Helping to address maternal mortality in Africa

Freedom Fone trainers have been in Nairobi this month to assist with the first deployment of the platform for a reproductive health hotline.

Thanks to support from Women on Web / Women on Waves, reproductive health activists from Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya were able to use the opportunity to gather in the east African city to learn how to use the Freedom Fone software and discuss its potential as a channel for sharing information with mobile phone users.

Nairobi training for reproductive health activists

The IVR service, called Aunty Jane Hotline, will provide Kenyan women with a wealth of information in English and Swahili. Topics focus primarily on safe pregnancy information and cover the various options available to women: Preventing postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) after delivery, contraception and addressing unwanted pregnancy.

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is the single largest cause of maternal mortality worldwide, accounting for nearly one-quarter of maternal deaths. Effectively preventing and treating PPH is especially difficult in areas where most births occur in homes or local clinics and access to emergency services, obstetric care, and surgery is limited. In Kenya, one in 38 women dies from pregnancy-related causes. There are 530 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births annually.

Unsafe abortion rates are amongst the highest in the world in Kenya. Behind nearly every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. According to a Guttmacher Institute fact sheet entitled Abortion and Unintended Pregnancy in Kenya, an estimated 2.4 million unsafe abortions were performed in east Africa in 2008. In east Africa 13,000 women die every year from unsafe abortion. Unmet needs for contraception and the stigma associated with abortion contribute greatly to these statistics. According to 2008-2009 data, more than 40% of births in Kenya are unplanned.

Advertising the Aunty Jane Hotline numbers

In an effort to address these grim statistics, the Aunty Jane Hotline provides information on contraception alternatives, adoption options and safe abortion using Misoprostol. Voicemail and SMS features will be used to receive feedback and respond to requests for assistance.

After the training, everyone went on a field trip to one of Nairobi's high density suburbs to visit the local organisation hosting the hotline and to assist with the setup of the equipment.

Freedom Fone setup

How you can assist
Lack of funding means that the hotline will kick off in Kenya with a single phone line. If you'd like to contribute to the costs associated with adding additional phone lines, please write to info [at] freedomfone [dot] org.

More comprehensive training and equipment is needed to set up similar initiatives in Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania. If you'd like to support these initiatives, please write to the email address above.