It is 8am at the Kisarawe district hospital near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Over 10 expectant mothers are already queuing at the ante-natal clinic. Zaina Kassimu Pembe, 34, is expecting her fourth child and is happy that this pregnancy has been the most comfortable.
“I have never missed an appointment,” she says, the motivation being wanting to know the progress and development of her now seven-month old pregnancy, which has been made possible by the free ultra-sound examination offered. “I do not just feel the baby kick, I can see it and see how it is positioned. This is very assuring. The nurses too offer advise on my progress in real time,” she adds.
Kisarawe hospital is a recipient of GE healthcare ultrasound handheld devices that the institution runs with electricity generated from a solar panel.
The hospital has since 2013 been using the 5 Vscan and 2 Venue 40 devices to provide ultrasound services to expectant mothers.
This has not only shortened the waiting time at the ante-natal clinic, but has also helped to diagnose conditions related to pregnancy complications that result in maternal and infant death.
The availability of the machines has further helped the midwives and other health personnel at the hospital to make informed decisions, thus promoting maternal and child healthcare.
The ultrasound devices are part of GE healthcare donation worth ₵324,510.00 ( $87,000 [USD]) (Tsh140.94 million), which includes related equipment donated to Kisarawe district hospital.
Such advanced healthcare technology has provided expectant mothers in this rural area of Pwani District in Tanzania with access to free ultrasound services.
“This has motivated many expectant mothers to attend ante-natal clinics and to deliver in hospital,” says Ms Pembe.
With the use of the donated equipment and through the training programme, staff at the hospital have been able to identify “high-risk pregnancies that can be referred to appropriate health centres where better care can be provided by skilled birth attendants,” says Lilian Kidane, the director Healthcare Programs Africa.
The training program is part of a research study conducted by GE and Ifakara Health Institute, called “Enhancing Training and Appropriate Technologies for Mothers & Babies in Africa.” The study measured the acceptability, feasibility, impact and cost-effectiveness of introducing simple ultrasound technologies on maternal health.
Similarly, in Nigeria, GE has partnered with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and others to create an innovative healthcare system to reduce preventable child-maternal deaths in Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that 800 women die annually in the world from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Another estimated three million newborn babies die every year, while an additional 2.6 million babies are stillborn. The World Bank also estimates that 74 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented if all women had access to interventions that address complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Lack of technology, including ultrasound, and skilled manpower shortages are among the reasons that healthcare provision is still minimal in Africa.
Given that more than half of these preventable mother and child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, GE Kujenga is poised to play an even greater role in saving lives through widening access to healthcare technologies and skills transfer to healthcare practitioners.
This will also help to address the gap and inequalities in access to health services on the continent.
Such projects demonstrate GE’s continued commitment to improve healthcare for mothers and children, as part of the global efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 targeted at maternal and newborn health.
GE’s Developing Health Globally programme, run through the GE Foundation, operates in nine countries in Africa. In addition to supporting maternal and child health, the programme also improves surgical care and provides equipment to these communities.
It is estimated that up until 2013, Developing Health Globally had touched 12.8 million lives across Africa, and GE continues to look for ways to further extend this programme in the healthcare sector.
Additionally, GE, in partnership with the GE Foundation is running several healthcare projects, including ImPACT Africa, a programme that assists in the delivery of safe surgery in rural Western Kenya, run in partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Health, among other partners.
This project focuses primarily on developing training programmes that can lower surgical mortality rates, and improve anaesthetic care.
GE is dedicated to increasing global accessibility to quality healthcare, and is investing in sustainable forms of medical technology.
With GE Kujenga, Africa is building bridges for a better future, creating sustainable livelihoods and better economic disposition.
This makes GE Kujenga more than just a corporate social responsibility programme.