E-HEALTH FOR REFUGEES PROJECT
We are in May, 2015. 270 Kilometers from Kigali, the Capital city of Rwanda, after 5 hours in a bus I am finally inside Mahama refugee camp. We are in an outreach organized by the Medical Students’ Association of Rwanda, an organization working under the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association, IFMSA.
Mahama Refugee Camp extends as far as the eye can see. A series of tents. A series of lives. A series of stories. Too much youth, adolescents and children. Children coming from schools, adolescents playing basketball and many others in small groups sitting in front of white small tents. Frankly speaking, this is my first time to see such huge number of population. Interestingly, most of them are young people with the same age as me. Looking at how they live, what they eat, where they sleep, this is for sure the most heartbreaking moment of my life.
As a medical student, one of my mission here is to deliver a preaching on HIV/AIDS. Luckily, the room is full. As I start preaching, youth are bored and started walking out one by one. I ask one of them why and guess the answer. She says “This is like my 100th time hearing this message.” How is that possible that they get this message so frequent and yet they suffer consequences of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, HIV and STIs?
Many interventions about this issue were done since the time this camp was established. But still consequences of limited sexual and reproductive health knowledge are still enormous. I stopped teaching and asked my friend to resume. I sat down, asked people and analyzed how health education is being carried out. I analyzed the methodology and asked myself. Why are we still using the traditional methods in teaching about reproductive health to young people of today?
An old proverb says: “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” If we want to educate young people of today, we must go find them where they live. Young people of today connect with their friends and socialize through internet. What if we can do the same and deliver sexual and reproductive health information using internet? That’s where the idea of designing E-Health for refugees Project started.
From Facebook Page to Designing Tantine Platforms
Back to school, we started a Facebook page “Tantine” with a purpose of disseminating sexuality information to youth using that channel. Few people in refugee camp had access to Facebook and we encouraged them to sit with their colleagues and share information. In the end of 2015, we participated in a competition organized by Makerere University based institution “Resilient Africa Network” and our project won a grant of 5000 US Dollars.
With the grant, we designed our own platforms made of a website www.tantine.rw and an Android Application “Tantine”. We equipped the platforms with high quality, interactive and youth friendly sexuality information. In addition to this, our platforms have forums; a chat room for friendly and no judgmental discussion which also have Questions-Answers option. Our app also has some useful tools namely; the menstruation and Ovulation tracker, BMI and Due Date calculators.
Young refugees don’t own Smartphone
Access to a smartphone, a computer or internet is not easy for young refugees who struggle to find something to eat. With the help of the grant, we bought 10 android tablets and internet router. We partnered with Save the Children, an international NGO working in the camp. We use youth center in the camp and we established in that center, a room where youth can come and access tablets.
Our Approach is Unique
Tantine is a website and mobile application that provide adolescents refugees with SRH knowledge and supports mentorship. A unit of 20 young people form a “family”. Each family is assisted by two highly trained Peer educators. Each family also gets a tablet with internet access where they can access SRH information, participate in online discussion with educators and doctors through Tantine App.
E-Health for Refugees approach is unique as it is a combination of modern and traditional way of reaching and educating young people. It uses technology which have proven to reach the masses at low cost and in short time. However, sometimes technology is not inclusive of the most vulnerable individuals who don’t have access to it. For technology to be inclusive and leave no one behind, it has to be combined with a traditional forms of communication. Grouping youth into small families of 20 people assisted by trained Peers educators ensures that our project is inclusive.
As we grew, we got partners
The project E-Health for Refugees was designed by medical students who later started a social enterprise called “Tantine Group Ltd”. Initially, the project was funded by Resilient Africa Network in the beginning of 2016.
In 2017, we won another grant from UNFPA Rwanda under support of DFID of 10,000 US Dollars. The mission of the funding was to strengthen our project “E-Health for Refugee” in the refugee camp and to scale up the reach of our platforms to the Rwandan society. With the grant, we improved considerably the technology infrastructure of Tantine Platforms, we did maintenance of Tablets and assured the internet access for young people in the refugee camp.
Since 2019, we have been working in partnership with Rwanda Red Cross. The later equipped peer educator in Mahama and Nyabiheke refugee camp with mobile phone and internet connection to access Tantine App. Tantine as an organization trained the peer educator on the use of Tantine App in learning about sexual and reproductive health. On a daily basis, we help youth from the refugee camp in answering their questions related to sexual and reproductive health.
Tantine Group is a social entreprise registered in Rwanda. It’s main mission is to use innovation in solving healthcare challenges hence saving lives.
Tantine Group is a social entreprise registered in Rwanda. It's main mission is to use innovation in solving healthcare challenges hence saving lives.