Sudanese Youths Use Facebook to Crowdfund CASHLESS Health Care
Given rising healthcare costs, various social services in developing countries have witnessed a decline in standards and an increase in patients unable to afford the costs of health services provided by public hospitals. It’s on this backdrop that a crowdfunding initiative Sharia’ al-Hawadith was established. Found in 2012, Hawadith Health Initiative (HSI) exists to help hospital patients with treatment costs and its most laudable achievement so far, is the establishment of an intensive care unit, costing $435,880, at a children’s hospital in Omdurman, Sudan .
Named after an Arabic word referring to the hospital department of accidents and emergency, HSI first began as a recreational program for children with cancer and a public campaign for blood donation. However, it has since evolved into a platform that directly connects potential donors with patients. By leveraging social media, Facebook to be exact, HSI provides a means for givers of aid to interact directly with recipients of aid. In other words, the initiative links the donor with the beneficiary.
On their Facebook page titled ‘Hawadith Street Initiative’, volunteers of HSI publish posts containing a summary of a patient’s situation and a call for help. Potential donors who would like to assist the patient with their needs, for example buying medicines or performing costly laboratory tests, will then deal directly with the patient as the post also lists the patient’s phone number and other contact information. Also provided on the Facebook page is a list of telephone numbers of HSI volunteers, intended for donors with a desire to be accompanied by an HSI member to meet with a patient, or for anyone interested in donating in cash – for future patients – or in kind – in the form of hospital equipment, furniture, building materials etc.
Local pharmacies also work with HSI to provide medicines that most insurance policies won’t cover. Since these medicines are provided on credit, a high level of trust is needed between pharmacists and volunteers. Therefore, volunteers keep an account of what has been bought or given on credit by each local establishment they work with. Donors, especially first-timers or those who give for chronic cases, interested in understanding how their money is being spent, are able to meet the patient(s) to whom their aid goes, and sometimes, like the volunteers, get to know their families quite well. The initiative also encourages active participation from patient’s families – it asks families to contribute between 10% to 50% for the purchase of expensive medicines or to buy cheaper (generic) alternatives. For families unable to contribute, Sharia’ al-Hawadith bears the total cost.
None of the volunteers is paid. In place of receiving cash payment for services, HSI directs those desiring to donate cash to give those funds to patients, or to send the funds to pharmacies, laboratories and radiology centres (who agreed to deliver services to the HSI patients and wait to receive payment when cash is available) to pay off HSI debts.
HSI boasts more than 2000 volunteers in Khartoum and 17 other cities (including 300 volunteers in Darfur). There are also branches for the HSI abroad, in particular in the Gulf Region and Britain. With volunteers working in all of Sudan’s 18 states, and most children’s hospitals, people can give money personally or send it through people they know living locally. The initiative accepts any form of aid, whatever it is. For example, a Facebook reader of a post can ‘share’ the post to increase its readership, which extends the post’s reach where it could be seen by future potential donors. People living abroad also participate, for instance by sending over drugs not available in Sudan or are available but extremely expensive.
With the invention and proliferation of the internet, there has been a lot of curiosity to observe ways in which this tool could be used. Given all of the technological innovations seen in the 21st century, there has also been interest in understanding how these innovations would yield new paradigms in healthcare and patient wellbeing. HSI demonstrates the scope of services that could be achieved with minimum resources and creative thinking. It represents a model that is humanistic; one with the potential to unify diverse communities as they look beyond their individual selves to the greater good. This effort is certainly one of many in a wave of Internet-based initiatives, a wave that may only just be beginning. .
To support HSI, click here.