Akros featured in recent reports

By Akros Media on August 28, 2017 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News, Uncategorized, Water and Sanitation Health

We strive to be consistently on the cutting edge of the development and technology sector. And the cutting edge does not form without a stalwart commitment to research and a collecting of best practices. We are excited to have been mentioned in several recent pieces of independent research as having implemented technologies and systems that are furthering development work around the world.


Mobile Solutions for Malaria Elimination Surveillance Systems: A Roadmap

The first is in a report titled “Mobile Solutions for Malaria Elimination Surveillance Systems: A Roadmap” funded by the Gates Foundation and carried out by Vital Wave. The study was done to “develop key recommendations regarding appropriate, scalable strategies to promote further innovation and coordination among technology partners” and to “Develop specific recommendations for a coherent and effective Foundation strategy for strengthening data collection systems and associated platforms.” Our mSpray system was featured as a highlight of the geolocation category for the way it increases the efficiency and effectiveness of indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaigns (page 48 of the report).

In its conclusions and recommendations, the report points out that “many of the key elements needed to improve the development and implementation of robust mobile tools for malaria surveillance already exist.” It also says that coordination among malaria program implementers will be key to success and will help keep current the list of necessary features within these digital tools.

The Elimination 8 Regional Surveillance Database (ERSD)

By Annie Martin on May 8, 2017 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News

To achieve malaria elimination, an understanding of neighboring country malaria situations is critical for the prevention of introduction of parasites. Malaria parasites don’t stop at country borders, so effective elimination strategies shouldn’t either. That is why the Elimination 8 (E8), in its strategy on cross-border collaboration, identified Akros to support the development of the E8 Regional Surveillance Database System (ERSD) for the eight member states constituting the E8: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This innovative approach is a means to level the playing field and conduct malaria surveillance at a regional scale.

Figure 1. Cross-border incidence* in districts in Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe: Having access to several countries in one database allows these kinds of visualizations, which may highlight transmission patterns that occur between countries, which in turn supports decisions to invest in control methods in border areas.
*All data shown is used purely for illustrative purposes and do not reflect current or historic epidemiological status of countries. Current data can be accessed in the database itself by those granted authority.

Malaria is hardly an emerging disease, and though the interventions of preventing, treating, and monitoring malaria are somewhat standardized, each country has slight permutations of their approach to doing so. Indicators may differ slightly, investment in one prevention method versus another likely differs too, and policies surrounding implementation certainly are not identical.

Akros-led consortium to develop Elimination 8 regional malaria database

By Akros Media on August 19, 2016 in Malaria, News

We are excited to announce that an Akros-led consortium has been selected to develop a regional malaria surveillance platform for a coordinated, eight-country effort to achieve the historic goal of eliminating malaria in eight southern African countries. The Southern African Malaria Elimination 8 (E8) is a partnership between Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The first four of these countries (frontline countries) have an elimination goal of 2020, and the later four (second line countries) hold a goal of elimination by 2030. Consortium members working with Akros include HISP-SA and Compre Health.

E8 countries reported a tremendous reduction of malaria cases of more than 50% since 2004. However, the closer we get to elimination, the better surveillance we must have. Malaria does not respect borders, meaning the four eliminating countries cannot eliminate as long as high transmission remains within the region, and human migratory patterns facilitate parasite movement from more highly endemic countries. Therefore, new regional strategies are needed to support the surveillance and control efforts by the second line countries in order to reduce the reservoir of malaria parasites which have a potential for cross border spread of infections that could re-establish infection in the frontline four countries. As frontline countries progress towards malaria elimination, second-line countries are intensifying their malaria control efforts in order to achieve pre-elimination status.

The knowledge of malaria trends between countries will be one of the main factors influencing the success of malaria elimination. To facilitate the ease of information sharing, the E8 working with the consortium have developed a regional database, which will sit within the District Health Information System (DHIS 2), a system already familiar to many of the 8 countries. The regional database will not be a parallel system — no new malaria data elements or indicators will be collected. Rather several malaria data indicators already captured in countries will be shared amongst countries via the regional database. This is in-line with E8 country-level commitments to malaria data sharing in efforts to eliminate the disease. The more data we have consistently and accurately, the better we can plan and target relevant interventions that will drive the malaria burden in southern Africa down to zero.

Reflections on ASTMH Conference 2015

By Sandra Chishimba on January 21, 2016 in Capacity Building, Malaria, News

First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the travel funds from Akros for providing me a great opportunity allowing me to attend the 2015 annual meeting American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). ASTMH is an interdisciplinary organization for the field of tropical medicine, and the annual meeting is for all scientists whose work is in tropical medicine around the world. The research topics ranged from basic science to clinical research. The conference program was divided into two blocks: oral presentations and poster presentations. Presentations of interest to the general audience were arranged for the morning and afternoon. The poster sessions were scheduled for lunch time.

