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US supports LifeBank to expand medical products for mothers in Africa

Nigeria requires an estimated 1.8 million units of blood every year to serve the needs of its growing population—including women in childbirth—but only 25 percent of this demand is met.


US supports LifeBank to expand medical products for mothers in Africa
In Nigeria, over 180 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth each day and the maternal mortality rate is among the highest globally. Image Credit: Flickr

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Merck for Mothers, Credit Suisse, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that they will pursue supporting LifeBank's efforts to expand access to lifesaving medical products—namely blood and blood products—for mothers in Africa. Announced at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the project would mark the first supported under The MOMs (Maternal Outcomes Matter) Initiative.

Nigeria requires an estimated 1.8 million units of blood every year to serve the needs of its growing population—including women in childbirth—but only 25 percent of this demand is met. Without access to blood, healthcare providers' ability to treat postpartum hemorrhage—a leading cause of maternal deaths—is severely hindered. In Nigeria, over 180 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth each day and the maternal mortality rate is among the highest globally.

"We know that many maternal deaths can be prevented if women have timely access to a skilled health provider and a well-equipped health facility. Merck for Mothers is excited to be a part of this innovative and catalytic investment with LifeBank to support improved maternal health and address this critical need during childbirth," said Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead and Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, Merck's $500 million initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die giving life.

Since October 2018, LifeBank has been addressing this challenge through an innovative mobile application that allows healthcare providers to order lifesaving blood and blood products from medical centers across Lagos and Abuja and connects would-be donors to their local blood banks.

"The availability of blood and other lifesaving products is essential for mothers facing distress during childbirth," said Kathryn Kaufman, DFC Managing Director for Global Women's Issues. "Timely access to these products can be the difference between mothers watching their babies grow up or babies growing up without a mother. Through this partnership, we can help LifeBank provide crucial support to mothers, children, and families in Nigeria and across Africa."

LifeBank medical dispatchers can respond to orders 24/7 via motorcycle in under 45 minutes. Blood is stored in refrigerated boxes with Bluetooth-enabled padlocks that only the intended recipient can open. To date, the company has moved more than 18,000 pints between blood banks and hospitals, saving over 4,400 lives in the process. LifeBank has also developed a drone delivery program to better reach rural populations, which face particular challenges accessing critical medical supplies.

"Credit Suisse is thrilled to partner on such an important and innovative investment, leveraging our financial expertise and resources to support LifeBank's efforts to save mothers' lives," said Dana Barsky, Chief Operating Officer and Head of External Partnerships for the Impact Advisory and Finance Department at Credit Suisse. "Impact-driven investable opportunities in the field of maternal medicine are rare and we're pleased to be a part of this concerted effort to make a difference in the region."

Support under The MOMs Initiative would help LifeBank grow its operations, enabling the company to expand across Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa and to supply an expected one million additional units of blood and other lifesaving medical products. Support from DFC, Merck for Mothers, Credit Suisse, and USAID is subject to each organization's comprehensive review and approval process.

The MOMs Initiative is actively seeking to support additional organizations and is accepting proposals from businesses focused on improving maternal health in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Applicants must demonstrate an established revenue-generating business model along with a minimum of $1 million of annual revenue and/or assets to be eligible for support. Interested parties can review the full investment criteria and learn how to apply here. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis through March 31, 2020.

Launched at the Women Deliver conference in June 2019, The MOMs Initiative aims to mobilize private capital to support maternal and child health in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. As part of the collaboration, DFC, Merck for Mothers, Credit Suisse, and USAID seek to mobilize up to $50 million to improve and expand infrastructure, services, and access to care in order to ensure healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries—laying the foundation for lifelong good health.

(With Inputs from APO)

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