Today at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Democracy Delivers” event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, USAID, Vodafone Foundation, and the Government of Tanzania committed to expand a maternal health emergency transportation system that is securing hospital transit for thousands of women in Tanzania. In direct response to Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s request for partnership in expanding this program to the entire country, USAID and the Vodafone Foundation committed $15 million – $10 million from Vodafone Foundation and $5 million from USAID. The Government of Tanzania, represented at the event by Vice President Philip Mpango, has committed to covering all transport costs and providing all dispatch staff from day one. These efforts will extend the program’s coverage from two districts, home to about 1 million people, to Tanzania’s population of 60 million.
Vodafone Foundation also committed an additional $5 million to replicate this model in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa with high rates of maternal mortality, bringing its total commitment to $15 million. USAID will explore additional partnership opportunities with Vodafone Foundation to reproduce Tanzania’s successes elsewhere.
Maternal mortality rates are stubbornly high in Tanzania. In rural communities, an ambulance may only be available for 1 in 10 maternal emergencies. As part of a 2013-2020 maternal health program in the Sengerema/Buchosa and Shinyanga districts, Vodafone Foundation and USAID created a free ride-sharing program for pregnant women. Under the program, a woman undergoing a maternal emergency calls a toll-free number, a health worker records her information, the dispatch system locates the nearest hospital and nearest private taxi driver, and the driver is paid upon delivery of the patient to the health center. The local governments in both pilot districts are now fully funding the programs – which cost less than the price of one ambulance – and the programs have transported over 15,000 women and newborns to date.
Vodafone Foundation’s commitment was announced by Vodafone Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer and Trustee of Vodafone Foundation, Joakim Reiter, as part of an event chaired by Administrator Power – who announced USAID’s commitment – highlighting how businesses and foundations can partner with burgeoning democracies.