Real-Time Monitoring of Rural Sanitation at Scale in Zambia Using Mobile-to-Web Technologies

`Andy Prinsen August 3, 2015
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Akros has been working with UNICEF and the Government of the Republic of Zambia to support Zambia’s goal of being “Open Defecation Free” by 2020. This recent WASH Field Note, released by UNICEF, details some of the progress achieved thus far, along with lessons learned along the way. Click here to read the full note.

Here are some excerpts:

“The M2W system was developed in 2013 for monitoring rural sanitation and hygiene by UNICEF and its technical partner Akros, under the lead of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing of Zambia. The system utilizes the Short Message Service (SMS) text delivery system found on most basic mobile phones and is coded using the open source District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2). This is a free, open-source software originally designed for health applications, but is currently being used in 40 countries under various sectors, from water management to agriculture and forestry.”

“Over the past year, the system has been put in place in 29 out of 92 rural districts which are now submitting monthly reports through 1,564 Community Volunteers and 210 Environmental Health Technicians; over 1,500 phones and tablets are now operational and being utilized by the trained counterparts. This covers a total
population of 2,383,704 from 13,805 villages. In addition, 32 Chiefdoms have been trained in using the monitoring tools. Within the areas covered by M2W, the programme aims to achieve 1,520,661 new users of improved sanitation and to raise the practice of handwashing with soap or ash from 8.6% to 47%.”

Click here to read the full note.

Crowdfunding for Zambia’s Healthy Schools

`Andy Prinsen July 28, 2015
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We’re excited to announce a new undertaking that we’re calling “Zambia’s Healthy Schools.” It’s a crowdfunding campaign that will allow our partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia to raise the standards of sanitation and hygiene at schools right here in Zambia.


Click here to learn more


Every year of education improves a person’s health and quality of life. This is a universal fact, as true in rural Africa where every year of education means less child and maternal mortality as it is in metropolitan Washington, DC where every year of education means fewer deaths. One of the big barriers to keeping kids in school in rural Africa is a lack of sanitation facilities and no access to clean water. When girls hit puberty they miss one week every month because there is no safe place at school for them to address their needs. Also the lack of toilets at schools means kids can get sick even when they’re at school. Throughout rural Zambia, schools are simply not healthy nor safe.

But what if we turned this around? What if students could go to school, have a safe place to address their sanitation needs and learn the best practices of sanitation, about germs and proper washing? What if they could learn about the importance of using a latrine, and then take that knowledge back to their families, spreading the news far and wide? We would see kids stay in school. We would see healthier students. We would see healthier communities. And as a result, we would help increase the quality of life for Zambians everywhere.

How will we do it? Click here to visit our crowdfunding page and learn more. We would love to have you join us in this effort!

Montana State University Students visit Zambia for Community Health Course

`Maswabi Precious Matantilo July 9, 2015
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Akros recently hosted 14 undergraduate Montana State University (MSU) students in Zambia from May 14 to June 11, 2015. The students were enrolled in a course titled “Zambia: Community and Family Health,” taught by Professor Wendy Bianchini Morrison of the Health and Human Development department at MSU.

“I approached Akros management a year and a half ago with the idea for this course,” said Morrison. “I wanted to bring MSU students to Zambia to expose them to international community health work. Akros management was very open to the idea and expressed interest in collaborating on the course.” She reported that Akros was appealing because it is an established organization in Zambia that has strong relationships with the government, local ministries and communities across the country, and implements public health initiatives that use data and research to increase the efficacy of their interventions.

Student Stories

The three stories below were written by students from Montana State University during their time in Zambia.

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“Three Things”

`Tory Evans July 9, 2015
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The Katete district office, in the Eastern Province, had just the little spark that caught my eye. This spark embodied a central point of international development and the key to Akros’ success: the people. Government Officials, Environmental Health Technicians, Community Champions, and the village locals themselves. They are the ones who represent the Community-Led Total Sanitation program to make it successful and sustainable from the beginning. Akros supports the Zambian community in a way that utilizes the needs specifically for each Province and District. If there is an area that demands more, there will be more time and efforts put towards it. But the only way to determine those needs and demands is by truly understanding what is going on in the local communities. This is why the district assessments are so important.

Sharon Mazimba, and Akros intern Katie Gambir performing a district assessment in Katete

Sharon Mazimba, and Akros intern Katie Gambir performing a district assessment in Katete

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Spotlight: Exhilda Daka

`Rachelle Morehead July 9, 2015
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Exhilda Daka is the Senior Administrative Officer for the Council of Chinsali, Muchinga Province of Zambia. In her work for the council of Chinsali, Mrs. Daka is in the Human Resources department. She handles all issues among staff in the District Council. Being in that position she has a great understanding of most if not all programs in the district as well as the challenges of their implementation. Her training is mainly in Environmental health, managing the council assets, such as land and environmental management. Her specialty with Environmental Health has lead her into involvement with Akros Global Health in Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS.)

