In an effort to boost maternal health in its rural areas, Rwanda has launched a monitoring program to track local pregnancies. The program began in 2009 with the help of Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency, and uses RapidSMS, a national database, to log pregnancies to the health ministry.

45,000 community members across Rwanda have been elected by their villages to serve as health workers for the program. Each village has two health workers, usually one man and one woman.These community members receive basic training by the government and learn how to record local pregnancies onto the database by using simple codes in text messages.

Once a pregnancy has been confirmed and recorded on a database, the system automatically generates dates for the next prenatal visit, ensuring that pregnant women receive regular care. In addition, health workers can send “red alert” messages to medical centers for women at risk in the event of complications during the pregnancy. After birth, health workers perform at least three home visits in two years to monitor the health of the child

Rwanda’s monitoring program has been successful in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates. In 2009, the infant mortality ratio was around 47 deaths per thousand births. In 2015, infant mortality fell to 31 per thousand. In that same period of time, maternal mortality rates decreased by nearly a third from 411 to 290 deaths per 100,000 births.

According to World Bank data, Rwanda’s reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates indicates significant progress.

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.