6 January 2016

Rwanda: Rapid SMS System Has Improved Healthcare


When the Ministry of Health introduced the Rapid SMS system about seven years ago, the number of women giving birth in hospitals was low, and infant mortality rate was high. Health officials also say traditional birth attendants, who lacked expertise to handle infections or complications, performed most of the deliveries before the programme was implemented.

However, the initiative, launched in 2009 with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has since helped reduce child and maternal mortality rates. This is largely attributed to the fact that the initiative keeps concerned health workers updated on the progress of any pregnancy in their respective areas of operation across the country.

The programme has also helped improve neonatal care, and that of pregnant mothers, reducing preventable deaths among mothers and newborns. Such interventions that aim at improving the health and lives of mothers and children are the way to go to consolidate the gains Rwanda has made in this area. As the country embarks on Sustainable Development Goals, such initiatives should be scaled up to cover every village across country.

This can partly support the attainment of SDG Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages.

According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2014/2015, infant mortality dropped to 35 per 1,000 live births in 2014/2015, down from 50 per 1,000 live births in 2010. Under-five mortality rate has fallen from 76 per 1,000 births in 2010 to 50/1000 births last year.

Globally, about six million children still die before their fifth birthday each year. Initiatives like the Rapid SMS, which is currently being managed by over 45,000 community health workers across the country, are responsible for such achievements in the health sector. But there is need to commit more investment to the sector while the support of every Rwandan and well-wisher is also paramount.


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