Bangladesh has made a commendable success in reducing maternal and child death. The country is almost on right track reaching the targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Use of mobile technology is one of the innovative and important components behind the success of reduction of maternal and child deaths. With the mobile revolution in Bangladesh, its use in saving mothers and newborns has now set a model for the whole world.
It was proven over the years that there is no alternative to reach every household preferably by trained professionals to reduce unnecessary deaths. However, it has been a challenging job due to fewer numbers of community workers to cover the whole region and lack of motivation. In this context, wider usage of mobile phone showed advantage to overcome the barriers and served as the best tool to spread information and awareness with minimum cost.
Aponjon mHealth service in Bangladesh has been doing the job to create mass awareness through mobile technology with voice and text messages to promote behavioural change among the expecting families. The approach covers a larger segment of the country by using both popular media and engages community workers. This is a new and interesting phenomenon. One of the leading social enterprises of the country, D.Net is implementing the service with the assistance of USAID as a part of the programme agreement with the Government of Bangladesh. The service is also a part of a global initiative directed towards maternal and child health, named Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action or MAMA, which was inaugurated by US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The service is available through a common number 16227 from any mobile phone. Apart from voice and text, people have the option to receive a phone call containing message at a chosen time specially for those who have limited knowledge on mobile phone.
Aponjon incorporated a number of other innovations to make it user friendly and pro-poor. Such design also catalysed innovation in technology platform. For example, the cost is very minimum; at least 20% of the total subscribers will receive the service free of charge. However, the average ability to pay was far below the break-even level price, when cost and income are equal. Apart from finding funding from the local sources, Johnson and Johnson, the global partner of MAMA also provides financial support to fill the gap.
Amid success, one mother still dies from pregnancy related complications at every hour and 12 infants die who have not yet reached the age of 1 month. But we have the scope to do better, to change the tragic scenario into joyful event. Only a concerted effort and some innovative solutions like mobile technology can change the trajectory of the millions of mother and children.