Cameroon: Rural woman uses mobile app to get information on maternal health

January 11, 2016
A translation for this article is available in French

Esther Djuidjeu is a 35-year-old farmer and mother of four. She lives in Bokito, a town in Cameroon’s Centre Region. While she plays with her 5-month-old baby, she receives a text message on her phone. The message reads, “Breastfeeding is the best food you can give your baby. In a few weeks, the baby can start trying other foods and water.” After reading the message, she says, “It’s the people from Gifted Mom! They send me such messages about once or twice a week.”

A doctor from the hospital in her village recommended Gifted Mom to Mrs. Djuidjeu during her last pregnancy. She subscribed by sending the text message “Subscribe MOM” to a phone number. After she shared some personal data, the app registered her, and she began to receive messages.

Mrs. Djuidjeu explains: “At first, the messages were related to my pregnancy, and I really learned a lot. For example, I didn’t know that the tetanus vaccine is free for pregnant women in Cameroon. During my previous pregnancies, I did not get the vaccine because I had no money.”

The World Health Organization’s standards for maternal and neonatal care state that all women and their babies should be protected against tetanus. If a mother does not receive the correct number of doses of the tetanus vaccine, neither she nor her newborn infant are protected against tetanus at delivery.

Alain Nteff is a 23-year-old computer engineer. He and his lifelong friend Tankou Conrad, a 25-year-old doctor, are the masterminds behind Gifted Mom. Mr. Nteff says he got the idea for the app while visiting his friend in a field hospital. He explains, “I realized that many women and children die from causes that could have been prevented if the women had gone to the hospital, or had received good advice.”

Mr. Nteff says the app isn’t designed to replace a visit to the doctor. On the contrary, he says: “I wanted to create an application that encourages women, especially women in rural areas who do not have easy access to information, to go to hospitals [to get the medical care they need].”

Belong Abel is a doctor at Bokito Hospital. He says that the number of prenatal consultations increased significantly after the hospital started encouraging pregnant women to use the application. Dr. Abel says: “We are in a rural area where the main activity is agriculture. Very often, women forget the dates of prenatal consultations. Or they don’t go to the hospital because they think that they have to pay to receive care. The application overcomes this problem. ”

As for Esther Djuidjeu, she is happy with the free app. She says: “My pregnancy was better and my baby is less sickly than her three older siblings. For example, she is [the only one of my children] that I exclusively breastfed.”

Photo credit: Anne Mireille Nzouankeu