This article from IRIN highlights the success of a program to distribute cell phones to health workers and villagers in Amensie, Ghana in preventing maternal mortality. In the example cited by the article, an Amensie woman was able to call the hospital when she went into labor, who sent an ambulance to pick her up - in the past, 20 village women would die every year in childbirth because they were not able to reach the hospital or the village midwife. Since the project began in 2006, there has not been a single maternal death.
In Ghana, 560 women die from childbirth or pregnancy related complications per 100,000 live births. 50% of women give birth at home with no skilled health worker present, and lack of access to equipment and skilled health workers is a principle driver of maternal mortality. The distribution of cell phones to attempt to improve communications and prevent these deaths was a part of the Millennium Villages project, in which development agencies target specific villages to lift them out of poverty and meet the Millenium Development Goals. In 2006 mobile handset producer Ericsson teamed with mobile telecommunications firm Zain to install internet access and mobile phone coverage in the villages in 2006. They distributed free handsets to health workers and sold handsets to villagers for US$10 each.
Saving Mothers’ applauds the use of relatively simple and inexpensive technology to prevent needless deaths and hopes to see many more of these success stories in the future.