Maternal health messaging service MomConnect has provided health-related information for 1,8-million South African mothers since its launch in 2014 and has grown into one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world. It is currently being implemented by the government on a nationwide basis.
The South African National Department of Health initiative has been made possible thanks to various private partnerships including one with Cell C which, over the past four years, has donated more than R30 million in kind towards MomConnect by providing heavily discounted SMS and USSD support.
MomConnect is helping to support South Africa’s efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to reduce maternal and child mortality through strengthening primary healthcare. MomConnect’s services are free to the user, and messages are available in all of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
Cell C is well known for its care and support of women and, as one of the country’s leading information and technology companies, it was a natural fit to get behind this government initiative which is having a huge impact on the ground and changing lives of mothers and babies for the better.
MomConnect’s objectives include the electronic registration (via mobile phone) of all pregnancies in the public health system as early as possible and to send targeted health promotion messages to pregnant women to improve their health and that of their infants.
After the babies are born, new mothers continue to get messages for up to a year with advice on the baby, breastfeeding, immunisation, family planning for the mother, oral rehydration during diarrhoea and check-up periods at the clinic.
Thanks to the remarkable success of MomConnect, the Department of Health has also introduced the NurseConnect Programme, an extension of MomConnect, to support nurses and midwives in their daily work. It is aimed at engaging health workers and improving the care given to pregnant women. The programme now has more than 21 000 nurses registered via an SMS platform, and through engagement on a mobile website. It provides free maternal and child health messaging, psychosocial support and work-place support – designed specifically for nurses.
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has previously stated: “Programmes like MomConnect and NurseConnect create vital links between healthcare providers and new and pregnant mothers. These links are the best way to reduce the incidence of premature births and to reduce both infant and maternal mortality rates.”
The number *134*550# is the one-stop-line for all pregnant mothers to dial when they suspect being pregnant. They will then be encouraged to go to their nearest clinic as soon as possible, where a nurse will confirm their pregnancy and register them for MomConnect.
Says Suzette van der Merwe, Managing Executive Corporate Social Investment at Cell C: “This is a wonderful service which has been able to reach mothers around the country thanks to the ability to leverage the high penetration of mobile phones in South Africa. It has actively made a difference in reducing maternal and child mortality as well as improving the quality of care offered, and Cell C is delighted to have played such an important part. Women empowerment and the support of women of all ages is at the foundation of Cell C’s ethos. That is why Cell C is passionate about this programme and has supported it for the past four years.”