The Inside of Context is King

The Inside of Context is King

By Anna Winters on January 31, 2019 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, News, Uncategorized

Akros is a bit different than most development NGOs. Instead of a large corporate office in a distant setting, Akros bases its team in Southern Africa. If we are solving problems in rural developing contexts, shouldn’t we be near enough to the challenges so we understand them? We have chosen to be close to the beneficiaries of our work to receive feedback, learn from what works and what doesn’t, and provide simple yet innovative solutions to the everyday problems that are faced. Since our goal is to provide support to communities and their governments and to transition lessons learned into sustainable programs, shouldn’t we work very closely with our government partners both in the office and in the rural communities we serve?

We think yes. And that’s driven our design.

At Akros, we bring innovative ideas for gathering and using data to solve development challenges through a “boots on the ground” approach. We’ve built our organizational culture and nuanced approach to implementation by being where our work is: in Southern Africa. Akros has been supporting government and partner counterparts from our headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia for over ten years. This close partnership has helped to contextualize our work and to ensure that we are only scaling ideas and approaches that are proven to make impact and be sustained in under-resourced settings.

Being close to the challenges has meant the solutions that we’ve fostered gain ownership by community leaders. This type of accountability has created a huge impact. In Zambia, a chief’s wishes and commands hold a lot of weight. Getting these leaders data about their community, talking to them about health standards, and teaching them about health promotion and awareness can mean significant positive change for rural areas. For example, in some rural communities, open defecation was quite common. Our people went into communities, brought data and statistical evidence to the chiefs in formats they appreciated, and succeeded to get these community leaders on board with several water and sanitation interventions. Chiefs encouraged their communities to build latrines and use them. And then, the people did! The problem and effects of open defecation were therefore greatly reduced. The result was that some of the first open defecation free districts in all of Africa were named within Zambia.

If we had been based far from the situation, we may have missed the nuances of the problem by being outside of its context. We may have designed solutions that were too tech heavy for the environment. We may have created a “mobile tool” but not helped build an enabling environment for its success. We may not have understood how chiefdoms work and just gone into the situation blindly, wasting time and resources. We may have done “business as usual” and missed our mark. In short, we may have not made the impact on health that we strive to make.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about inside jobs. But for now, we’ll just say that at Akros, context is king.

About Anna Winters

Anna Winters founded and serves as the CEO of Akros. Winters holds a PhD and MS in epidemiology coupled with extensive field experience leading the development and implementation of community-wide surveillance systems in sub-saharan Africa aimed at targeting health interventions to maximize impact. Through Akros and previously with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Winters works directly with host country governments to ensure viability and integration of health innovations. Contact her at awinters@akros.com

Akros featured in recent reports

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.

Kaunda Square Clinic increases efforts towards malaria elimination

Kaunda Square Clinic increases efforts towards malaria elimination

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on March 9, 2015 in Malaria, News, Uncategorized

As Malaria declines in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, there has been a shift of focus from malaria control to elimination programs. In 2011, the Active Infection Detection (AID) program was introduced to Lusaka in an effort to eliminate malaria. Since its inception, a drastic reduction of malaria has been recorded making Lusaka a possible candidate for malaria elimination.

Kaunda Square clinic confirmed a total of 15 positive cases in January, all of which had a history of travel outside Lusaka. “In a month, we record about 5 to 10 cases of malaria, sometimes zero,” said Martin Kaluwaji, Kaunda Square clinic officer in charge.“ Among the positive cases we recorded, 99 percent are imported from outside Lusaka. In fact, in the last 4 years, we have not recorded a single locally transmitted case of malaria,” he added.

David Chibwe, 65, an artist and resident of Kaunda Square, states that he does not remember the last time he had malaria. After testing negative for malaria, he expressed happiness with the result stating that he sleeps under an insecticide treated mosquito net and keeps his surrounding free from long grass and stagnant water.

First female Ward Counselor of Kabamba Speaks Of Her Journey

First female Ward Counselor of Kabamba Speaks Of Her Journey

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on February 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

The word ‘woman’ in certain societies spells weak, dependent, child bearer and incapable. This is not so different in Zambia as evidenced by the gender imbalances in various sectors, decision making positions being one of them. Zambia has started taking steps to correct this imbalance, even electing Ingonge Wina vice president this year. Despite these changes, many girls and women, especially in rural areas, remain trapped in the culturally constructed roles and responsibilities that keep them disadvantaged.

Gladys Yumba became the first female Ward Counselor for Kabamba in the Serenje District of Central Province after being elected to office in 2011. Her position entails linking the council to the people of her ward to enable development. She therefore plays an integral role in identifying needs and priorities of development with the local people and feeding that information in the municipality’s planning process. During her tenure of office, she was appointed to the position of council chairperson, a position she held for two and a half years.