Nigeria has one of the highest maternal death rates, according to the United Nations. It accounts for 19% of all maternal deaths on the planet.
When Abiodun Adereni learned of this fact, he stepped up to the challenge by launching HelpMum, a Nigerian health service provider that tackles the problem by using low-cost innovations and the power of mobile technology.
Adereni, the founder and CEO of HelpMum said he launched the company in 2017 to reduce the rates of maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria. The company works in rural areas that have limited access to primary health centers and provides clean birth kits to women, in order to prevent infections.
Nigeria has a staggering rate of 58,000 maternal deaths annually according to a 2015 report by the United Nations. UNICEF has also put the infant mortality rate at 528 daily deaths, alarming statistics for the world’s most populous black nation.
HelpMum was selected by a panel of judges as one of four winners of the first-ever Google Impact Challenge Africa, Nigeria 2018.
The company is one of four winners in Nigeria – each benefiting from a $250,000 grant. According to Google, the Impact Challenge Africa is for ‘organizations who are using technology and innovation to create economic opportunity in their communities to step forward with their most innovative ideas.’
HelpMum’s focus in rural areas are because women living in these communities suffer bad road networks. These road networks are inaccessible. So they use midwives and traditional birth attendants who lack the resources to cater to their needs.
‘We provide basic WHO clean birth kits to women. These include surgical blades, delivery mats, and other things needed for a safe home delivery to avoid infections that may lead to the death of pregnant women,’ he said.
HelpMum distributed the kits freely in the capital of Oyo state in southwestern Nigeria and Ondo State. They independently reached about 250 women with their little resources.
Google Impact Challenge Africa was also held in South Africa and Kenya. A People’s Choice prize was voted on by members of the public. A further three winners were decided by a select panel of judges after hearing pitches from a set of finalists.
Like HelpMum, the other winners from the three countries were awarded $250, 000 each while eight runners-up took home a grant of $125, 000.
The funding will be allocated in portions. They will be assigned to each enterprise as they reach a set of predefined milestones based on cost-effectiveness. In addition to the funding, Google will also provide guidance, mentorship and technical assistance to the winners.
Vetsark, an agricultural technology firm won the People’s Choice award in Nigeria.
The Cece Yara Foundation with its Project Safe Access initiative rounded off Nigeria’s list of winners.
Corruption Watch: BUA MZANSI, Gradesmatch, and RLabs won the judges’ prize. Memeza Shout Crime Prevention received the People’s Choice award in South Africa.
African Prisons Project, Startup Lions, and UjuziKilimo Solutions won the judges’ award. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy took home the People’s Choice award in Kenya.
Google Impact Challenge Africa was first launched in Africa in May. It received 5,000 submissions across the continent.
‘Many African innovators are doing great work with real impact and Google is keen to shine a light on their work, and also give a financial boost to their projects and ideas.
‘We believe technology can help local and national organizations to better reach their goals and solve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges,’ Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, Google Country Director in Nigeria, said in a statement.
She added: ‘Google is eager to provide support to individuals and organizations using technology in new ways to make a positive difference.’
In total, 36 nonprofit organizations and social enterprises in the three countries won some recognition.
With the grant, HelpMum aims to reach more women across Nigeria. They hope to increase the number to about 100,000 women in total.
The second phase of their project, Adereni says, is a collaboration with Google on an immunization tracker. The tracker helps women to know the next immunization dates for their children.
This will drastically reduce the deaths among infants who otherwise lack the necessary vaccines needed to fight off diseases.