DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, May 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
Volunteers unite on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to spread the message 'Fistula Inatibika!', 'Fistula is Treatable!' to Tanzanian women
The Vodacom Foundation in collaboration with Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) and UNFPA are mobilizing 100 ambassadors across 25 regions at once to host community awareness workshops around obstetric fistula and encourage women living with the condition to seek treatment. This is the first coordinated nationwide effort, scaling up an already successful programme that uses mobile technology to connect women with untreated fistula in Tanzania to life-changing health services.
The partnership between CCBRT, Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom delivers one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world, helping women who face serious health problems as well as emotional trauma and social isolation regain their health, self-respect and integrate back into society. It uses a simple technology platform, M-PESA, Vodacom's mobile money transfer system, to arrange payment for transportation from rural areas, where affected women usually live, for treatment in one of four hospitals across the country. A survey conducted six months after surgery found that 94 per cent of women surveyed said the operation was life changing.
Hundreds of community educators have been trained to identify fistula patients and connect them with CCBRT. These 'ambassadors' are able to confirm the diagnosis via mobile phone with a member of the CCBRT team, and then they cover the cost for women's transportation to the clinic via M-PESA. This removes a significant barrier to treatment, as the majority of women affected cannot afford the bus fare to the hospital.
"This is one of the most innovative health solutions enabled by Vodacom technology and support" said Rene Meza, Managing Director, Vodacom Tanzania.
Andrew Dunnett, Vodafone Group Director, Sustainability & Vodafone Foundation, added: "The simple application of mobile money transfer has restored dignity to thousands of the poorest and most marginalised women in the country. Yet, there are still 3,000 new cases of fistula each year in Tanzania. Our mission now is to expand and transfer this proven intervention to help reach more women in need."
Since the 'Text to Treatment' programme was introduced in December 2009, over 2,000 women have been treated, and the number of surgeries has increased by 337 per cent. In 2013, almost three out of four patients were referred by M-PESA, and patient numbers at CCBRT increased to such an extent that the capacity of the fistula ward had to be increased.
M-PESA is the Vodacom money transfer system that is used to bring patients to hospital for treatment. Programme ambassadors cover women's bus fares to the hospital and arrange payment via M-PESA. The M-PESA programme operates with an understanding of the local culture and social conditions and uses Vodacom technology and support to protect women's privacy.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam, Erwin Telemans, CEO of CCBRT, said: "Tens of thousands of women across the country are living in shame and isolation from this condition, unaware that CCBRT and its partners provide surgery, rehabilitation, transport to hospital, food and accommodation free of charge. Our community ambassadors are in a privileged position to find these women, and do a fantastic job of referring women to us throughout the year. Today, we are asking them to go a step further and we hope that this renewed energy in our awareness activities across the country will encourage more women to come out of hiding."
International Day to End Obstetric Fistula is marked on 23rd May , as international recognition of the importance of this cause, and showing UN commitment to all efforts taken to both treat and prevent fistula across the world. This year in a single, united voice, 100 people across Tanzania will spread the message 'Fistula Inatibika!', 'Fistula is Treatable!'
Notes to Editors
The Vodacom Foundation has three main pillars: health, education, and financial inclusion. The Foundation has over the years supported over 120 projects targeting those who are most in need across the country. From fundraising for the awareness and eradication of fistula in Tanzania, the provision of teaching facilities to schools, the economic empowerment of women in rural areas to the provision of water to communities in semi-arid areas, Vodacom has always strived to drive significant change in all these areas. Vodacom's staff are an integral part of the company's CSR initiatives and are encouraged to give of their time and material to support causes that are close to them.
Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) is a locally registered nongovernmental organisation established in 1994. From its inception as a provider of Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), CCBRT has grown to become the largest provider of disability and rehabilitation services in the country. Every year, CCBRT changes the lives of over 1 million people in Tanzania. Immediate impact is achieved through the provision of services and capacity building and a wider long term impact is seen through the strengthening of referral systems, health education and the inclusion of disability into mainstream services. CCBRT is comprised of a well-established disability hospital in Dar es Salaam, community programmes in and around Dar es Salaam and Moshi, a training unit and an advocacy unit.
In a public-private partnership with the Government of Tanzania, CCBRT is also in the process of establishing the CCBRT Maternity and Newborn Hospital which will be a referral hospital for high risk cases in the region. Together the Maternity and Newborn Hospital and the existing Disability Hospital form the Super Specialist Hospital for the Eastern Zone of Tanzania. CCBRT's vision is a Tanzania where people have access to quality disability services as well as safe maternal and newborn healthcare.
CCBRT is represented in the USA by Kupona Foundation. A 501 (c) 3 registered organization based in New York, Kupona Foundation is the American base of support for CCBRT. Kupona's role is to drive support for CCBRT and its various activities and to ensure that American philanthropists at every level have maximum social impact abroad. Kupona means 'to heal' in Kiswahili. CCBRT and Kupona are committed to improving healthcare in Tanzania. Focussed upon capacity building and health system strengthening in maternal and newborn healthcare, Kupona strives to ensure that donations, materials, and volunteers reach the most people, save the most women and babies, and grant the most opportunities. By connecting individuals and institutions in the US directly with CCBRT, Kupona offers an incredibly rare opportunity to be a part of true change on a system-wide scale.
Twitter: @CCBRTTanzania; @KuponaFdn
Website: http://www.ccbrt.or.tz; kuponafoundation.org/
SOURCE Vodacom Foundation