SEATTLE, Washington — SafeBoda, a popular ride-sharing app in Uganda, has launched a new service to deliver contraceptives to people that require them during the COVID-19 pandemic. SafeBoda is a motorcycle taxi company that operates in parts of Africa. SafeBoda’s mission is to not only provide safe and reliable transportation but to also improve the welfare of Africans through empowerment and special services.
Impact of Lockdowns on Access to Supplies
During lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus, there has been a short supply of contraceptives and other sexual health supplies such as pregnancy tests, HIV tests, birth control pills, delivery kits and menstrual health resources. Interruptions in supply chains and factories, as well as transport restrictions, have made it difficult for people to access necessary sexual health products. However, through the SafeBoda app, people can order these items, among other healthcare items, to their homes privately and conveniently.
The SafeBoda app launched this service in partnership with Marie Stopes International, United Nations Population Fund and the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda. Since people extensively use the SafeBoda app in Uganda, it provided a large enough user base for the organizations to implement the service.
How it Works
The app locates nearby pharmacies and health stores when a user orders an item, paying through either credit or cash on delivery. A SafeBoda driver picks up the item and delivers it to the user’s doorstep. Moreover, the drivers also deliver essential resources to clinics and hospitals where volunteers help distribute them. The reproductive health items sold are affordable and subsidized. The Ugandan government also provides free condoms, which people can order through the app without any delivery charges. The service is being implemented successfully in multiple districts in Uganda such as the Wakiso district and Kampala city.
Uganda has a high fertility rate of 4.7% and a contraceptive prevalence rate of 34%. SafeBoda made it its mission to increase access to condoms and other contraceptives for people in Uganda. Due to social taboos, people are usually wary of buying these products over the counter. However, the app makes it easier for people to order essential products without any hassle and from the safety and privacy of their homes.
The SafeBoda app has also launched a scheme with local village volunteers and health teams, in which volunteers visit communities and spread awareness about the use of contraceptives, particularly among the younger population. Volunteers provide accurate information, mobilize communities and connect people with critical healthcare services.
SafeBoda is not the only innovative solution being implemented in Africa. Recently, a new app in Eswatini, in partnership with the UNFPA, the World Food Programme and the Sexual Reproductive Health Unit in the Ministry of Health, has launched an SMS service in which young women receive updates on family planning services in their communities. The service was implemented in order to encourage women and young girls to access family planning services and sexual health resources during the pandemic, which had led to a 47% drop in access to family planning resources in Eswatini.
As the pandemic progresses, people are relying more and more on digital solutions to get access to critical resources. Companies and organizations are realizing that now is the time to come up with innovative and longstanding solutions to many problems that will be useful even after the pandemic is under control. Apps like SafeBoda and the Eswatini app are doing just that, making sure that people have continuous access to sexual and reproductive health resources.
– Abbas Raza