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Kenyan Wins Award for Pre-Natal Care Electronic Vouchers
Source: Business Daily
Source Date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Country: Kenya
Created: Dec 01, 2011

A Kenyan innovator has won a Sh22.8 million ($250,000) grant to enhance access to health services among expectant mothers without insurance schemes. Sam Agutu, founder and chief executive of Nairobi-based Changamka Microhealth Ltd, is expected to develop electronic vouchers to be delivered to expectant mothers through cell phones to encourage them seek medical care, even after child delivery. Mr Agutu's innovation is expected to significantly cut maternal mortality especially in remote areas where costs and distance to clinics have been cited as barriers for women. "Research shows that lack of adequate care is a leading cause of maternal mortality in the developing world," Mr Agutu said, adding that mothers who attend their required ante-natal visits and deliver in hospitals stand an infinitely greater chance of surviving. Statistics from the World Health Organisation indicate maternity mortality rate in Kenya stood at 452 per 100,000 live births, down from last year's 492. The Sh22.8 million seed grant is from a coalition of international financiers under the umbrella "Saving Lives at Birth," which includes Grand Challenges Canada, USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank. Mr Agutu says the mission for Changamka (Swahili word for "Get a life" or "Cheer Up"), is to reach out to millions of the country's low income earners who currently excluded from conventional government arrangements and private insurance schemes. Under the concept, millions of shillings in form of pre-payments will be mobilised from these low income cardholders who will be able to buy and accumulate instalment credits through mobile money transfer services. The system will also allow third party financiers (well wishers or donors) to directly load beneficiaries' cards with value. The funds will then be pooled together by an insurance company that will issue each beneficiary with outpatient Smart Card to access complete primary health care treatment at contracted hospitals at discounted rates. "To deliver dramatic health results for women and children who may never step foot inside a hospital, we must harness the creativity of innovators and partners across the globe," said Mr Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator. The Pumwani Maternity Hospital, the oldest and the largest obstetric referral hospital in East and Central Africa is expected to participate in the pilot project. Like Mr Agutu, Nigeria's Aminu Gamawa ---the other awardee of similar amount of money among this year's applicants from the Sub-Saharan Africa--also seeks to save the lives of women giving birth as well as infants. Mr Gamawa is proposing to leverage the persuasive powers of progressive Islamic leaders to change opinions of more traditional leaders through his Development Research and Projects Centre in Nigeria. He intends to rely mostly on persuasion and experience to change attitudes of some Islamic opinion leaders in the country's Muslim northern states towards maternity and newborn care. To make it effective a transport subsidy and an SMS informational campaign will be sent to pregnant women to seek health care"We want to improve the survival of women and children in northern Nigeria, which has the highest maternal and neonatal death rate in the country as well as one of the highest in the world." said Mr Gamawa. Although Kenya's Mr Agutu and Nigeria's Mr Gamawa come from different countries and backgrounds, they share a common passion - to save the lives of pregnant women and guarantee infants a healthy start. Mr Agutu's sister died during childbirth on the way to the hospital. Mr Gamawa lost his mother during child delivery too. Both men say the deaths could have been avoided if better care had been available. "Their loved ones did not have to die, and these innovations aim to prevent other women from dying unnecessarily in childbirth," said Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. "It takes bold innovation of all types to make substantial changes in the health and well-being of women and infants," said Joseph Rotman, chair of Grand Challenges Canada. "With the support and leadership of the Government of Canada, this innovative initiative from Grand Challenges Canada is contributing to our overall maternal and child health efforts. I commend the Saving Lives at Birth partners for their dedication," said the Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Co-operation.
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