Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Fondazione IBM Italia have collaborated to develop an mHealth app to help MSF healthcare workers treat migrants, refugees and asylum seekers across their journey in the Balkans, Sicily and on Mediterranean rescue vessels.

The persistent migrant crisis in Europe has seen hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge after fleeing their homes in Syria, Afghanistan and countries in northern Africa, which are plagued by civil war and unrest.

According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, around 153,000 migrants arrived on Italy’s shores in 2015, while a total of 70,930 landed between January and June 2016.

The newly developed mHealth app, called People on the Move (POM), is intended to help manage the health of these migrants, and was especially designed based on specific requests from doctors and MSF experts. After an initial test phase, the app is currently being used in three projects.

POM can be used without an internet connection and will allow MSF healthcare workers to enter the medical data of migrant patients into a special tablet computer. The data will then be collected anonymously and sent to a single database, which can integrate with IBM Watson Analytics.

According to MSF Medical Chief, Vittoria Gherardi, the data will help MSF improve its medical and humanitarian response and strengthen its efforts to ensure that migrants will be given assistance and decent living conditions.

“Our teams along migration routes find themselves having to help numerous groups of people in constant movement and in changing and precarious contexts: makeshift refugee camps, mobile clinics, ports or even at sea,” said Gherardi in an interview with ANSAmed.

“This technology will help us to respond rapidly in diverse situations to the medical needs of our patients to help them as best as possible in the few moments during their journeys when someone is taking care of them,” continued  Gherardi.

POM was developed by IBM’s Smart Solution Lab based in Rome, using IBM software and hosted in the SoftLayer Data Centre near Milan. The development of the app was sponsored by Fondazione IBM Italia as part of the Impact Grants programme, a pro-bono initiative that aims to support NGOs by making advanced skills and technological instruments available.

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