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SMS for Life: An RBM initiative
What is it?
The SMS for Life initiative is a new 'public-private' project that harnesses everyday technology to eliminate stock-outs and improve access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa.
If successful, this project could have far-reaching beneficial implications for existing health systems. Stock-outs of any number of essential health commodities could be eliminated by this innovative process and enable timely tracking and management of supplies and their delivery to the communities where they are needed most.
Novartis has teamed up with Roll Back Malaria, Vodafone and IBM to design, develop and implement the 'SMS for Life' pilot project in Tanzania to make sure all malaria patients have easy access to the life saving antimalarials (ACTs - Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy drugs) and Quinine Injectables when they need them.
One in five of all childhood deaths in Africa are due to malaria.
The WHO estimates that an African child has on average between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year and that every 30 second a child dies from the disease. In total, malaria accounts for more than one million deaths per year, 90% of these are pregnant mothers and children under five. Tanzania has the third largest population at risk of malaria and malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality of about 35 million people in the country.
"Many in Africa still do not have access to these life saving drugs due to the logistics and management difficulties of distribution in remote areas, which leads to stock-outs at the health facility level," said Dr. Daniel Vasella, CEO, Novartis. "Drugs are available, but they need to reach the patients." The SMS for Life initiative is a direct response to the problem of 'stock-outs'.
It will use a combination of mobile phones, SMS messages and electronic mapping technology to generate information on stock availability of ACTs and quinine injectables and deliver it on a weekly basis to all health facilities. This visibility will help eliminate stock-outs and ultimately result in reducing the number of deaths from malaria.