In Africa, mobiles are tackling malaria. By using text messages health centres have a constant supply of life-saving drugs.
Malaria kills 800,000 people in Africa every year, mainly children under the age of five. Not having treatment within 24-hours of the onset of fever can be fatal, as many families find out when their local health centres run out of anti-malarial drugs. SMS for Life in Tanzania uses mobile phones, text messages and electronic mapping technology to make sure local health centres don’t run out of life-saving drugs.
The main drug that health centres require is Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies, or ACTs. They can wipeout Malaria parasites in just a few days. But drugs like Coartem, the first ACT approved by the World Health Organisation, are not always available. In this film we travel to Tanzania. Drugs there, start their journey at the Central Medical Stores. Lorries then take them to regional stores and on to district and local health centres. But the system often breaks down.
A new approach is being piloted in Tanzania, that could prevent stocks of drugs running out. It’s called SMS for Life. It uses the most reliable method of communication in Africa – mobile phones and text messages. Once a week, the person responsible for all the drugs in each province in Tanzania sends a text message asking all their specially trained community health officers to tell them how many malaria drugs they have. The answers come quickly. There’s an incentive. Health officers who respond within 24 hours receive a small payment, topped up onto their mobile phones.