The quality of care and access to health care services in Uganda has remained wanting for years now. Take for instance the fact that a total of 1,192 maternal deaths and 28,174 perinatal deaths were recorded according to the Annual Health Sector Performance Report for the financial year 2019/2020. There were 24 deaths for every 1000 admissions of under-five children. While cities like Kampala, Masaka, Mbale, Mbarara and Gulu had the highest maternal deaths, the poorest and rural populations of the country tell a story of their own healthcare crisis.
Hailing from Karamoja, Hilder Koriong has witnessed firsthand the effect of having limited or no access to health services. Karamoja, a sub-region that sits at the northeast edge of Uganda remains remote. Koriong believes this is partly responsible for the lives lost in the sub-region. According to a 2020 Report published by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on Child Survival and development, the highest child mortality rate is in Karamoja, Southwest, West Nile and western regions. These realities are some of the motivating factors behind Koriong’s initiative.
Finding the solution
A clinician by profession and a student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery, Koriong has decided to iron out the creases in health care access through her innovation Afro Health Connect.
The startup established in 2020 has a database of doctors, nurses, pharmacies and hospitals that patients can access by phone calls and by a click of a button on the website. Without having to leave home, patients can receive an ambulance, a drug or even remote consultation that can save them from a health crisis.
On Afro Health Connect’s network, so far there are seven hospitals, five nurses, 13 pharmacies and 15 doctors at the disposal of patients. Since its inception in September 2020, Afro Health Connect has been able to support five patients a day through its network. There is a strategy to prevent disease among people too. With a growing following of 10,000 users on social media, Afro Health connect raises health awareness that furnishes users with knowledge on best health practices.
In the middle of the pandemic of 2020, Koriong participated in a boot camp organized by the Social Innovation Academy and The Innovation Village for female social entrepreneurs under the COVID-19 Rebound Program.
A serial winner of several innovation awards such as Start Hub Africa’s Smarter Than Corona Award and the Social Impact Award, Koriong’s innovation joined the ongoing SINA accelerator program. She is set to graduate from this program in August 2021.
Lessons from the Innovation Village
At the week-long boot camp, Koriong says she came to appreciate the role that unity and teamwork play in accelerating growth.
“I enjoyed learning to grow as an entrepreneur and I appreciate the fact that during the boot camp mentors were always there to support me every step of the way. While at the camp, I was challenged during lessons on Finance and corporate governance,” she says.
Right after the lessons, Koriong went ahead to build a corporate structure and manage her finances better. It’s also at this boot camp that she was able to have a clear vision of the startup. She now fully understands the reasons for nurturing her idea, setting up the startup and its goals.
“I wake up every day knowing I have to work towards achieving the mission and vision of the business and all this is attributed to the skills, knowledge and mentorship acquired during the boot camp organized by The Innovation Village and its partner Social Innovation Academy,” she says.
The approach of delivering medical services to homes has increased the startup’s income. Koriong is now contemplating expanding the initiative beyond its current catchment areas.
Even though the business first broke ground in Kampala, its virtual network has delivered medical items in Amudat, Arua and other remote areas.
The big dream for Koriong is to scale Afro Health Connect to East Africa and the African Continent in a bid to ensure that access to health care is not hindered by distance or remoteness. Close to her heart too, is the provision of work for people in the medical field through opening up markets for their services that lie remotely.
Still fresh in our memories are the scenarios of people cut off from food supply, work and health care. These experiences magnified the need for a flawless network that connects people to essential services.
Koriong is one of the thousands of young entrepreneurs in Uganda whose businesses have been supported by The Innovation Village and Mastercard Foundation during the COVID-19 pandemic to build resilience and innovatively continue to thrive amidst the challenges presented by the outbreak. As we deal with the second wave, we believe that we will overcome every challenge through supporting startups like Afro Health Connect that are providing solutions to the future.