Category Archives: Science and Health

Mobile app, iafya, rich in health information


Kenyan health workers are using a mobile app to learn and educate the masses on health principles.

Dubbed ‘iAfya’, the tool by Avallain Limited, a social enterprise based in Switzerland and Kenya, is already being used as a professional companion by health workers at Coptic hospital.

The tool is gaining prominence since the mobile phone has become ubiquitous (widely available) in Kenya and the region. Continue reading


Two African Innovators Awarded US$250,000 Grants to Address Maternal, Newborn Deaths in Sub-Sahara

Two projects, one using cell phones to deliver to expectant mothers in Kenya electronic vouchers for pre-natal care and transportation, the other aimed at promoting maternal and child health in northern Nigeria, will receive $250,000 grants from the Saving Lives at Birth Partnership.

Both projects were motivated by the childbirth-related deaths of important women in the lives of the African-based project innovators.

Although Kenyan Sam Agutu and Nigerian Aminu Gamawa come from different countries and backgrounds, they share a common passionate commitment – to save the lives of women giving birth and guarantee infants a healthy start.
Agutu’s sister died in childbirth on the way to the hospital. Gamawa’s mother died in childbirth too. Both men say the deaths were avoidable if better care had been available. They’ve channeled that devastating loss into powerful motivation to improve the odds for women and their babies.

Sam Agutu’s Kenyan group, Changamka Microhealth based in Nairobi, is proposing e-vouchers delivered through cell phones to encourage women to seek care during their pregnancy and at birth. In remote areas health care costs and distance to clinics are barriers for women. The e-vouchers can be used to pay for pre-natal care and transportation.

“Research shows that not receiving adequate care is a leading cause of maternal mortality in the developing world. Mothers who attend their required ante-natal visits and who deliver in hospital stand an infinitely greater chance of surviving than those who do not” said Mr. Agutu. “We will use Saving Lives at Birth’s support to validate the effectiveness of e-vouchers, an SMS informational campaign and a transport subsidy in encouraging pregnant women to seek health care.”

The Development Research and Projects Centre in Nigeria is relying on persuasion and experience to change attitudes of some Islamic opinion leaders in the country’s Muslim northern states. The project will leverage the persuasive powers of progressive Islamic leaders to change opinions of more traditional leaders.

“The Development Research and Project Centre’s proposal is aimed directly at those religious leaders to change their negative messages about maternity and newborn care,” said Aminu Gamawa, Leadership Development Mechanism Fellow at the Development Research and Projects Centre. “We want to improve the survival of women and children in Northern Nigeria, which has the highest maternal and neonatal death rate in the country as well as one of the highest in the world.

Each program will receive a $250,000 seed grant from the Saving Lives at Birth partnership, which includes Grand Challenges Canada, USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.

“These two bold ideas with big impact are testimonials to the loved ones these innovators lost in childbirth,” said Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, a member of the partnership. “Their loved ones did not have to die, and these innovations aim to prevent other women from dying unnecessarily in childbirth.”

“With the support and leadership of the Government of Canada, this innovative initiative from Grand Challenges Canada is contributing to our overall maternal and child health efforts. I commend the Saving Lives at Birth partners for their dedication,” said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation.

“To deliver dramatic health results for women and children who may never step foot inside a hospital, we must harness the creativity of innovators and partners across the globe.” Said Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator. “By doing so, we can increase the efficiency, sustainability and effectiveness of our work.”

“Grand Challenges Canada is proud to be working with our consortium partners, Canada’s International Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support this very important work in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Joseph L. Rotman, Chair of Grand Challenges Canada, “It takes bold innovation of all types to make substantial changes in the health and well-being of women and infants.”

The e-waste debate: Is it fixing digital gap or creating digital dump?

According to Green peace international, the ever-growing demand for the latest fashionable mobile phone, flat screen TV or super-fast computer creates ever larger amounts of obsolete electronics that are often laden with toxic chemicals like lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants.

Rather than being safely recycled, much of this e-waste gets dumped in developing countries.
In Kenya there is no tangible policy to tackle the e-waste menace yet the country’s ICT sector is growing fast. Importation of cheaper electronics, both genuine and fakes, means the country is sitting on a time bomb unless quick action is taken.

Talking to dealers, resellers and retailers in electronics like Television sets, mobile phones you will realize that consumers are buying new gadgets every day. Sadly though when these gadgets reach their end life, no one knows where they end up. Continue reading

Samsung unveils automated ‘Virus doctor’ as it eyes to expand market in Africa.

BY JAMES RATEMO In Sandton, SouthAfrica

It is now possible to battle deadly airborne viruses allergy causing dust mites without involving a medical practitioner.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., a market leader in consumer electronics, has unveiled the latest air filtration technology among its new range of premium air conditioners.

The gadget dubbed ‘Virus Doctor’ kills more than 99.9 per cent of harmful airborne viruses including SARS and H1N1, to guarantee contamination-free indoor air.

In an Interview with The Standard during the company’s Africa’s forum in South Africa, Samsung Chief Operations Officer George Ferreira said the company’s sub- Saharan African unit plans to increase its share of the electronics market on the continent to as much as 33 percent by 2015 from 20 percent now. Continue reading

E-waste menace in Kenya refuses to go away


E-waste menace around the world has been a major concern to environmental conservationists.

In Kenya and other developing countries, balancing between the need to serve masses with affordable computers and curbing technology dumping has often put Governments and distributors of used computers on a collision course. Continue reading

A lesson for Kenya from Germany

When I landed in Germany early this month (February), the weather made me shrink and I did not think life would be exciting for the two months I was to ‘waste’ in the chilly winter season. Continue reading