The MOMs Initiative

March 6, 2020 By Guest Contributor – Merck for Mothers

LifeBank, a technology and logistics startup based in Lagos, Nigeria, delivers blood by motorbike to health care facilities so that providers have what they need to treat patients for excessive blood loss — including women suffering from postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), the world’s leading cause of preventable maternal death.

Having its dispatch riders transport blood safely by motorbike helps avoid traffic-related delays in congested urban areas around Lagos and Abuja. A collaboration with Google Maps has also helped shorten delivery times by guiding riders to the quickest routes.

“Some facilities can’t get enough blood, while others have a surplus, and end up discarding what they don’t use because it expires,” explains Temie Giwa-Tubosun, LifeBank’s founder and CEO. “Our system allows us to better coordinate and manage local supply and demand so health care providers have what they need, when they need it, and no blood is wasted.”

LifeBank is being pursued as the first project to receive support through The MOMs Initiative. Formed in June 2019, the initiative includes Merck for Mothers, The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, USAID and Credit Suisse and has committed to spending $50 million to support promising health innovators in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where 86% of all maternal deaths occur.

The MOMs Initiative (short for Maternal Outcomes Matters) takes a catalytic financing approach, providing capital that small businesses need to grow and have a greater impact. Within this approach, Merck for Mothers offers grant financing and uses its expertise in maternal health to identify the businesses and promising solutions to invest in.

With financing, LifeBank has a better chance at getting the right type of capital it needs to expand access to its lifesaving medical products for mothers in Africa. It can use the grant capital from Merck for Mothers to de-risk a larger loan, opening the door to other investors.

“There are many countries with poor infrastructure, where the distribution of medical supplies is difficult. This is not an Africa-only problem, this is a global problem that we are solving.”
— Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Lifebank Founder & CEO

Giwa-Tubosun’s five-year plan is to expand LifeBank’s footprint across Nigeria and to launch services in Ethiopia and Kenya. She is also working to set up a government subscription service so that costs are automatically covered for low-income patients.

They’ve already created a digital platform for tracking inventory and matching supply with demand. In 2018, the company began delivering oxygen too; expanded services to two more states; and added boats to its delivery fleet in order to reach clinics on two islands off the Lagos coast. In November 2019, LifeBank added delivery by drone — and became the first African-led company to deploy beyond visual line of sight flights for healthcare logistics.

By creating this mechanism for investing in promising enterprises like LifeBank, Merck for Mothers is providing a financial catapult to health innovators to keep innovating and scaling, contributing toward sustainable progress for women and overall health system strengthening.

This excerpt was previously published in Merck for Mother’s 2020 All for Mothers Report.