The meeting began on Sunday evening with the keynote lecture given by an eminent scientist, Rajiv Shah MD who formerly opened the meetings. During this session we also had a moment of silence in honour of the former late president Dr Allan McGill who died suddenly.

The oral presentations were about 15 minutes each. The presenters were clinicians, researchers, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and some MSc students. The presentations were of high quality cutting edge science research and a broad range of topics were covered. The topics were subdivided into Global health, Clinical, Virology, Molecular, Cellular, and Immunoparasitology research. Much emphasis was made on combating new infections during the global health discussions. This was with reference to the most recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. It was clear that the research field, and health systems around the world, need to be strengthened and prepared in the event of a major disease outbreak. Malaria research was a topic not to be missed. New cutting edge techniques on how to investigate ultra-low infections as malaria elimination is being implemented in several countries were presented. Such ideas work to our advantage as we can then interact personally with the researchers by asking questions in person at the meeting and after the meeting in the event that we decide to follow up on the idea for our research.

How Zambia is Tackling Malaria

By Alexis Barnes on December 11, 2015 in Malaria, News

Click here to view original publication in Africa Times.

Five-year-old Melanie lives on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city in Chainda compound, a settlement that is less than one square kilometer (.24 square mile) yet houses approximately 26,000 people. She spends her days running around the maze of dirt roads and alleyways, playing with the dozen siblings and neighbor children near her brick and mud home.

In late July she tested positive for malaria at Chainda Clinic, her small body exhibiting some of the most common symptoms, fever and chills, of a disease that affects approximately four million and kills 8,000 Zambians annually, according to UNICEF. More than 50 percent of those killed by the disease are children under the age of five.

Her positive malaria test immediately set off a chain of events. A Reactive Case Detection team, including a nurse, environmental health technologist and community health worker, dispatched to Melanie’s neighborhood. Within 90 minutes, the team tested family members and the nearest neighbors. The GPS locations of the homes and the test findings were then entered into a tablet- painting an on the ground real time picture of malaria statistics in that neighborhood of Lusaka.

Chainda Clinic is a part of a community led surveillance initiative, called Step D, taking hold in selected parts of Zambia. The Zambia Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Center (NMCC) in partnership with organization, Akros, are working to create five malaria-free zones by 2015, as proposed in the Zambia National Malaria Strategic Plan (2011-2016).

The first of its kind on the African continent, the community health worker malaria surveillance network mixes community mobilization and simple technology to tackle malaria in Zambia.

“In the past we used paper-based forms to collect data from the field and would send them to National Malaria Control Centre physically,” said Mwila Sianankange, an environmental health technologist (EHT) at Chainda Clinic. “This would take a much longer reporting time period.”

Health Worker Continues Commitment to Malaria Elimination Despite Injury

By Alexis Barnes on September 24, 2015 in Malaria, News

When Cairo Situlo learned of a new surveillance system that mobilizes community members and data, he sprung into action volunteering his time tracking down sources of malaria cases. He volunteers in the Southern Province Zambian city of Zimba to fight malaria in his community.

Mr. Situlo's x-ray, showing his orthopedic surgery.
Mr. Situlo’s x-ray, showing his orthopedic surgery.

When a health facility or post receives a malaria-infected patient, it alerts community health workers (CHWs) near the patient’s household. The CHWs then open a case investigation- testing surrounding households and giving treatment where applicable.

Committed community health workers like Cairo are vital to the system and their work has increased access to care in rural areas of Zambia, stopping transmission of the disease. Nowhere was Mr. Situlo’s commitment more evident than following his accident in late 2014.

Chainda Clinic Contributes in the Creation of Malaria Free Zones Using Tablets

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on August 20, 2015 in Malaria, News

The Zambia Ministry of Health and The National Malaria Control Center in partnership with Akros have been conducting Community Malaria Surveillance in selected parts of Zambia including Lusaka where the malaria prevalence rate is low. This is in an attempt to eliminate malaria as stipulated in the Zambia National Malaria Strategic Plan (2011-2016) that calls for the creation of five malaria-free zones by 2015.

Spraying Malaria Away

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on June 22, 2015 in Malaria, News

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.

Mambova Teams Up Against Malaria

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on May 29, 2015 in Malaria, News

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.

A day as a lab technologist

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on May 14, 2015 in Malaria, News

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).