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STAR WARS: FORCE FOR CHANGE and UNICEF Help Mothers and Children in Rwanda

There is nothing more inspiring than bringing a new life into the world, nothing more delightful than watching a child grow and thrive. Yet for some, there is also nothing more challenging. Many children in Rwanda, lacking preventative healthcare, live with constant vulnerability to disease.

Through grants, fundraising and awareness campaigns, Star Wars: Force for Change’s participation has helped support UNICEF’s Innovation Labs, which create sustainable solutions and programs that fight the most devastating obstacles to children’s health, safety, and wellbeing around the world.

One of the programs that flourished this year from the collaboration is RapidSMS-Rwanda, developed by UNICEF’s Child Survival and Development team in Rwanda. RapidSMS-Rwanda is a free tracking and communication system that uses short message service (SMS) technology to monitor the progress of pregnant women and their babies—and help connect them to the healthcare, hygiene, and nutrition they need to survive and thrive.

Each member of the UNICEF Child Survival and Development team had an important role in turning an ambitious start-up from a dream into a reality. The effort, which began in 2009 with brainstorming the concept, reached 21,700 pregnant women in its first year of operation. By 2015, with the help of Star Wars: Force for Change, the CSD team had scaled up the program to reach all 30 districts of Rwanda, and had successfully transferred management to the government of Rwanda.

Now in its third version, RapidSMS-Rwanda is monitoring the health of 295,000 women and their children—from 15,000 villages—throughout pregnancy and infant care. The program is setting out to oversee the growth of 629,000 children under two years old to prevent stunting. It is already making a difference in 70 percent of the country, and the outreach effort continues.

The RapidSMS-Rwanda program is an example of technological innovation at its best. Even better, it’s innovation that is accessible, spreading good results where they are needed most.