For years Rwanda has been known for a high infant mortality rate, but for the past seven years- things have taken a turn in the country thanks to its UNICEF-supported Rapid SMS systems which has been designed to support maternal, neonatal and new-born lives.
This innovative messaging system was launched by the country’s Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, in an effort to reduce child and maternal mortality rates.
Rapid SMS provides a platform for volunteer health-workers to track pregnancies, report on any danger signs during the 9 months and to subscribe emergency alerts to ensure that women can access emergency obstetric care should any complications occur.
The initiative has provided thousands of health-workers with mobile phones to keep track of pregnancy and to respond to pregnancy-related complications, ensuring that expectant mothers receive the best care, particularly those living in remote areas.
The system has helped save thousands of lives including those of women and new-born babies. It has created an effective communication channel between pregnant women and the health-workers themselves. Because of Rapid SMS, more women are now delivering at health clinics instead of delivering babies in their homes without proper care.
According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2014/2015, infant mortality dropped to 35 per 1,000 live births in 2014/2015, down from 50 per 1,000 live births in 2010.
Although there are still challenges with the system, this lifesaving initiative is saving lives in rural Rwanda and for that, we applaud the Ministry of Health in Rwanda and UNICEF for coming together to turn the stats around.