Malawi will become first country to in Africa to operate a national nutrition hotline.
The hotline will be an extension of Health Centre by Phone or Chipatala cha pa Foni, which came through a community-based campaign for maternal and child health innovation, led by the Ministry of Health and Population.
The initiative has been rolled out in nine districts but the service is expected to be expanded nationally by 2019.
The expansion is part of the ministry’s [Health] plan to transition management of the service from partners to full-government ownership.
Simply by calling the short code 54747 from any Airtel phone, the mobile phone health centre callers connect directly with qualified health professionals at a call centre, who are specially trained to answer questions on all general health topics, including nutrition, in accordance with Ministry of Health and Population guidelines.
The hotline creates a critical link between the health centre and communities, extending the reach of the health system, where access is most limited.
Airtel Malawi is one of the partners of the service. Other donors and partners include United States Agency for International Development, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief through the Dreams Innovation Challenge, GIZ, Johnson & Johnson, and Vitol Foundation have provided critical funding to expand the service in scope and scale, through content development, staff training and infrastructure improvements, most recently moving the hotline call centre from Balaka to a much larger and more technically-advanced facility in Lilongwe.
As the leading implementing partner, Village Reach has been central to developing the Health Centre by Phone initiative.