How m-mama is saving lives of mothers and newborns in Kenya
Every year, thousands of women and newborns die in Kenya from preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth. One of the main challenges they face is accessing timely and quality emergency care when complications arise. Many women live in remote areas where transport options are limited, expensive or unavailable. This can delay their arrival at a health facility that can provide life-saving interventions. To address this gap, a new public-private partnership has launched m-mama, an innovative emergency referral system that connects pregnant women and newborns in need of urgent care to the nearest health facility. M-mama leverages technology, community engagement and partnerships to ensure that no woman or newborn dies due to lack of transport.
M-mama works by providing a free phone number that women or their relatives can call when they experience an emergency. A trained dispatcher assesses the situation and coordinates the most appropriate transport option, either an ambulance or a local car owner who has been recruited and trained by the program. The dispatcher also contacts the receiving facility to ensure that they are prepared to handle the case and provide feedback on the outcome.
M-mama is not just a transport service, but a comprehensive referral system that aims to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns. The program also supports health workers with training, equipment and mentorship to enhance their skills and confidence in managing emergencies. In addition, m-mama collects data and monitors performance to identify gaps and improve service delivery.
M-mama is a result of a collaboration between the Government of Kenya, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Vodafone Foundation, Safaricom in Kenya, and M-PESA Foundation. The program builds on the success of similar initiatives in Tanzania and Lesotho, where m-mama has contributed to a 38 percent reduction in maternal deaths . The Government of Kenya is pioneering the m-mama approach to enhance maternal and newborn health as part of its commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
M-mama is more than a transport solution. It is a life-saving intervention that empowers women and communities to access quality emergency care when they need it most. By working together, we can ensure that every mother and newborn in Kenya has a chance to survive and thrive.