CALABAR, Cross River State, Nigeria, - 06 Apr 2011: Ahead of World Health Day, IBM (NYSE: IBM ) announced details of its involvement with two government programs in Cross River State, Nigeria aimed at providing access to free healthcare and alleviating poverty.
Over the past year, IBM's consultants have been engaged by the Cross River State government to help roll out the state projects "Hope" and "Comfort" in a bid to address issues of infant and maternal mortality and increase levels of literacy amongst the poor. To date, IBM has helped in registering over 135,000 for the programs.
The work benefits from advanced technologies such as biometric identification and solar energy to make the programs more efficient, reliable and accurate.
"We launched project Hope to provide free healthcare for pregnant women and children under five, so as to mitigate both infant and maternal mortality rates which were unacceptably high. Running alongside is project Comfort - a social benefit program designed to provide financial assistance to people living in poverty and support in educating family members," said Senator Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River State.
"These programs have huge potential to save and transform the lives of people living in Cross River State and we wanted to ensure that they benefit from the latest global technologies and expertise. For this reason we turned to IBM to help us with the implementation and management of the programs and to ensure that they have the greatest chance of success."
Cross River State suffers from some of the worst child and infant mortality rates in the African region with thousands of mothers, newborn babies and children dying every year – many from preventable, treatable causes. According to the latest government figures, 250 out of every 1000 children in the state die before reaching the age of five. Two-thousand out of every 100,000 women die during child birth. By partnering with IBM on projects Hope and Comfort, the Cross River State Government intends to reduce child and maternal mortality rates by 50% by the end of 2011 and halve the number of people living in abject poverty by 2015.
IBM's consultants from Nigeria and Australia have worked closely alongside government departments, health workers and local business partner Quanteq to help manage and roll out the programs. During this period the consultants have brought to bear IBM's project management skills and global expertise in the application of modern technologies to create smarter healthcare systems.
"This week is World Health Day and an opportunity to focus on key health issues around the world. Africa is challenged with many serious health issues and IBM believes that the application of modern technologies has an important role to play in addressing some of these problems," said Taiwo Otiti, Country General Manager, IBM West Africa.
"Our cooperation with the Cross River State Government has been mutually beneficial. Our consultants have been able to apply some of their global experience for the benefit of the local people. At the same time we've been able to gain valuable experience in tackling some of the most challenging healthcare issues and learning more about local approaches."
Both projects Hope and Comfort depend on the mass registration of citizens in Cross River State who qualify for the programs based on their personal circumstances. To date, around 130,000 mothers and children have registered to receive free healthcare through project Hope and another 5,600 families have registered for financial support through project Comfort. Working with Quanteq, IBM has assisted with the creation of an IT system to record and manage the personal details and medical histories for the programs. The digitization of the data from the programs means that in the future doctors will have fast and accurate access to medical records helping them to make better decisions.
The system benefits from a number of modern technologies. Biometric identification technologies have been introduced to help register and identify the beneficiaries of the programs, who are given digital identity cards that store an individual's photo and finger prints. As the region is challenged by frequent power failures, IBM consultants also advised on the installation of solar panels at the healthcare stations where free healthcare can be received and where the computer terminals for the programs are located.
"In the past, pregnant women living in rural areas in Nigeria typically turned to traditional birth attendants with informal knowledge of midwifery for help with childbirth. Medicines would be purchased at a roadside chemist," said Edak Iwuchukwu, Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development, Cross River State. "Today, through this initiative, pregnant women have the option of going for regular free health checks, receiving free medicines and giving birth at a state health center. While Cross River State is a largely rural community, the people are now starting to benefit from some of the most advanced technologies available."
IBM signed an agreement with Cross River State to provide consultancy services in April 2010. The agreement followed the successful completion of a one-month pro-bono project by a team of IBM consultants working as part of IBM's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program.
The Corporate Service Corps is a global IBM initiative designed to provide small businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organizations in growth markets with sophisticated business consulting and skills development to help improve local economic conditions and foster job creation. The employees work pro bono with local organizations and businesses on projects that intersect business, technology and society. Africa is a focus region for the program and since its inception in 2008, IBM has deployed teams of its employees to places like Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Since its official launch in July, 2008 – the CSC has deployed 1000 IBM employees on 100 international teams to 20 countries.
Projects Hope and Comfort
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