March 30, 2020

Jacaranda Health Responds to COVID-19

IiH innovator Jacaranda Health/Jacaranda Maternity is responding to COVID-19 by adapting its digital platforms to address the needs of mothers and babies during the crisis.

During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, one tragic consequence of trying to control the spread of Ebola was the decline in maternal care-seeking for fear of exposure to the disease and a corresponding increase in maternal deaths and stillbirths. As Kenya joins the list of countries implementing tough measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the lessons learned from Ebola have inspired us to think critically about our mission to remain focused on supporting government hospitals to deliver high quality, essential services for mothers and babies. 

Most recently, we at Jacaranda Maternity partnered with Little Cabs to provide pregnant patients with safe rides to obstetric appointments during government-stipulated curfew hours. Specially licensed cab drivers now transport patients in need of care to Jacaranda Maternity Hospital free of charge. This initiative is our organization's latest effort to reassure expectant mothers and make it easier for them to access care. More mothers than ever before are shying away from seeking maternity care in medical facilities due to fears around COVID-19 and violating government curfews. A recent Lancet study estimated that this could mean 1.2 million additional child deaths and 56,700 additional maternal deaths in Africa over a six-month period.

As we continue to navigate this new challenge, we are leveraging all the tools at our disposal. PROMPTS, our two-way digital health support platform for expectant and new mums, reaches more than 120,000 women across the country. The number of questions from anxious mothers grow every day:

  • How can we and our babies survive Coronavirus?
  • Should I take my baby to the clinic during Coronavirus?
  • I am afraid to deliver my baby at the hospital because of Coronavirus, is it OK if I deliver at home?

Mums are seeking information so they can make the best health decisions for themselves and their babies. This highlights an important role for maternal and newborn health organizations: provide accurate information about the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy and babies and how to seek care during this time. We are studying and updating ways to:

  • leverage our digital health platform to ensure that pregnant women and new mothers have the information they need to seek care at the right time and place, and do not get left behind during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • effectively support our network of nurse mentors and  county partners to continue providing life-saving maternal and newborn care alongside their responses to the outbreak. 

Our Help Desk agents are actively using information as it becomes available to best support our users. We are also adding capacity on our digital health platform with fresh COVID-19 content and new tools. Our tech team has created a COVID-19 informational Bot on SMS and Telegram to provide instant responses to frequently asked pregnancy and postpartum related questions, as well as county-specific health facility updates. We are happy to share this tool with other organizations in the space.  

We are supporting our network of nurse mentors--111 government hospital practitioners in 150+ facilities--and five county government partners by developing resource-efficient tools that can help providers in maternity wards:    

  • Track changes in MNH service delivery: We are maintaining a log of closures and service hour changes, and sharing this information with PROMPTS users so they know when and where to seek care. As facilities implement localized responses, we will coordinate with them to support resolutions for any service delivery disruptions.
  • Support providers with up-to-date and accurate information: The nurse mentorship team is receiving increasing requests from frontline nurses for information. As a result, they have developed and shared a COVID-19 CME for training use at partner facilities, including evidence on international and national guidelines for antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum care during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Share best practices across counties: County health managers are leveraging our presence in multiple counties to act as a liaison and connector between county coordinators, to share best practices and learn from each other.
  • Support a transition to remote work using digital communications tools: All Jacaranda-supported government meetings are now conducted using teleconference tools, and we are supporting our government partners in learning and deploying communication tools that can help them manage their work and teams remotely.

As we continue to monitor and adapt to the unfolding situation, we are also looking to engage and learn from others who are doing the same.  We are connected to frontline healthcare experiences and collecting data that can help to define conversations around how the global health community can participate in the response. We can honor the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak by monitoring the situation in real time, developing and sharing best practices, and investing in the smartest and most efficient approaches that allow us to effectively respond to COVID-19 without ignoring essential health services.

Jacaranda is a nonprofit organization in Kenya who primarily focuses on maternal, child, and reproduction health by working to improve the quality of care in public hospitals as well as creating high-quality and affordable maternity hospitals. To learn more and support Jacaranda Health as they help mothers and babies stay informed about COVID-19, please visit