The public and private sectors in Congo have joined forces to use near-ubiquitous mobile phones in an effort to save the lives of thousands of children who die of treatable conditions every year.
About 125 of every 1,000 children in Congo die before their fifth birthday, with half of this number not making it to the age of one. In eight out of 10 cases, easily curable conditions - malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malnutrition - are to blame.
With the introduction of a 24-hour toll-free medical hotline set up by the Congolese government, UNICEF and a mobile telephone network operator, professional health operators will be on call to respond to queries about paediatric emergencies.
|This strategy will complement other conventional strategies in place|
Despite its lack of development and endemic poverty, almost all of Congo is covered by mobile phone networks and most of the population has easy access to a phone.
"This is a welcome permanent service, which will provide people with free information on how to handle emergency infant health conditions and provide childcare tips," Koen Vanormelingen, the UNICEF representative in Congo, said.
The service "will provide immediate information in moments where ignorance causes anxiety and uncertainty,” said health minister Emilienne Raoul. "Our policy is to prevent disease and prolong children’s lives as much as possible. This strategy will complement other conventional strategies in place," she said.
Callers will receive counselling on how to identify and address the diseases affecting their children and advice about the suitable medical facilities in their vicinity.