One thousand women and girls die every day from pregnancy-related causes—that’s about one every 90 seconds. And the overwhelming majority of the countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality are conflict-affected. Yet, the numerous campaigns and programs working to reduce our staggering global maternal mortality numbers don’t reach the health care providers working in these dangerous and isolated areas. Working in a relative vacuum with little peer interaction, doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers in crisis-affected settings face tremendous challenges without the peer support, information, skills-building opportunities and training that they desperately need.
Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises, a new initiative designed by the Women’s Refugee Commission and social media and development company M4ID, will be launched April 21. Mama is designed to improve maternal health care and reduce maternal death and disability in crisis-affected settings specifically by using social networking to open up new channels of communication—to connect frontline providers in disparate areas to one another and to give them access to training and advice from experts.
Though in remote locations, these health care providers told the Women’s Refugee Commission that they use SMS text messaging as their main means of communication and use Facebook fairly regularly. The Mama initiative connects the two in a way never before attempted—for example, allowing texts from a member of the Mama community to stream directly to a Facebook page and for responses posted on the Facebook page that receive at least three “thumbs up” to be streamed back to the person who sent the original query. The campaign also includes Mama Mentors, technical experts who visit the virtual community on a monthly basis to share their medical expertise, professional development advice and words of encouragement. Once a member of the Mama community, a health care provider is no longer alone—he or she will receive peer support and guidance in the most convenient manner possible. At the same time, we’re keeping the threshold for their participation low to encourage use and maximize the benefits to the community.
The Women’s Refugee Commission feels strongly that it’s time to go beyond policy to focus on finding ways for maternal health care professionals on the ground to work to improve their skills. Social networking and technology provide vast unexplored ways in which to do just that and we’re excited to take this groundbreaking first step.