Posted in | 31 January, 2017

Mobile Airtime delivers life-saving SMS messages for Ebola Prevention

DT One: Mobile Airtime Top-ups

Just before Christmas, I read about a breakthrough in the fight against Ebola. An experimental vaccine for Ebola was found to be highly effective. This is a major milestone for a disease that has killed 11,300 people since the first major outbreak in 2013 and good tidings for organizations like the United Methodist Church (UMC). UMC has been on the ground supporting communities in the hardest Ebola-hit areas in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Established in 1968, UMC provides aid and relief around the world especially in disease-stricken communities below the poverty line.

In response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak, UMC launched an ‘SMS for Ebola prevention’ programme to spread life-saving Ebola messages in 160 characters and less. Two daily text messages were sent, comprising of both words of hope and disease prevention information to a network of Pastors and staff to pass on to 375,000 people in their communities.

UMC’s biggest challenge was ensuring field staff were being reimbursed quickly for the prepaid mobile phones. People had to remain connected for the programme and for emergencies, but it was challenging for staff to travel long distances to purchase prepaid credit. It was almost impossible for UMC to be able to reimburse these purchases quickly due to the lack of infrastructure and the vastness of where their people were spread out. Fast reimbursements were mission-critical: staff were living in the harshest of conditions and needed the funds. 

UMC chose to work with TransferTo to distribute cross-border airtime top-ups as we had the best reach in the most remote of locations. UMC was able to centrally disburse top-ups regularly and eliminate inconvenience to their field teams and not have to figure out how to get a reimbursement to them quickly. Best of all, UMC could manage costs effectively, they could pay for actual usage and not worry about pre-purchasing airtime.

Too often in our urban lifestyles, we discount the value of a few dollars, or overlook the privileges of convenience. Changing the efficiency of something as simple as prepaid airtime top-ups can dramatically improve the lives for people in tough, rural conditions. An organization like UMC can now deploy top-ups with precision and effective cost management and help their teams help their communities.