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Vodafone creates ‘ambulance taxi’ service to reduce maternal mortality rates in African nation

The Vodafone Foundation has created an 'ambulance taxi' service specifically designed to combat and reduce maternal mortality rates in Africa. The service which has been described as a 'first of its kind' has been deployed in two Tanzanian districts. The project in Tanzania has been a phenomenal success and has saved the lives of high-risk pregnant women by reducing the maternal mortality rates by 27% on the first year of its inception.

A report compiled by Touch Foundation which was entitled 'Mobilizing Maternal Health' disclosed that the service with its fleet of taxis and toll-free emergency contact line had transported 2,887 high-risk pregnant women in the districts of Sengerema and Shinyanga, both of whom are currently served by poor road infrastructure and inadequate health services. It is the equivalent of almost three times the number of emergencies transported prior to the launch of the service in 2015.

Prior to The Vodafone Foundation deploying this unique service, many women located in rural and remote communities in the Tanzanian districts of Sengerema and Shinyanga were either not surviving pregnancies or losing their babies as there were simply no means of transporting them to hospitals. Research into the first 12 months of the program has established that the lives of 57 women had been saved.

An emergency line set-up in Tanzania - which is the equivalent of 999 in the UK and 911 in the US -contains a network of more than 100 taxi drivers who respond to emergency calls, and in some cases take pregnant women on three hour journeys to the nearest hospital. Once the woman arrives at the hospital the drivers are paid at no cost to the women. The driver receives reimbursement via Vodafone's mobile payment service M-Pesa.

Incredibly, despite a population of almost two million combined in both districts - there are just 10 ambulances tasked with serving not only a populated region, but also an expansive area. The report concludes that the service has the potential to be scaled nationally - and has urged the government to look at the success of this program in these two districts in order to implement it nationwide.

In addition to this 'ambulance taxi' service, a mobile application has been developed with the aim of assisting community health workers to manage more than 10,000 women and helps them identify those who are more at risk than other. Tanzania has one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates - and they were 11,500 maternal deaths in 2015.

A mobile application has also been developed for the community health workers, which helps them to manage more than 10,000 pregnant women and identifies those who are high risk cases. Tanzania is aiming to reduce maternal mortality ratio to 292 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2020.

Vodafone Foundation Director Andrew Dunnett, said: "This pioneering service has provided much-needed emergency care for thousands of high risk pregnant women and shows the power of mobile and Vodafone's M-Pesa to impact health systems. The report shows the ambulance taxi program is a highly efficient and cost effective solution for countries with low income, high maternal mortality and limited transport to treatment.  Government and aid agencies should be directing their resources to explore a further roll-out of this platform."

McKinsey & Company Senior Partner and Touch Foundation Board member Ishaan Seth, said: "This innovative emergency transport system is saving the lives of newborns and women in Tanzania.  This report explains how. Through a rigorous analysis of the program, the report validates the emergency transport solution first and foremost as an immediate life-saving intervention, but also a cost-effective 'quick-win.'"