By Joyce Mukucha
Worldwide, hundreds of mothers are dying daily from pregnancy complications with 99 percent of them in developing countries like Sub Sahara Africa.
Statistics indicate that in Zimbabwe and other African countries, the maternal mortality rate is rapidly increasing day by day being fuelled by the low uptake of maternal health services.
According to health studies and researches, maternal mortality is mainly attributed to delay in making the decision to seek care, reaching a health facility in time, and delay in receiving adequate treatment.
This has been affecting a lot of mothers especially the marginalised ones and those who are residing in remote areas across the globe with Zimbabwe not being spared.
In an effort to end this dilemma, Dawa Health, a health tech company operating in Zimbabwe and Zambia in reshaping access to maternal health for pregnant women and nursing mothers has identified and introduced a pragmatic and lasting solution to challenging maternal health problems to contribute to better health outcomes for larger populations.
Believing that democratizing access to maternal health can significantly lower the numbers of pregnancy-induced maternal mortality, the organisation is scaling up antenatal care services.
Striving to positively contribute to Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 4, Dawa Health created a digital health platform empowering mothers to receive remote maternal health. The DawaMom app is a week on week advisory app that guides mothers through pregnancy and remotely link them with doctors. Through its network of health agents, mothers get biweekly visits and monitoring.
The organisation is making huge strides in breaking the barrier for pregnant women to access healthcare ensuring that pregnant mothers are linked with health experts that are quick to recognise life-threatening conditions such as lack of awareness of pregnancy-related health risks.
In an interview, Dawa Health Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Tafadzwa Munzwa told Spiked Online Media that the organisation was looking forward to growing regionally and reach over 350,000 women on their platform by 2025 ensuring that no one is left behind when it comes to remote maternal health.
“We conducted research and figured out that more than 70 percent of mothers do not have access to quality maternal health with 13 dying daily. So after realising how big the problem was that is when we decided to venture in and solve this problem together with my co-founders. In total, over a million mothers give birth annually in the countries that we are operating in that is Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“So we created a digital health platform that is enabling mothers to get remote maternal health while guiding them throughout the pregnancy. Basically, the app works like this, the mother goes in and the system asks them their last period date which is the news by the app to calculate and tailor the information the mother will receive.
“So it can automatically know which week of pregnancy the mother is in and it gives all the information they need such as the baby development stage, expected body changes, the kind of diet they need to be eating as well as enabling them to prepare the pregnancy and prevent any complications,” he said.
He highlighted that the application was available in local languages as well for they have done translations on Ndebele, Shona, and English in Zimbabwe. For Zambia, they have been also providing them with Nyanja.
Dawa Health is also working with a Network of Health Agency that provides a self-monitoring kit hardware that is working in collaboration with the DawaMom to assist mothers to receive remote healthcare.
“Mothers can self-monitor medical parameters using the hardware. The kit has a blood pressure monitor, an hCG strip kit, latex gloves, and a urinalysis strip kit. The data collected is recorded into the DawaMom app and wired to a doctor for remote advice,” Munzwa said.
Some of the women are paying for the services, he said, and for those who cannot afford it, the organisation is looking into partnering with some agencies of the UN, Non-Governmental Organisations, and other corporate organisations to fund these services to marginalized women.
The organisation, he indicated, has been fortunate enough to get some recognition and partners locally, regionally and internationally. In Zimbabwe, it has been part of the Act Africa Entrepreneurship Programme.
In Zambia, Dawa Health had been also fortunate enough to be accepted into the BongoHive, a technology hub based in Lusaka which assists in the acceleration of the idea through market research.
“We have been provided with financial backing and technical support especially in the Zambian side. We have been sponsored by Emory University (USA), Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA ICT), and UNDP. Other partners helping Dawa Health include York University (Canada), BongoHive (Zambia), ACT in Africa (Zimbabwe), Challenges Worldwide (UK), and Standard Chartered Bank.”
Munzwa said that the company was facing difficulties in as much as reaching more partners and affordability to mothers is concerned.
“To fight these challenges, we are having virtual meetings with most of our potential partners and reaching out to organisations who can fund some of the women.”
In terms of creating employment to surrounding communities, Dawa Health is engaging community health workers in local areas to support mothers.
He also indicated that there was need for Governments to help fund such business to extend their reach explaining that this will play a crucial role in reaching marginalized communities ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.
There is more to be done, Munzwa said, to expand the innovation locally and beyond as he called upon other organisations from the private sector with a passion to push the same narrative to come and join hands with Dawa Health and ensure that maternal health is extended to every pregnant woman.
The organisation was founded in 2018 and officially incorporated in 2020 with the Co-founders – Tafadzwa Munzwa (CEO), Progress Mahureva (Operations Officer), Takunda Mugwagwa who is based in Zimbabwe, and Chungu Chama (Technology Officer) based in Zambia.
Dawa Health received Best New Comer of the 2019 Southern Africa Startup Awards Runner up Award (ZICTA ICT Program), Winner Swiss-Africa Business Initiative, and recently won the BOOST UP competition by Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme.