Wekebere Can Save Millions of Expectant Mothers

Approximately 2.68 million babies died within the first 28 days of their life. Of those deaths, 98 percent or 2.63 million occurred in developing countries.

In the developing world, nearly half of all mothers and newborns don’t receive medical care after birth, and those who do are often subjected to understaffed hospitals with 20, 30 or even 50 expectant mothers under the care of one nurse. Even worse is the lack of vital signs monitors that forces nurses to manually check vitals like temperature and fetal heart rate. The time spent manually monitoring one child could be the difference between saving or losing another.

The solution could be Wekebere, a low-cost sensor integrated into a belt that continuously monitors a unborn’s vitals. The wearable device monitors the four vital signs nurses use to identify babies in distress. The sensors are powered by rechargeable batteries and wirelessly transmit the data on fetal heart rate, uterine contraction and temperature to the hand-held display. Healthcare workers are then immediately notified when a baby is in distress.

Wekebere would allow nurses to check on up to 24 babies at once and quickly attend to those who need help. More than that, the device is completely safe for unborns. It operates on a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter that complies with all safety recommendations.

One of the main problems hospitals face in sub-Saharan Africa is budget constraint. According to the creators of wekebere, every device has the potential to save the life of a unborn and the mother for less than $1 once it is produced at scale. This could mean a huge breakthrough for low-resource countries, especially those with understaffed hospitals.

Last Month, co-founders Stephen Tashobya ,Uwimana Aline and Kalemera Johnkenedy went to kanungu district south western Uganda to get design input from nurses and doctors who will use the wekebere belt in their practices. Now, Stephen, line and Kennedy are developing their prototypes and working toward the first field deployment at a partner hospital in kanungu district of Uganda.

“Our vision to success includes demonstrating the feasibility and impact of the technology in Ugandan NICUs, scaling deployment and sales in Uganda, and expanding to comparable regional and global markets over the next two years,” the co-founders said in a statement.

Globally, the maternal neonatal mortality rate has substantially dropped, from 36 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 19 in 2015. But there is still an urgent need to improve newborn survival and health. The good thing is that the most frequent causes of maternal and infant deaths are treatable or preventable conditions. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, up to two-thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented with effective and known health measures during the first week of life.

Infants are most vulnerable during their first weeks of life, and the lack of medical care in developing countries leaves them at high risk. wekebere has the potential to change that.

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