Phones help fight a silent killer

Omolola (left), who recently became pregnant, talks about what she’s learned from the mobile nutrition program. (Photo credit: MTN Audrey Care)

After years of trying to conceive, Omolola, a hairdresser in Lagos, was overjoyed when she found out she was pregnant in January. Knowing she wouldn’t want to take any risks with her pregnancy, a neighbor told her about a mobile service she could sign up for to get prenatal nutrition information. Omolola subscribed right away and began to receive health information on her phone. 

“There are some things I didn’t know I am not supposed to do and some things I didn’t know I am supposed to do while pregnant. Now that I know, I am so happy,” she says. 

Omolola is benefitting from a new wave of innovation in health for poor and rural populations who have limited access to health information or health care.  The lack of services take a high toll. 

In Nigeria, one in eight children dies before age five. Maternal mortality is also worryingly high. Malnutrition, a silent killer, is often behind these deaths because it weakens children and women, and raises the risks of pregnancy. Malnutrition early in life can also cause irreversible physical and mental damage to a child.

But, on March 9, 2017, the Nigerian Ministry of Health launched the innovative Mobile Nutrition Program to educate mothers about how best to feed themselves and their children. mNutrition uses mobile phones to deliver text and voice messages to women of reproductive age, pregnant women, and mothers of children aged two and under. 

The messages are available in five local languages. They focus on prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding education and how to use local foods to make balanced, nutritious meals for young children. 

Grameen Foundation created the messages for the mobile phone platform, which was produced in partnership with GSMA and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

Omolola says she’s putting her new knowledge into practice and augmenting her normal diet while she’s pregnant, giving her a better chance of a safe delivery and a healthy baby.

And, with the launch of the mNutrition Program, Nigeria becomes a leader in mobile delivery of health solutions for women and children.