Innovate for children

Community health workers are now using SMS reporting system to improve the integrated management of childhood illness at community level in Niger

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro
Innovate for children
UNICEF Niger/2019/Binta Saley Souley

26 March 2019

TAHOUA (Niger), 26 March 2019 - The Ministry of Public Health, with the support of UNICEF, officially launched the "m-Health" initiative in the Tahoua region, in central Niger. M-Health is an innovative application that integrates mobile phone to the health systems to accelerate efforts in the management of childhood illnesses at the community level. 

142 health and community workers, including members of health district management team, were trained on the use of this innovative technology.

"m-Health will enable community health workers to collect and transmit real-time data to health centers through mobile phone and will help address issues such as the lack of available, quality data on case management and the frequent shortage of health supply", said Dr. Félicité Tchibindat, UNICEF Representative in Niger.

In Niger, the pilot phase of the m-Health initiative will cover approximately 165 remote villages - situated far from health facilities and will reach a total of 80,000 children under five years of age in the Tahoua region.

Countries like Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Burkina Faso have already implemented this initiative with encouraging results in terms of stock availability, data transmission, collection and analysis – just a few weeks after its implementation.

"Only one in two people have access to basic health services in Niger. Because most child deaths occur at home, before reaching health facilities, preventing fatalities by improving child health through community health workers is crucial,” said Dr. Tchibindat. 

“Links between the service providers and families at household levels is essential in order to ensure that children and families receive appropriate preventive and curative care they need”

Innovate for children
UNICEF Niger/2019/Binta Saley Souley

In 2018, through the Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness approach, community health workers have managed to treat more than 97,000 cases of malaria, nearly 100,000 cases of diarrhea and nearly 100,000 cases of pneumonia nationally. Introduced in Niger since 2013, the country has scaled-up the approach with UNICEF support. It covers now a total of 28 districts. 

Despite recent progress, lack of quality data and frequent shortage of health supply remain one of the main bottleneck this approach continues to face. The use of m-Health has been selected by the Ministry of Public Health as one of the key solutions to accelerate progress in this framework. 

In Niger, children are less likely to die from preventable diseases than in the past. The child mortality rate significantly decreased over the past decade from 109 to 85 live births between 2012 and 2017.