Innovative technology improves health service access across EAC borders – the Wananchi Health Digital Platform (GIZ)

Have you ever tried to get hold of information on the nearest doctor for special treatment or the closest COVID-19 test location while traveling? There is a chance that this information was hard to get or possibly not readily available at all. Well, we’ve got good news for you.

With support of the Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa (IIDEA), EANNASO (Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS and Health Service Organisations) developed a digital travel companion on health exactly at the time when the global COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Now, the app supplies users with all the latest figures on the pandemic across the EAC including information and much more.

Onesmus Mlewa Kalama, EANNASO Programme Manager, notes, “While COVID19 has posed a great challenge to all of us, we have taken advantage of this situation and further adapted our digital platform to provide real time COVID-19 statistics as they are updated by WHO and have created a section where communities can get health alerts besides getting information on where to access essential health services like COVID testing centres in Kenya and Tanzania.”

The platform also allows residents and travellers to make well-informed decisions on which health facility to visit, reducing the time needed to seek for health services, and improving health outcomes for residents and travellers. It maps out where all health care services are with a particular emphasis on the border between Kenya and Tanzania in the first instance, but with a view to scaling up in the future. This will cover hospitals and clinics and major pharmacies too, listing the services and opening hours of each and in the future also adding the ability to make an appointment through the app platform.

“Sometimes the nearest health care provider is just on the other side of the border, instead of a five-hour drive away in one’s own country. This knowledge and the ability to cross the border in a health emergency, or simply for a regular appointment, will radically change the lives of people along the Kenyan and Tanzanian border,” explains Onesmus.

The project also developed ideas how to reach people who are not digitally connected at all. The solution – regional health outreach workers who can access the app will help people in their region to get the information they need.

Publicising the app was done in close cooperation with border officials, creating awareness among border communities and outreach health care workers and providers. “Expanding the concept is an obvious future step, and one that will benefit all communities across the EAC in the future,” hopes Onesmus.

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