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Equity Case Study from Zambia - Project Mwana: Using Mobile Phones to Improve Health Care

Zambia - Project Mwana: Using mobile phones to improve early infant HIV diagnostic services, post-natal follow-up and care

Long delays averaging 6.2 weeks for infant human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test results pose a significant barrier to mothers and families seeking equitable access to early infant initiation of antiretroviral therapy, especially in rural settings in Zambia. Such delays contribute to loss of follow-up and possible death of 30 per cent of affected children if no interventions are provided. Project Mwana, a mobile health (mHealth) initiative implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from UNICEF and collaborating partners, Boston University affiliate The Zambia Centre for Applied Heath Research and Development (ZCHARD) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), aims to reduce this delay and improve children’s chances for a healthy life.

Project Mwana focuses on finding appropriate, scalable and impactful ways through which mobile technologies can strengthen health services for mothers and infants in rural health clinics. The technology utilizes RapidSMS, a free and open-source framework for building mobile applications for dynamic data collection, logistics coordination and communication, leveraging basic short message service (SMS) mobile phone technology. Project Mwana went live on the 14 June 2010, and to date it has relayed more than 3,000 infant HIV test results with reduced turnaround times of around 50 per cent, having a great positive impact on rural facilities.

Since the project’s inception, UNICEF has provided the MoH with the strategic vision and support necessary to develop the software, outfit some of the hardware technology and make available additional human resources to strengthen capacity for software and hardware management. As the project scales up, UNICEF will continue to provide support in these areas, including capacity development at national and district levels. In 2010, Project Mwana was piloted in 31 clinics within six provinces across Zambia, and it is currently beginning a national expansion.



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