Lesotho has struggled to make a significant impact on mother and newborn death rates. But now the Government of Lesotho is working to create a solution with the help of partners Riders for Health, Vodafone Foundation and Touch Foundation.
In Lesotho, a small landlocked African country surrounded on all sides by South Africa, the maternal mortality is still triple the global average despite reductions in the last 10 years. Lesotho sees over 600 deaths for each 100k deliveries (global average: 16 deaths per 100k deliveries). The nation also sees newborns dying at around double the global average.*
The m-mama system
Already a success in Tanzania, m-mama is a maternal and newborn emergency and referral transportation system, launched in 2019 with the aim to reduce both maternal and newborn deaths, illness and disease.
M-mama addresses the problem of organising timely transport for mothers and babies to appropriate care in emergencies, one of the critical factors that accounts for infant and maternal deaths.
m-mama solves the problem of the absence of government ambulances at community level, and shortage of ambulances in between health facilities by engaging private vehicle owners to sign up as community drivers.
Community drivers are paid via a mobile phone payment system called Mpesa which is supported by Vodacom Lesotho.
How m-mama works
- A toll free phone number is available 24/7 for those who are pregnant, in labour, postpartum or who have newborn babies up to six weeks old.
- Qualified midwives based at a national dispatch centre answer the calls. They triage patients over the phone and decide on the course of action needed.
- The midwifes arrange emergency transport to the nearest appropriate care facility if needed. If a MoH, Riders or other partner’s ambulance is not available, community drivers are contacted to provide transport to the health facility.
m-mama was initiated by the government, funded by the Vodafone Foundation and implemented in collaboration with the Touch Foundation and Riders for Health Lesotho.
The Government requested that Riders for Health manage the system for the Government and assist in paying and managing the community drivers, strengthening the dispatch centre management and assisting with working through the bottlenecks.
The future of maternal and baby health in Lesotho
We know the success of m-mama in Lesotho will help ensure fewer women and babies die due from preventable causes. Our great hope is that Lesotho has a brighter future with more healthy mothers and babies and that we can play a part in what would be a huge achievement for the nation.
*Source World Bank Open Data, Lesotho Maternal Mortality Rate 2000-2023.