Health professionals in South America can now use satellite communication terminals to tackle high infant and maternal mortality rates.

Telemedicine to cut infant death in the Amazon

Health professionals in South America can use satellite communication terminals to tackle high infant and maternal mortality rates.

The project, supported by UK satellite operator Inmarsat and the Télécoms Sans Frontières agency, has supplied Inmarsat’s BGAN mobile voice and broadband satellite communication terminals to create the first eHealth network in the Amazon.

The initial process sees health agents - non-clinical providers - supporting the local communities, in turn being supported themselves by clinicians in the town of São Gabriel da Cachoeira.

The ambition is ultimately to have midwives and healthcare professionals in four remote health centres trained to use the satellite service to consult specialists at the main clinic in São Gabriel.

About 40,000 indigenous mothers and their children will thus benefit from the improved diagnostics and monitoring capabilities in the Rio Negro region in the north-west of the Amazon rainforest where one in ten mothers and children die within a year of the child’s birth.

Canadian non-government organisations (NGO) e-KSS and Brazilian NGO FOIRN (Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro), managing the project, say the extreme mortality rates are caused by the lack of basic healthcare.

“At TSF, we are dedicated to working alongside the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, an ethic which is reflected in our duty to adapt telecommunications material to humanitarian needs,” said TSF President Jean-François Cazenave.

“Thanks to Inmarsat, TSF has been able to implement this telehealth network at the heart of the Amazon rainforest, allowing auxiliary health workers not only to carry out remote consultations, but also to undertake vital data collection in the hope of ultimately reducing that mortality rate that’s devastating indigenous communities.”

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