Mobile tech saves lives in Africa


Childhood vaccination levels in sub-Saharan Africa boosted with mobile support from Vodafone

Vodafone has announced two partnerships that will use mobile technology to increase childhood vaccination levels in sub-Saharan Africa. This will support the global goal to vaccinate an additional quarter of a billion children and avert four million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2015.

The World Health Organisation has identified vaccinations as the single most cost effective public health intervention after the provision of clean water supplies. However, more than one million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases and 22 million children worldwide remain unimmunised.

With access to mobile phones rapidly rising in the developing world, a significant opportunity exists for mobile technology to help healthcare providers save hundreds of thousands of children's lives by increasing the take up of vaccinations. Effective methods include alerting mothers to the availability of vaccinations by text message, enabling health workers to access health records and schedule appointments through their phones and helping health facilities in remote locations monitor stocks to ensure that vaccinations are available when mothers and children arrive.

Vodafone has therefore formed a strategic partnership with the GAVI Alliance, which, supported by the UK Government, helps 73 of the world's poorest countries to obtain new and underused vaccines and strengthen their health system infrastructure; and a development partnership with global healthcare provider GSK, supported by Save the Children and commencing with a one year pilot with the Mozambique Ministry of Health (MMOH).

Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, said: 'Vodafone is committed to investing in mobile technologies that can transform healthcare in both developed and emerging markets. These partnerships have the potential to save millions of children's lives in some of the world's poorest countries and we are delighted to support this critically important endeavour.'

The three year partnership between Vodafone and GAVI will explore how health ministries in GAVI-supported countries in sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology solutions to improve their immunisation programmes.

The Vodafone-GAVI partnership is the first private sector in-kind contribution through the GAVI Matching Fund, under which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government have agreed to match private sector contributions to GAVI. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) will match Vodafone's contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI. The fund has raised $52.4 million to date and aims to raise $260 million for immunisation by the end of 2015.

Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, commented: 'GAVI works in some of the most difficult to reach areas of the world. We're committed to identifying viable innovations that can sustainably address the challenges we face in providing life-saving vaccines to all children, no matter where they live. Cutting-edge mobile technology has the potential to help us overcome some of our most difficult challenges in gauging stock levels, ensuring vaccines are stored safely and letting parents know when their children are due for a vaccine.'

The Vodafone and GSK partnership will establish the effectiveness of mobile technology in increasing vaccination coverage by 5% to 10% and will commence with a pilot in Mozambique. Save the Children will look to include its health sites in the pilot and will collaborate with Vodafone, GSK and the MMOH on training health workers and supporting the development and testing of the mobile solution.

Vodafone's role will include developing the technology, providing handsets to health workers and integrating the solution into the MMOH's health IT infrastructure. GSK's role will include providing industry expertise and evaluation advice. If successful, the pilot will form a basis on which to commercially scale the technology to 1,500 clinics across Mozambique and for Vodafone and GSK to extend their partnership to other developing countries.

Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, said: 'Innovative technologies – whether mobile devices, medicines or vaccines – are helping to transform global health. This new partnership combines GSK's expertise, knowledge and resources with those of Vodafone to help deliver life-saving vaccines to tens of thousands more children in Mozambique. Our hope is that we will create a sustainable and scalable model which could ultimately be replicated to help improve people's health and well-being across developing countries.'

Both partnerships will draw on Vodafone's experience of developing commercial mobile health solutions in other countries. 5,000 clinics across Tanzania use Vodafone's mobile stock management service to track malaria treatments and more than 1,800 remote community healthcare workers in South Africa are using a mobile solution to access and update patient records.

Concluding, Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: 'This innovative pilot programme combining the power of Vodafone, GSK and Save the Children in Mozambique could help ensure the hardest to reach children get vital vaccinations, saving many lives.  Immunising children has been a huge success in helping reduce child deaths in recent years but we know the children in remote areas are missing out, with 22 million around the world being left behind.  Mobile technology, in the hands of front line health workers, could help close the gap.'


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