Technology can make scarce medical resources go further
At the end of a long row of benches where young mothers wearily try to soothe their squirming babies is a clue to both the enormous challenge involved in reducing infant mortality in Africa and the huge potential for doing so. Perched on the edge of an examination table in the only clinic offering care in a community north of Nairobi is a small silver-coloured horn that looks a bit like a trumpet. Known as a Pinard horn, it is used to check the heartbeat of a baby in the womb. In the rich world the device, invented in 1895, was long ago replaced by doppler ultrasound machines, which do a much better job. Yet in many parts of Africa it remains in widespread use because it is cheap and does not need electrical power.