Many pregnant women live in informal settlements in Embakasi, Kenya. They have to rely on private healthcare, and so find the money to pay the hospital bills. It’s due to the limited availability of public hospitals in their area. Mobile phones and pre-payment plans can help.
An article in the African Healthcare IT News says the average maternal billing for medical check-ups and delivery and postnatal care received at a private health facility in Kenya is estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 Kenyan shillings, roughly US $100 to $150 or €95 to €142. It’s a considerable financial burden for women and their families in this community.
While most people in the settlements are wage earners, they often rely on unpredictable means of income. The added stress of pregnancy and the fears of not easily affording medical treatment are realities for many women living here.
The app doesn’t provide financial support, but helps in saving the money that is needed. Women who register at private clinics are provided with a birth plan and encouraged to create accounts. They can then use M-Pesa to deposit money in their accounts. People pay as much as they can afford each time, so having no requirement of fixed amounts is very helpful. The system uses SMS to send updates and other information too.
M-Afya also provides access to a database that helps promote maternal and child health. Twice a week, women who have registered, receive messages on their mobile phones with information about their pregnancy. They’re reminded of doctors’ appointments, given advice about their pregnancy and sent health data about their unborn children. After they've given birth, M-Afya sends messages of support to mothers and family members.
The initiative has two main benefits. It reduces levels of stress associated with medical bills. Secondly, it promotes maternal and child health, helping to address core issues of the Sustainable Development Goals.