Celebrate Solutions: Harnessing mHealth for Healthy Pregnancies in Tanzania

By Emily Mello, Women Deliver

In 2008, the Government of Tanzania recorded 45,000 newborn and 13,000 maternal deaths.  Recognizing the importance of spreading health messages to new and expectant mothers, the government began a nationwide healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood campaign: Wazazi Nipendeni, or “Parents Love Me” in Swahili. The campaign has harnessed mobile technology to reach women and male supporters, including those in Tanzania’s most remote corners.

The campaign recently hit an important milestone. As of October 13, 2015, Wazazi Nipendeni has 1 million registrations to its text messaging service. In total, 55 million free text messages have been sent to Tanzanians since the project began in 2012.

Wazazi Nipendeni provides new and expectant mothers with healthy pregnancy information and appointment reminders via free text messages in Swahili. Those interested in receiving the service receive instructional messages when registering for the service and indicate the woman’s current week or month of pregnancy, or the age of the newborn baby.  This allows the registrant to receive text messages with the most relevant health information.

The messages cover a host of topics, including “prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, antenatal care, family planning, malaria prevention, nutrition (for mother and baby), danger signs, individual birth plans, postpartum care and entertaining information such as fetal development milestones” says Sarah Emerson, country manager of the mHealth Tanzania Public Private Parntership, CDC Foundation. 

Mobile phone technology has proven to be a particularly potent tool in Tanzania. The country has more than 25 million mobile phone subscribers and the highest rate of text messages sent per month in East Africa, making SMS an effective method for reaching mothers in remote areas.

As Emerson explained, the campaign is “reaching these hard to reach populations by providing informative text messages and appointment reminders in Swahili at no charge for pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies up to 16 weeks of age, as well as to supporters (husband, friends and family) and information seekers.”

Lending to Wazazi Nipendeni’s strength is its multi-sector network of partners, collectively the mHealth Tanzania Public-Private Partnership. Combining the expertise and resources of multiple private sector companies, health organizations, and Tanzanian governmental departments, the Partnership has supported Wazazi Nipendeni in reaching early and expectant mothers across Tanzania.

To learn more about Wazazi Nipendeni please click here

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