Vodacom Tanzania, Local NGO Use Mobile Phone Banking To Help Women With Obstetric Fistula

The Guardian examines a text messaging program in Tanzania initiated by Vodacom Tanzania and local NGO Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) that utilizes Africa’s mobile phone banking system, M-Pesa, to provide women suffering from obstetric fistula, caused by difficult childbirth, with the funds necessary to travel to health facilities for treatment. “CCRBT and Vodacom have now appointed a team of 60 ‘ambassadors’ to travel around the country diagnosing women with the condition. Within an hour of an ambassador finding a patient a date is set for surgery and money for transport is texted to the ambassador, who takes the patient to the bus stop,” according to the Guardian.

“Almost 3,000 Tanzanian women a year suffer obstetric fistula during lengthy or obstructed labor,” the newspaper writes, adding, “In almost 95% of cases the baby dies. The women are then often stigmatized by their families, who do not understand the condition, which causes a hole to appear between the vagina and the rectum.” Many women are unaware of the condition or that treatment is available, and those seeking treatment are often unable to pay for transport to health facilities, which can cost more than a month’s wages, the Guardian notes (Neate, 9/29).