Tanzania unveils toll-free number for mothers, babies in health emergencies

Tanzania unveils toll-free emergency number for mothers, babies in health emergencies

This week a new toll-free emergency number has been launched by the Government of Tanzania to enable more pregnant women and new-borns to access the m-mama emergency transport service, in a significant milestone for the programme.

Of the 61 million people living in Tanzania, over 40 million are based in rural areas. For women who experience complications during childbirth in these communities, they may have to travel for hours to access the appropriate care they need. Without emergency transport, their chances of survival can be alarmingly low.

With Sub-Saharan Africa suffering some of the highest rates in maternal and child mortality, m-mama is providing a lifeline for women and babies. The service has reduced maternal mortality by 38% where it is rolled out (Tanzania and Lesotho) with even greater improvements when it comes to survival rates of new-borns.

The launch of the ground-breaking 115 number will ensure the accessibility of m-mama emergency services throughout Tanzania, regardless of the patient’s location or socioeconomic status. Starting with a focus on maternal and infant emergencies, the launch marks the beginning of a nationwide lifeline set to transform emergency response and save lives.

Tanzania unveils toll-free emergency number for mothers, babies in health emergencies

The 115 number was officially launched at the first International Primary Health Care Conference in Tanzania on 25th March 2024 at the Jakaya Kikwete Conference Center, Dodoma, following the country’s inauguration of m-mama in Tanzania in April 2022 by Her Excellency President Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Speaking at the Conference, the Honorable Minister Doto Biteko, Deputy Prime Minister of Tanzania, made a personal appeal to the people of Tanzania to use the service to enable m-mama “to continue to provide services on time and save the life of mother and child.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also thanked the programme’s development partners; Vodacom Tanzania, Vodafone Foundation, USAID, the World Bank and the implementing partners of Touch Health and Pathfinder International “for their contribution in collaborating with the government to bring this necessary service to all.”

Agapinus Tax, Director of Risk Control and Legal Compliance, Vodacom, who also spoke at the event, described the launch as “a testament to what can be achieved when public and private sectors join forces in pursuit of a common goal,” and Vodacom’s support for the m-mama programme as a moral imperative – a shared responsibility that requires collective action and unwavering dedication from all stakeholders.” He also highlighted “the profound impact that collaboration and innovation can have on transforming healthcare systems and, ultimately, the lives of millions.”

The m-mama emergency transport service is live in Tanzania and Lesotho, and is preparing to launch in Kenya, to connect mothers and babies to healthcare through a 24 hour, 7 days a week dispatch centre that uses public ambulances and a network of local drivers to act as emergency transport, when ambulances are not available (which is often the case). To date, more than 60,000 emergencies have been supported by the m-mama programme in Tanzania, equating to eight emergencies every hour across the country.