Posted in | 17 October, 2016

Mobile airtime helps ‘Zero Mothers Die’  

DT One: Mobile Airtime

I first heard of Zero Mothers Die from Pakistan when we were contacted to help the organisation distribute airtime to the women it supported. Pakistan, according to a Save the Children report, was shockingly low in its Mothers Mortality Rate, ranking 149 out of 179 countries. These statistics are particularly disturbing when you compare it to a top-ranked, developed country like Norway, where the chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is about 1 in 15,000 versus 1 in 18 in Somalia, the lowest ranked country in the report. 

Zero Mothers Die was launched in 2014 as a global project to combat high maternal and child mortality rates. According to the World Health Organisation, 99% of all pregnant woman deaths occur in emerging countries. That’s 99% of 800 women who die every day from complications in their pregnancy or childbirth. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if only these vulnerable women had access to healthcare and information.  

The idea was to equip vulnerable pregnant women with phones. With these phones, vulnerable women across different countries would receive text or voice messages, in their own language, sharing pregnancy, healthcare and childbirth information. Most importantly, the women were receiving free airtime, which would allow them to make calls to seek advice or seek help. 

Free airtime gave women control. It turned them from being silent receivers and beneficiaries to active participants, making decisions on their own health and wellbeing. With airtime, they could contact emergency health phone numbers, stay in touch with local healthcare professionals and be empowered to protect themselves and their unborn child. 

Via partners such as Airtel, 36 million minutes of free airtime were allocated each year to the project, which was effectively a distribution of 30 minutes per woman per month in the programme. Zero Mothers Die was first launched in Ghana in 2014, and has since been expanded to several other African countries and across continents. 

Mobile phones and airtime are helping save lives of vulnerable women. According to a GSMA survey on women and global opportunity, women benefit from having phones that let them lead more secure, connected and productive lives. Nine in ten women said they felt safer and more connected because of their mobile phone. With technology to transform lives, mobile and airtime is driving economic empowerment of women in emerging countries around the world.

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