Approximately 6.9 million women are treated for complications from unsafe abortions each year in developing countries. More than 22,000 die.* Can a new app help doctors and midwives save their lives?
Agnes Mlangeni is an assistant medical officer and postabortion care provider in one of Tanzania’s busiest hospitals. She’s seen what happens when women cannot access safe abortion services from skilled health providers.
“There was this woman in her twenties. Her husband was in jail. She had a baby and was pregnant. She went somewhere and had an abortion that was unsafe,” said Dr. Mlangeni. “It left her bleeding.”
Two days later, still bleeding heavily, the woman pulled herself to her feet and went for help.
“A provider tried to help her, but was untrained,” said Dr. Mlangeni. “They did a procedure and sent her home. Four days later, I met this woman. She was still bleeding when she came to our hospital. She had a fever. She was anemic and septic. And she was alone.”
No woman should have to go through this.
In Tanzania, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pathfinder is teaming up with governments to find new ways to strengthen the skills of health providers, so more women can exercise their right to high-quality services for contraception, safe abortion, and postabortion care.
“This is a first for our country,” says Dr. Joseph John Obure, Pathfinder’s Technical Director in Tanzania. “Never have postabortion care providers been mentored using digital technology. Our app comes with a checklist to make sure providers meet quality standards set by Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Pathfinder.”
“The project identified me as a mentor”
Known for her compassion and commitment, Dr. Mlangeni was selected through Pathfinder’s project to become a mentor for her fellow postabortion care providers. Now she serves as a bridge between our trainings and health providers’ day-to-day work at the hospital.
Dr. Mlangeni knows what it’s like providing postabortion care in these surroundings. She’s familiar with the barriers —including abortion stigma—that often makes her work difficult. So she tailors her guidance, works side-by-side with her mentees, and helps them move quickly from theory to practice.
A woman suffering from the effects of an unsafe abortion arrives at the hospital. Dr. Mlangeni and her fellow providers know what to do.
In her hand, Dr. Mlangeni carries a tablet. It’s equipped with an app developed by Pathfinder and our technology partner, Dimagi Inc. She guides her mentee through the critical steps of postabortion care using the app’s 23-point checklist.
With her finger on the touch screen, she records her observations.
She knows every step is critical—nothing can be missed.
She makes sure privacy and confidentiality are assured and all women are treated with respect.
She shares encouragement, providing corrections when needed. The app helps her assess a provider’s skills more consistently.
And she can track the provider’s progress over time.
Dr. Mlangeni is seeing improvements. “Before this project, we didn’t have much knowledge about postabortion care. Back then, after a procedure, three out of four women would have to come back to have it done again. That has changed.”
She put her new knowledge to use — that day when the woman arrived, close to death.
“I had been trained, so I could help her. She survived. It felt good,” she said. “I like to do my work efficiently and correctly. I really love to help women. My job is to listen, hear her story without blame, and provide services she needs. Always with respect.”
As a Pathfinder supporter, you invest in innovations that save lives. Want to see more ways we’re using digital technology to transform reproductive health? Start here: “Emergency on the Island”