the Children.

South Africa has mobile penetration of 118 percent, meaning that keeping rural uneducated communities informed is made much easier. The power of the mobile phone acts as a bridge of information between those in-the-know and those who needs to be. MAMA though formed a partnership with the Vodacom Foundation where the service could be accessed via Vodafone Live reaching “over 30.6 million Vodacom customers.” Other local partnerships to increase market penetration include Praekelt Foundation, Cell-Life, WRHI and Vodacom Foundation.

Data costs in South Africa are still extremely high and therefore will stall the roll-out of MAMA’s total ambition. The organization is still very young in Africa and will surely enhance its engagement strategies in the near future.

What makes the organization’s strategy interesting is the fact that its services are free, and can by used by any third party that can “adapt the content according to the cultural norms and traditions in its country or region.” For example the Liga Inan (“Mobile Moms”) project in Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia translates the free messages provided by MAMA to address the needs of rural women.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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