Mrs. Daka’s main role in CLTS is district training. She trains District Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education Committee (D-WASHE) members, Chiefs, Environmental Health Technicians (EHT), and Community Champions (CCs) on CLTS practices. Through her time working with CLTS, Mrs. Daka has learned that CLTS is attainable she believes that “mindsets are starting to change” and that in some villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) is possible. Mrs. Daka stated that in a few years, if key changes and support are available, ODF can be accomplished district wide. Though she recognizes that some CLTS practices such as triggering are incredibly effective, she also knows that the reason ODF has not been reached in the district is due to some key challenges. Mrs. Daka spoke freely about changes that need to be made in her district and has some great ideas to overcome the challenges that are inhibiting ODF. The first issue Mrs. Daka pointed out was the Chief involvement. In her opinion the Chiefs and Village headman are not participating in CLTS to their fullest ability.

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Spotlight: Dominic Mushashu

`Hannah Kramer July 9, 2015
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After an exhausting 10-hour drive from the Akros offices in Lusaka, two students from Montana State University, the Akros Surveillance Officer, Sanford Cheelo, our driver, Jackson Zulu and I arrived in Chinsali, Muchinga Province. Almost immediately we were greeted by the friendly face and warm handshake of Dominic Mushashu. Aside from working for the Zambia Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) as an Environmental Engineer, he is married with a 3-month-old child, and he works extremely hard to make the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program possible in Chinsali.

“The environment is dear to me,” he says with a radiant smile. This is what initially led him to volunteering with Akros as a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Focal Point Person. Although he wasn’t aware of the time and energy commitment such a job would entail, he enjoys this work because he is eager to make a difference in his community; he welcomes any challenge with open arms.

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Spraying Malaria Away

`Maswabi Precious Matantilo June 22, 2015
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When the fight against malaria is discussed and its fighters about to be awarded with medals, it is easy to look to health workers such as nurses, doctors, biomedical scientists and policy makers as the deserving recipients. Similarly, when interventions such as Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) are discussed, it is easy to look at how effective the intervention has been in reducing the malaria burden without making mention of community based volunteers such as spray operators.

Jimmy Hachinyama, 27, has been working as a spray operator for more than three years in Kafue District. He was drawn to the position by his quest to know more about malaria and how the Zambia National Control Programme operates. “I was told by a friend that Kafue District Health Office was receiving applications for spray operator positions, I got interested and applied,” said Hachinyama. “After being shortlisted, I went for oral interviews and sat for an aptitude test which I managed to pass. I was also subjected to physical medical examinations aimed at checking my health status before being recruited” he further said.
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WASH discussed in Huffington Post blog series

`Andy Prinsen June 1, 2015
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The Huffington Post featured some news from the WASH movement last week in an article titled “Promoting WASH Through Traditional Leaders and Technology,” co-authored by Akros CEO Anna Winters and Akros Director of Public Health David Larsen. The piece explores the way the government of the Republic of Zambia, with technical assistance from Akros and other partners, has been working with Zambia’s traditional leaders or “chiefs” to have a drastic impact on sanitation practices at the local level.

Click here to read the article.

The story was part of a series supported by WASH Advocates on the relationship between WASH and the Millennium Development Goals. Click here to see all the articles in the series.

Mambova Teams Up Against Malaria

`Maswabi Precious Matantilo May 29, 2015
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Step D, also known as community surveillance, was introduced to Kazungula District in 2012 as a malaria elimination intervention after it experienced a significant decline in the incidence of malaria. The malaria incidence reduced from 150 per 1,000 in 2007 to 4 per 1,000 in 2011. Mambova is a community in Kazungula District with an approximate population of 4,715 yet only has one nearby health center. Headed by a nurse, Mambova Rural Health Center is charged with the responsibility of providing quality health care to this community.

Betty Masedza Mambova RHC Nurse in Charge

Betty Masedza Mambova RHC Nurse in Charge

“I work alone as a health worker with two other helpers, a cleaner and a watchman,” said Betty Masedza, Mambova Rural Health Center nurse in charge. “This is a great challenge on my part but the presence of community health workers (CHWs) has been of great assistance to my work,” she said.
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Chienge District’s Accomplishments celebrated on NPR blog

`Andy Prinsen May 28, 2015
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On April 24th, Zambia’s Chiengi District was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), meaning that every household in Chiengi district has a latrine that meets specific parameters to stop the disease vector, thus improving household health through better sanitation.

This is the first district in Zambia, and the first in Southern Africa to reach this momentous milestone. Officials from the Zambian government and dignitaries from DFID, UNICEF and Akros traveled two days to celebrate with Chiengi.

Click here to read a story from NPR’s Goats and Soda blog highlighting the celebration.