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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.“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.
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.
Akros lab technologist Mulenga Mwenda extracts DNA from dried bloodspots
Research is an important aspect of any organization that aims to enhance the quality of it work. Last year, the National Malaria Control Center (NMCC), with technical assistance from Akros, set up a pre-fab laboratory facility where cutting-edge DNA technologies are used to ‘fingerprint’ or barcode individual parasite infections. This enables the NMCC to link individual infections with the same fingerprint. This further ensures evidenced-based decision making with regard to malaria programming and the efficient use of resources.
Mulenga Mwenda is the Akros Lab Technologist. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Zambia, and worked for NMCC’s Malaria Transmission Consortium as a Research Assistant from 2010 to 2013 before joining Akros later in 2013.
Mwenda describes her ability to work in the lab, carry out experiments and get desired results as the most fulfilling part of her job. Overall, she describes her role at Akros as the receipt of field samples, sorting them and assigning unique identification numbers, extracting of DNA and anti-bodies from samples from the Active Infection Detection field responses as well as other programmes such as the National Malaria Indicator survey and conducting scientific investigations (malaria research). Depending on the scientific question being answered, she carries out Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCRS) or Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISAs).
LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA The Government of Zambia in collaboration with various stakeholders that included E8, WHO, Roll Back Malaria, Gates Foundation, MACEPA/ PATH and Akros gathered today in Kabuyu, Kazungula District to commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day under the theme “Invest in the future, eliminate malaria”.
“Kazungula District has recorded a decline in the incidence of malaria since 2005 from 150 per 1,000 to 4 per 1,000 in 2011,” said Dr. Phallon Mwaba, Kazungula District Medical Officer. “However, the incidence rose to 34 per 1,000 in 2014 due to the introduction of Active Surveillance programme in 2012 which collected data in the community and included it in our Health Management Information System (HMIS),” said Dr. Mwaba in his speech. “The above is a positive result to us as the 34 per 1,000 recorded in 2014 includes all cases in Kazungula District,” he added.
“We are having challenges in eliminating malaria in the area because of the imported cases we record from other districts,” said Lubinda Mushala, Kazungula District Malaria Focal Point Person. “In fact, the majority of the cases recorded are imported from other districts,” Mushala said.
The creators of DHIS2 at the University of Oslo highlighted Akros this month in their most recent newsletter. They shared a prezi that walks through how DHIS2 is used in Zambia, specifically the innovative new system The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has created with technical assistance from Akros, to reach its goal of eliminating malaria country-wide by 2020. One of the components of this system centers around community-level malaria surveillance and leverages community health worker (CHW) networks in two main areas:
1. Finding, treating and reporting all malaria infections in the community
2. Reducing the burden of outpatient care and staff work load at the health facility through expanding access to malaria diagnosis and treatment by CHWs at community level.
Check out the prezi below, then click here to learn more about Akros’ work in community-level malaria surveillance.