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How UNICEF Text Messages Save Children’s Lives in Indonesia

A girl and her mother (partially visible) meet with a midwife at a UNICEF-supported clinic in Tanjona, Aceh Province, Indonesia.

A girl and her mother meet with a midwife at a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Tanjona, Aceh Province, Indonesia. © UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0681/Estey

In Indonesia — where a child under five dies every four minutes of preventable causes — midwives are often responsible for children’s health in rural villages. Yet many of the country’s approximately 150,000 midwives have limited education and little access to current medical information.

“The idea is simple — texting key health messages to rural midwives.”

A new UNICEF-supported pilot program changes all of that, providing a simple, text message-based information pipeline to the midwives who care for mothers and children in isolated communities.

Through the Info Bidan program—the name means “information for midwives”—healthcare providers in remote villages in Pemalang and West Lombok received three text messages a week on lifesaving topics like nutrition, safe pregnancy and delivery, and early child development.

Midwives in Lombok, Indonesia hold up their cell phones after an Info Bidan training session.

Midwives in Lombok, Indonesia after an Info Bidan training session. © UNICEF Indonesia/Hasan

Defitriani, a midwife in West Lombok described the benefits. “I was in the middle of a class for mothers, and I got two text messages. I immediately shared them with the class. They came just in time. Nearly all the mothers understand them and the danger signs in pregnancy. Before we relied on leaflets and had to bring them everywhere. This … well we just put it in our pocket!”

A midwife in West Lombok, Indonesia, opening a message on the importance of birth spacing, the first message she received from Info Bidan.

A midwife in West Lombok, Indonesia, opening a message on the importance of birth spacing, the first message she received from Info Bidan. © UNICEF Indonesia/Hasan

“I was in the middle of a class for mothers, and I got 2 text messages. I immediately shared them.”

The simple, effective program is a collaboration between UNICEF, the Indonesian Ministry of Health, Nokia, and telecom provider PT XL Axiata.

Says Dr. Robin Nandy, UNICEF Indonesia’s Chief of Child Survival and Development, “We would of course like to scale this up to the entire country.”

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