Lamu: Where phone notifies you of birth dates and polio jabs

Lamu locals in celebrations aboard their dhows during the 132nd Maulid Celebration. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Women in Lamu County have adopted mobile phone technology in maternal, newborn, and child health programmes.  

In the programme launched in 2018, some 500 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) were trained and equipped with smartphones to monitor the health of pregnant women.

The mobile phone notifies the CHVs when pregnant women within their cluster are due and they accompany them for skilled delivery at the hospital. They also get a notification for when the six childhood immunisations are due and the follow-up reports are shared with various health facilities.

Joe Ogutu, the Chairman of Safaricom Foundation, which launched the Sh42 million programme in partnership with the county government of Lamu and PharmAccess, said it has improved access to maternal health and eased the referral system.

The programme has so far benefitted more than 33,000 pregnant women and led to over 2,400 referrals and over 12,000 skilled deliveries, which Ogutu says reduced the risk of maternal and infant mortalities.

“The maternal, neonatal, and child health programme reduced the delay in access to care by linking up over 11,900 women in hard-to-reach areas, representing a 60 per cent reduction in distances covered,” said Ogutu.

Community outreach programmes were also initiated to sensitise women on the importance of hospital delivery and child health.

Additionally, 161 health workers were employed, improving service delivery at respective hospitals within the county.

“Mothers die when they fail to get quality services on time, but working hand in hand with community health volunteer’s alert health providers that they should expect a pregnant mother for delivery," said Ogutu.

"Once the health providers have been alerted, they prepare to provide the best service possible to mother, and if not able to, link them to the nearest facility. This has saved lives.”

Ogutu said the programme has met its set goals.

The programme initiated the construction of four hospitals that currently offer deliveries and access to maternal health, including child immunisation services.

As part of the programme, Mpeketoni Sub-county Hospital, Witu Referral Hospital, King Fahad Referral Hospital, Faza Sub-county Hospital and a boat ambulance serving over 150,000 people were improved to bridge the gap in access to healthcare in Lamu and surrounding islands.

Ambulances are also fully equipped to offer emergency healthcare in Lamu, one among 15 counties in Kenya that account for more than 60 per cent of maternal, newborn and child deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.

The maternal mortality ratio in Lamu stands at 676 for every 100,000 lives, against 355 nationally, according to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014.

The newborn death rate in the county is 45 out of every 1,000 live births, against 22 nationally, while infant mortality rate is 76 per 1,000 as compared to 39 nationally.

The county also records 106 under-five mortality for every 1,000, compared to 76 nationally.

Alongside maternal and child health, child immunisation has increased by four per cent, through which immunity of children has improved, reducing cases of infant mortality.

“Community health volunteers walk door to door to ensure every child gets jabs at the right age,” said Ogutu.