In 2016, Evelyn created and launched HOPE, the first digital platform in Senegal that allows blood banks and other healthcare facilities to manage blood stocks, communicate permanently and interactively with blood donors, and raise awareness about the importance of blood donation.
HOPE recently received the Observatory Award for eHealth in the countries of the South awarded by the Pierre Fabre Foundation.
- What is it like to be a female engineer in Cameroon?
“In many parts of Cameroon, women are still considered as the property of men. Due to the lack of education and the weight of traditions/customs, they undergo certain situations and sometimes are not consulted for certain decisions involving themselves or their families.
We observe that times have changed and the skills acquired by women who have braved the engineering curriculum, are not questioned. Moreover, we notice that responsible positions are entrusted to them and they carry out their missions properly.
I can quote as an example, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of Cameroon who is a woman, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of the Aeronautical Authority.”
- Tell us about your project HOPE, and what inspired this.
“The project HOPE was created in Senegal and is the fruit of a collaboration with a friend, Jean Luc Francisco Semedo.
During our 4th academic year in 2015, and regarding the blood shortage faced by the National Blood Transfusion Center in Dakar, we decided to bring a solution to this problem thanks to the use of Information Technologies and Communication, but especially by taking into account realities of the country.
Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, every minute in the world, a woman dies while giving birth for causes related to lack of blood.
Furthermore in Senegal (2015), only 0.45 % of the population gave blood, which is very insufficient to meet the needs for blood products and reach a self-sufficiency as advocated by WHO. Nevertheless, we live in a world of connected people, with a mobile penetration rate that has exceeded 100 % in Senegal and in many African countries.
The solution we have found is to create a blood donor’s network, interconnected via mobile and on which blood banks should lean on to improve their communication with populations, to raise awareness and boost the number of voluntary blood donations to save lives.
“HOPE is the first digital platform in Senegal that allows blood banks to manage their structure and increase their blood supply, thanks to a permanent and interactive communication with blood donors. This is done by sending SMS to thank the donor after a blood donation, sending donation reminders 3 or 4 months later, sending emergency alert SMS and vocal calls in local languages, and providing a mobile application for blood donors while having a strong presence on social media.”
We officially launched the project in 2016, with a pilot phase of 7 months at the National Blood Transfusion Center in Dakar. During this period, we succeeded in tripling the blood donations in the center. Approximately 10,900 SMS were sent to blood donors and about 30,000 people were reached across our different platforms.
Through our work, we have received national and international recognitions including:
– Winner of the Digital Innovation Award in Dakar, in 2015 (by NGO Reach for Change and Tigo)
– Winner of Falling Walls Lab Dakar in 2016 (by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation)
– Winner of the Global South E-health Observatory Award (by Pierre Fabre Foundation).
This year, we have launched a second pilot, with the blood bank of the regional hospital of Thies, a region of Senegal which struggles to meet the high demand of blood products. The results of this pilot are already very satisfactory, and we have great hope to achieve our objectives.”
- Are there enough blood centres in Cameroon as compared to Senegal?
“The National Blood Transfusion policy in Cameroon is still young and in full implementation. The construction of a National Blood Transfusion Center in Yaounde has been announced, which will include several regional centers, a blood treatment establishment, and the application of a national strategic plan of blood transfusion over the period 2015-2020.
Many hospitals have their own blood banks to meet the clinical needs of patients. Currently, about 84,000 blood bags are collected each year, and the gap between the supply and demand of blood products is still very important in Cameroon. However, concrete actions are being taken to boost the blood transfusion activity of the country and guarantee the safety of blood products for patients.
In Senegal, however, there is a National Blood Transfusion Center in Dakar, responsible for the supply of secure blood products to hospitals. To support its action, there are nearly 20 regional centers throughout the country. Thanks to this, approximately 95,000 blood bags are collected annually.”
- What is the next step for HOPE?
“After two very successful pilot phases at the National Blood Transfusion Center in Dakar and the regional hospital of Thies in Senegal, the next step for HOPE is the official deployment of the solution in all blood banks in Senegal and in many African countries that face the same difficulties to reach self-sufficiency with blood products. Particularly in Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania, Togo, etc.
This important step for HOPE depends on the lifting of the constraints that we encountered during the last pilot phases, mainly the appropriation of the platform by the Ministry of Health which is the guardianship of the health structures that we want to help.
In addition, we are looking for partners to support us in the implementation of our action plan on the continental and international scale, so that no more patients die because of the lack of blood.”
- What do you see yourself doing in the next 10 years?
“HOPE is an innovation that could certainly reach many people and demographics. For this to happen, it will be necessary:
– to have the appropriation of the platform by the Ministries of Health of different countries
– to build innovative and strategic partnerships
– to have material and financial resources to expand the blood donors network through the effective animation of this platform by a dynamic and creative team
We believe in the high potential of our project to fight against mortality rates due to the lack of blood supply. We also believe in the achievement of self-sufficiency with blood products in many countries.”