In its efforts to push for the achievements of Goals 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, launched the MomConnect technology at KT Motubatse Clinic in Soshanguve on Thursday 21 August.
He launched the system in the presence of three MECs of Health from Gauteng, Limpopo and Northern Cape. The project will target to have on its database all the 2.1 million pregnant mothers each year.
The platform will enable all pregnant women in to receive and send messages between themselves and the department throughout the different stages of their pregnancy stages, even a year after they have given birth.
Minister says this platform is a 'bazooka' that pregnant women will use to protect themselves and their babies against unfair treatment in healthcare facilities, as it will enable them to make use of the application to send messages and will also enable the department to monitor and the progress of pregnant women to assist where mothers may encounter difficulties by referring them to their nearest hospitals.
For the first two years, the system will be used by the Department of Health free as the funding has been provided by the US government (R49 million), Johnson & Johnson (R5 million) and Elma Philanthropies (R5 million). Minister says the department has negotiated with the country’s four network operators, namely Telkom, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, to charge 50% of their rates for the use of the system. Government will pay for both itself as well as the pregnant woman.
US ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, said partnership is not always easy, but it is the only way that sustainable response will be achieved, such as the development of the system and funding from various stakeholders.
According to Health Minister, 10 300 health workers have been trained on capturing pregnant women into the database and that in the next few weeks each facility in South Africa will have a healthworker who is trained to deal with registering women, who will send messages at no cost from their cellphones.
“We have chosen August deliberately, because we want to give women power to sustain their health and the health of their new-born babies. And we believe that MomConnect is going to contribute to that,” he said.
Health MEC in Gauteng, Qedani Mahlangu, said this will be accessible to women. “Gauteng has 12 million people, and of those 10 million of them have cellphones.”
Committees of seven members each are in the process of being set up (to include three nurse specialists) will assess facilities if they have enough sufficient and working equipments among others.
SAFM’s PM Live presenter and senior journalist, Tshepiso Makwetla, was unveiled as the ambassador of the MomConnect. She asked to be included in any effort to fight child mortality after she heard the news about 9 children who died at Maphutha Malatji Hospital in Limpopo on 9 June, which was the anniversary of her child's death soon after birth.