Every year, five million babies and 289,000 mothers die from complications related to childbirth worldwide. Majority of the deaths occur in developing countries such as Ethiopia. In Ethiopia almost nine in every 10 women give birth at home with little or no medical support. It is estimated that 85% of Ethiopian babies are born at home, and the hospital is often seen as an option only when major complications arise when it is too late to save a life.
A mobile phone app, called the 'Safe Delivery App', with lifesaving guidelines will soon be launched. The app can give crucial guidelines to birth attendants, who are often traditionally educated and may lack training in up-to-date procedures that could save lives.
The app is created by the Danish development organization the Maternity Foundation. It provides simplified instructions and animated films to deal with emergency situations, be it hemorrhaging, birthing complications, resuscitating newborns or infections. The initiative is proving vital in rural areas, where the only help many mothers get is from family members or a local woman.
Described as an 'emergency training tool', the app is available in local languages and in English. And a key asset is that it can be pre installed on a mobile phone so it works even without a network connection or Internet access.
Mesfin said, "Pregnant women wait at home and if a complication occurs, like bleeding, it may be too late to access care."
In a promising trial run, testing started in 2014 in the small town of Gimbie in the Oromo region, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa. 78 mobile phones with the 'Safe Delivery App' were given to midwives attending local women.
Mesfin said, "After a year, the capacity of the app users to manage bleeding rose from 20-60%, and for new born resuscitation, from 30-70%. If all health care providers could use this app, safe delivery would increase."
The Maternity Foundation says, "The preliminary results show a remarkable improvement in the skill and knowledge level of the health workers."
Foundation chief Anna Frellsen said, "The advantage of the app over a medical book is that it is easy to understand, easy to access and easy to update. The foundation - whose motto is 'no women should die giving life' - aims to tap the sharp rise in mobile phone users in Africa, a technology, it said, that offers abundant unexplored potential to quickly reach otherwise hard to access areas. With the Safe Delivery App, we can overcome one of the biggest barriers to preventing maternal mortality: the lack of trained childbirth support. We can reach health workers that are otherwise difficult to reach. If we achieve that, we will have ensured a safer birth for approximately one million women."
The app is also being tested in Ghana and will soon be deployed in Tanzania, Guinea and elsewhere. The foundation's goal is to equip 10,000 health workers by 2017.