FamilyConnect: a healthier baby for Nazima in Uganda

UNICEF innovations for good health

By Joachim Buwembo
UNICEF innovations for health
UNICEF Uganda/2017/Adriko

14 May 2018

Nazima Nakisuyi, a 31-year-old mother of five in Bukobooli Village, Uganda, is sure of one thing: thanks to FamilyConnect, her 3-month-old baby girl is far healthier than any of her five other children before. FamilyConnect is UNICEF’s innovative messaging platform that guides mothers on how to best look after their babies and themselves.

Nazima signed up to FamilyConnect before delivery and received regular SMS messages that would both monitor her health and remind her to visit health centres for check-ups.

Because of the reminder, I reported to hospital in time and had a safe delivery. I even received a message congratulating me on my baby!

she says while holding 3-month-old Haithala

It was a little message that meant a lot to her and brought her even closer to the innovative platform.

From that moment, FamilyConnect become her indispensable guide to caring for her newborn baby.

Messages encouraged me to breastfeed. They also told me that the first yellowish milk is very good for the baby as it strengthens her to fight off diseases.

Nazima continues

Thanks to UNICEF’s innovative platform, the biggest change that came about in Nazima’s life was to break away from the habit of self-medication for her children. For years, whenever her children were sick, Nazima would simply buy any medicine she could afford, no matter what it was.

“In the past whenever my children were unwell, I would go to the shop and ask for medicine for 500 shillings, that is what I could usually afford,” she said. “But at times when I was really broke I would ask for medicine worth 300 shillings. It was only when the child remained sick that I would go to the health centre.”

FamilyConnect broke this common habit by simply sending messages to remind Nazima to visit her health centre when required. “I was advised not to give any treatment to my baby and always consult the health workers,” she said. “I always treated my children and myself but now I cannot dare.”

Reaching the most disadvantaged
Nazima’s story isn’t uncommon in remotes parts of Uganda. Having dropped out of school early, she gave birth to her first child at 15. She had no education or training on how to care for her children and little way of accessing such information.

Thanks to FamilyConnect, however, things are changing. FamilyConnect is a mobile phone-based system that sends key messages via SMS to pregnant women and new mothers on actions they should take to ensure the health of both themselves and their babies in the critical first thousand days of life (from conception to age two). It also sends SMS’ to health workers on key follow-up actions they should provide to new mothers.

This means potentially lifesaving messages can reach mother and health workers even in the most remote parts of the country. Women likes Nazima are registered as early as possible before or after giving birth with the help of a village health team member who can guide them through the process.

And the results have been clear for Nazima.

Baby Haithala has never fallen sick. I am determined to keep her healthier than all her elder siblings. She will breastfeed for as long as possible and must always sleep under a mosquito net.

said Nazima proudly

For mother like Nazima, FamilyConnect’s innovative, tailored solution is making a real difference for children throughout Uganda.