A team from the University of Nairobi has been awarded US$120,000 for a phone-based innovation that is designed to encourage mothers to take their babies for antenatal care thereby reducing child mortality; a perennial problem in Kenya and currently stands at 71 per 1,000 live births.
With the application, mothers are given bar-coded Vaccination/Mother and Child Wellness Card that they present to a caregiver who taps their smartphone onto the bar codes of the card affirming that the mother has been to clinic and sending the same information to business people selling farm products who will then reward the mothers discounts whenever they visit their shops and show the bar codes to them.
Dr. Benson Wamalwa, University of Nairobi spokesperson said: “The vaccination card uses a unique model, never used anywhere else in the world, to address the challenges of under-vaccination and food security, so parents are no longer forced to choose between vaccinating their child and buying seed for the season’s planting. Thanks to the card, children are vaccinated and protected against preventable illnesses for the rest of their lives and households enjoy better harvests which safeguard their nutrition and livelihoods”.
The scheme, successfully piloted in North Western Kenya, is one of four African initiatives to have won a share of the 2014 GSK and Save the Children Healthcare Innovation Award.
In rural Kenya, many families are unable to have their children and expectant mothers fully immunised due to the distance they live from the nearest health clinic and cost of the journey, along with challenging vaccine fees.
The vaccination card automatically updates when a newborn is registered and each time the child and/or mother receives a vaccine.
Ramil Burden, Vice President, Africa and Developing Countries, GSK, said: “Widening vaccination coverage to help reduce the number of deaths in children under five is a key aim of our partnership with Save the Children. The vaccination card initiative has demonstrated real innovation in helping increase immunisation rates and has ignited a grassroots movement, which is acting as a catalyst for community-led healthcare.”
Duncan Harvey, Country Director, Save the Children Kenya, said: “In order to bring life-saving healthcare to the hardest to reach children, there is a need for ambitious new ideas and collaboration. So it is fantastic that the Healthcare Innovation Award has recognised an innovation that is boosting vaccination rates and helping to save children’s lives. Through the recognition and funding from this award this initiative can help make a bigger impact for some of the most vulnerable children.
The University plans to use the Award money to significantly expand the scheme reaching approximately 50,000 under-fives and 14,000 pregnant women over a two year period.