Mali’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. They’re 196 per thousand people and 464 per hundred thousand live births. On average eight women die every day from pregnancy complications. Part of the Ministry of Health’s response is the use of mobile phones to reinforce the health system in favor of the mother and child unit and to improve the National Health System generally.
The development of Mali’s communications sector has helped to provide a platform for support. Mobile customers increased 14-fold between 2005 and 2011, reaching more than 69%, million by the end of 2011. Mali went from 12th out of 14 countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) to 8th, and from 41st in Sub-Saharan Africa to 28th.
Today, we tweet, we send SMSs, and we are on Facebook. We experience the indisputable advent of social media in our daily lives, and international experience shows that ICTs, especially mHealth, can help countries’ harmonious development.
This is why Mali’s Ministry of Health, through the Telehealth and Medical Informatics National Agency, deployed a mobile fleet infrastructure of more than six hundred mobile phones, available to health workers in the periphery to support health services. Projects include Pesinet, for malaria, MédiMobile, and other pilot projects.
The projects include monitoring the health of children below the age of 5 and better information sharing on maternal and child deaths. Between January 2012 and March 2013, 11 maternal deaths and 162 child deaths were reported, 73% of these at home, and 27% in health facilities. Over 24,000 cases of malaria in pregnant women were reported, with 670 deaths: 522 children below the age of 5, 145 children over 5 years of age, and 3 pregnant women.
There is a significant improvement of about 91% in data accuracy and completeness compared to data from the National Health Information System that has an equivalent rate of about 40% and doesn’t use mHealth yet.
Mali’s Ministry of Health is keen to extend these positive results and is a key partner in the joint WHO-ITU project on the use of mHealth for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD). Diseases like diabetes, breast or cervical cancer, hypertension control related to other cardiovascular diseases, prevention of acute attacks in sickle cell and asthma could all benefit from mHealth, to improve care for patients, strengthen the capacity of health professionals, and make the right information available to health authorities to ensure decisions are based on evidence, is the path for all developing countries.
Despite the positive results, challenges remain. Financial resources are limited, managing change is difficult, and there are substantial interoperability issues between the various technology platforms. Mali does not face these challenges alone and values collaboration to learn and share its experiences for the benefit of Africa’s rapidly expanding eHealth and mHealth opportunities.