Newsday Tuesday – Text Messages Help the Fight Against Malnutrition in Malawi


February 11, 2014

Each week in Malawi’s rural district of Chikwawa, more than 200 mothers bring their children (under age 5) to the Makwira Health Center for a monthly check-in. The children are weighed and their height and arm circumferences are measured. The measurements are then sent to a central hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city, via SMS text message.

Malawi Health Clinic

Stephane January, a community health-care worker, uses his Nokia phone to send each child’s identification number, date of birth, and updated measurements. He explains, “When children are malnourished, we can find out in less time and send them to get food supplements.”

While this new system doesn’t solve the root causes of malnutrition, it has been very effective at identifying it and getting children the nutritional supplements they need while they’re still in critical stages of growth and development. SMS-based programs have been used in other areas to monitor disease outbreaks and ensure that world leaders hear the voices of their people.

John Mugawa, the district’s program coordinator, explains, “The technology has helped us to analyze data and give feedback on the spot. The data doesn’t need to pass through the hospital, and can go straight to the clinician in Lilongwe.” It reduces errors, removes the minimum two month wait between diagnosis and treatment, and is saving children’s lives.



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Image credit: Negin Janati

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