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How technology can help save lives in Zimbabwe


September 3, 2021 • 4 min read

Batanayi Tsuro’s infant son was born premature and underweight during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was the young father’s first child. His wife Beauty and him were not familiar with the food that can best feed their new baby and ensure he grows up healthy. The family, who live in Highfields, Harare, Zimbabwe, were struggling to help him gain weight.

WIFI routers helping families

Our local GOAL team in Zimbabwe, in partnership with UNICEF, put in place trucks equipped with special WIFI routers and details on how to download nutritional information. These were parked in Batanayi’s neighbourhood and he was able to access this lifesaving nutritional information. This helped the family to understand what food was best for their young child, and Batanayi’s son soon gained weight and grew stronger.

The WIFI routers are allowing Batanayi’s family and other in their community to download easily shareable videos, pictures and recipes that guide them towards ensuring children aged from six months to two years benefit from a “4 star diet”. Amongst other things, this diet promotes the use of the four major food groups categories to achieve a good nutritional balance.

Batanayi and his son sitting outside his home in Highfield suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe.

Covid-19 and food security

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures had a devastating impact on food security for thousands of vulnerable households in Zimbabwe. Families are struggling to meet basic needs including food supplies.

In April 2020, Promobile partnered with GOAL and travelled through rural and urban communities in Zimbabwe with truck equipped with WIFI routers sharing free and accessible information.

In response, GOAL Zimbabwe launched the Emergency Social Cash Transfer Programme in Highfields. It aims at reducing food insecurity, improving diet and the health of mothers and children in vulnerable households in the district.

Awareness raising activities encouraging communities to download key messaging on the 4-star diet complement the financial assistance programme. This in turn can help change feeding practices and encourage people to use the financial support to buy nutritious foods.

Mobile, free & life-saving information

Community members access downloadable messaging using special WIFI routers on large trucks. These are supplied by another GOAL Zimbabwe partner: the mobile marketing company Promobile. After the pandemic hit in April 2020, Promobile partnered with GOAL and travelled through rural and urban communities in Zimbabwe. They helped inform people of COVID-19 preventative measures such as handwashing, the use of face masks and the practice of social distancing.

In addition, the trucks display messages on gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection information and promote toll-free helplines. Information is also displayed for mothers on how to screen their children for malnutrition and inform communities on the importance of regular home malnutrition screening using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference tapes.

The trucks equipped with special WIFI routers have been the source of excitement and curiosity for community members. The routers are preloaded with information and videos giving food preparation tips targeted at infant feeding. There are recipe cards and meal plans as well as posters on food preservation and backyard gardening. They also give tips on shared responsibilities in the home and monitoring the growth of infants through visits to local health facilities.

The trucks equipped with special WIFI routers and pre-loaded with videos and information have been the source of excitement and curiosity for community members.

In one month alone, over 3,500 unique users viewed the web page, with 1,626 downloads of easily sharable video and other content. Interestingly, the tool was very popular with men who took the content to share in their homes.

Innovative technology at the service of communities

Rumbidzai Chituyu, Senior Nutritionist for Harare City Council, said: “GOAL and Promobile offered a refreshing and exciting way of conducting nutrition education in an urban setting different from the usual health education talks. Mothers in Harare are usually too busy and preoccupied to listen to and retain all information given to them by health workers. The WIFI facility reach out to mothers, and key messages are delivered in a fun way. It is our hope that this will result in an improvement in infant and young child feeding practices.”

Community member, Brian Mahembe, summed it up. “We now have access to life saving information on our mobile phones. We will also share it with other community members. The videos for the recipes will help us feed our babies with healthy food. We hope to see less of underweight and unhealthy babies in our communities,”

GOAL Zimbabwe Country Director, Gabriella Prandini said: “So many countries around the world take the internet and WIFI for granted. But in Zimbabwe access to the web is impossible for millions of people. This programme shows the vital role that technology can play in helping to save the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.”