Health Workers Use RapidSms To Save Lives In Rwanda


Not all superheroes wear capes and Spandex. In Rwanda, there are 45,000 community health workers (CHW) all of who are devoted to improving maternity health.

The health workers who are usually elected by the village committee use RapidSms to track and monitor prospective mothers and new borns. RapidSms which was initially created by the UN in 2007 is a tool set for rapidly building SMS (text message) services for data collection, streamlining complex workflows, and group coördination using basic mobile phones — and can present information on the internet as soon as it is received.

Since the CHW are not medical experts, the RapidSms allows the health workers to understand maternal health better. They act as an intermediary between the patients and medical experts. The CHW are supposed to possess basic knowledge of maternal health care and also how to read and write.

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“It was 10 pm and the baby came so quickly it was born by the roadside,” Musabyimana, a community health worker told The Guardian. “The mother-in-law cut the umbilical cord then someone arrived on a motorbike and drove the little one-off to the center.” Nine months on, both baby and 40-year-old mother are thriving.

Most of these prospective mothers are situated in areas that have difficult access to good health care. Some deliver their babies at home, without due knowledge on maternity health. This eventually leads to high mortality rate among these women as most of them bleed severely to death, and babies who are malnourished die. However, all these happened before RapidSms.

Rwanda’s health minister, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, said; “we still have unnecessary deaths but RapidSMS makes it easier for us to support pregnancy. It’s about having a tool linking people with knowledge – we bring these skills to the mother.”

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