Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mobile Phones to Improve Health

by Mike Langa Lulanga - The Guardian Newspaper, 24th April, 2008

Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) has partnered with Celtel Malawi on an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project that will provide mobile phones to Home Based Care groups to improve health delivery services in the rural of Mangochi through the use of mobile phones.

The project is funded by Tearfund and aims at improving the quality of health care provided by the Home Based Care Volunteers in the villages and sustaining the community phone programme and offer a technology solution related to health services delivery.

Kumbukani Kuntiya ICT project Manager for EAM said the project will train about 100 HBC volunteers on how to use the mobile phones which the project will provide to them to help them communicate with their nearest health centers in their duty of caring for the sick in the villages.

Kuntiya said they noted that the home based Care Volunteers were spending a lot of time on the road going to the hospital to report on the conditions of their patients a thing which he said was time consuming.

The project which is being piloted in Mangochi and Lilongwe districts through the use of mobile technology is one way of contributing to the quality of services that health care workers and home based care volunteers provide for people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

“We want HBC volunteers to spend much of their time in the villages caring for the sick and if there is anything they want from the hospitals they can just make a phone call and speak to their medics,” said Kuntiya.

He said equipping the HBC volunteers of Malindi and Nkope with mobile communication will enable them have greater access to support and capacity to improve and increase their role in the provision of community care and support for people living with chronic illnesses being nursed in the communities.

Kuntiya said increasing communication between these volunteers and health care units and hospitals may ease patient’s access to appropriate levels of care with reduced time and travel costs. He said this is a significant project for rural Malawi where human resource shortages already caused by the AIDS epidemic greatly impact subsistence farming and related economies which has made people to be unable to spend time working in their fields if they are sick or caring for the sick family members.

Currently EAM with the help of Tearfund has trained 30 HBC volunteers from Mangochi district, one its implementing partners. The participants were trained on the usage of mobile technology that will be utilized in the project as well as business skills.

Volunteers for the training were drawn from areas surrounding areas in Malindi and Nkope health facilities and were trained in basic HBC care services as well as use of the phones for generating income at community level for HBC services as well as sustaining the project.

Kuntiya said Celtel is proving free training and will assist in monitoring the phones and has pledged to donate additional mobile handsets. He said Celtel is more than a commercial partner in the project as they are not looking at making profits out of the project but as a social responsibility to see what they can do in fighting HIV and AIDS.

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