Uber For Emergencies:  Vodafone’s ‘Ambulance Taxi’ Initiative Saving Lives In Rural Tanzania

By Kevin Mwanza Published: March 7, 2016, 6:48 am
Omari Mabula, 25, is one of the ambulance taxi drivers for the maternal health programme (Image: Telegrapgh.co.uk)

UK-based telecoms giant Vodafone Group, through its foundation, last week launched a toll-free emergency line and ‘ambulance taxi’ that could help save over 2,700 lives of pregnant mothers and babies in rural Tanzania every year.

The first-of-its-kind services in Africa is in partnership with its non-governmental partners Pathfinder International, Touch Foundation and the US agency for International Development (USAID), The Telegraph reported.

The “ambulance taxi” initiative, that works similarly to the 911 emergency line in the United States, is the latest from the Vodafone Foundation, which is using mobile technology to help improve access to healthcare, education and disaster relief in developing countries.

The telecommunication industry in Africa has witnessed a revolution especially with the onset of the handset mobile phones. Mobile phones have changed the ways companies, government agencies and other institutions deal with citizen in many African countries.

Apart from easing communication, the wide use of mobile phones has boosted the economic output of individuals living on the continent. It is estimated that more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s adult population is now connected to a mobile phone.

This has quickly increasing financial inclusivity through mobile money and bringing services much closer to the less connected populace on the continent.

In countries like Tanzania, pregnant women and children in remote regions are at a high risk in case of emergencies because of limited transport options to access needed hospital services that would make the difference between life and death.

With ‘ambulance taxi’ about 225 women and babies from Tanzania’s Sengerema and Shinyanga districts will be able to reach hospitals in times every month.

The Vodafone program connects pregnant mothers with a network of 100 taxi drivers who respond to emergency calls and take the women on a three-hour journey to reach the nearest hospital. Once women arrive safely at a hospital, the emergency taxi drivers are paid using Vodafone’s mobile payment service, M-Pesa.

According to Wavuti, a trial of the taxi service late last year in a small area of Sengerema saved the lives of over 300 women and babies.



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