The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

The OMOMI and Safe Delivery apps are using technology to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa by providing essential health information and clinical support.

In March 2020, when the tidal wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria denied people access to schools, hospitals, cinemas, and other public facilities, Aishat Salami came across an Instagram post about health information and pregnancy—it was her first pregnancy and the beginning of her second trimester. She followed the post and was excited about antenatal and pregnancy information shared in the Mothers’ Community forum of the OMOMI App.

Omomi, which means “my child,” is a mobile application launched in August 2015 to address maternal and neonatal mortality rates in Nigeria. Salami says OMOMI is an important app that made things easy for her. “There are times you feel like talking to a doctor even before the appointment date, and there are other times you are just too tired to leave the comfort of your home,” she explained.

In 2020, about 800 women died every day from preventable complications related to pregnancy or childbirth around the globe, and 95% of these deaths occurred in developing countries, according to a recent World Health Organization report. Several factors contribute to this unacceptable situation.

In Nigeria, for instance, the country has a doctor-patient ratio of 1 doctor per 9,083 patients—significantly less than the World Health Organization’s recommendations of 1 doctor per 600 patients. With more than 1,000 maternal deaths out of 100,000 deliveries, Nigeria ranks as the third highest maternal mortality country in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1.1 neonatal deaths—more than 45 percent of the global 2.3 million—occur every year. Nigeria’s neonatal death rate is currently 53.674 per 1,000 live births.

OMOMI, the Nigerian maternal health app which helped Salami, was created by MOBicure, a company founded by Dr. Charles Akhimien and Dr. Emmanuel Owobu, both medical doctors. The low-cost platform was launched to provide access to free and paid lifesaving maternal and child health information for pregnant women and mothers of young children.

Melody Eghelen, Chief Production Officer for OMOMI, emphasized the critical role of the app. “The rate at which mothers die while giving birth in Nigeria is too high due to issues as small as not getting the right information on what is required to have a successful childbirth, and this has caused many women to lose their lives,” she stated.

OMOMI operates via an app and web platform to facilitate easy, low-cost access to resources and engagement with other expecting and new parents. It started with an SMS service which had over 4,000 subscribers. The founders visited hospitals to get phone numbers of mothers and the dates they gave birth, to remind them what to do and when to do it before it evolved into a multimedia app that enables mothers to interact, seek information, or privately chat with a doctor about personal issues.

OMOMI features include a mothers’ community, an immunization tracker, a maternal calculator, diarrhea management, and a chat-a-doctor service.

Kome Akawa, a single mother, has used the Mothers’ Community forum. After some observation upon joining the forum in 2021, she asked her first question: “If you have your baby through Caesarean Section, do you feel so much pain during your menstrual period?” Kome received a chorus of responses from mothers in the group. “They responded with so much care by saying no, and they kept checking up on me, sending me tips, and asking if I was okay,” she said.

Mothers on OMOMI are registered to receive free and personalized maternal health information. The SMS service charge was funded by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), and the U.S. Consulate in Nigeria gave its innovators the opportunity to partner with three major telecommunications operators in Nigeria—MTN, Airtel, and 9Mobile.

Other features like the maternal calculator allow women to know their fertile dates and ovulation cycles without the hassle of queuing in the hospital. The immunization tracker helps mothers keep track of their child’s vaccinations and reminds them when to visit the hospital until the child reaches six months of age and no longer needs vaccinations.

Melody explained that “subscribers can also join WhatsApp or Telegram groups to interact with experienced mothers who are always eager and happy to welcome new moms.” “Some of them who have stopped giving birth even donate baby items they no longer use,” she added.

The situation is similar in sub-Saharan Africa. While OMOMI empowers pregnant women and mothers with relevant maternal health information, the Safe Delivery app was launched to provide skilled birth attendants with instant, evidence-based, and up-to-date clinical guidelines on how to handle complications related to pregnancy and childbirth—straight from their phones or tablets.

The app is a maternal health innovation developed by the Maternity Foundation, a non-profit organization working to ensure safer childbirth for women and newborns in more than 70 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Anna Frellsen, CEO of the Maternity Foundation, explained that the Safe Delivery app aims to scale up the skills of midwives for quality delivery of maternal healthcare in resource-limited countries. “What we are seeing now is that the facility has, in a way, improved in some countries like Tanzania, but the real challenge is that there seems to be a lack of skilled medical attendants. But with SDA, midwives are more confident and capable,” she stated.

The Safe Delivery app is developed specifically for midwives, nurses, and other healthcare workers to assist laboring women and their newborns with high-quality skills. The app is available in both English and Swahili, catering to the East African community countries.

Biologically, childbirth comes with unimaginable pains and life-threatening experiences ranging from extremely strong menstrual cramps to contractions of the uterine muscles and pressure on the cervix during labor, and even to diverse health challenges after childbirth, such as bleeding or postpartum depression. OMOMI and the Safe Delivery apps believe that achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 by 2030 in developing countries is possible through leveraging technology.

Ayo Omotola is a Nigeria-based independent contributor covering health, technology, and development for local and international publications. He is also a creative writer whose book ‘A Night in The Morning’ has been approved for students by the Lagos State Government. He strongly believes in SDG4, which stresses education for all.