If you missed the webinar we did with the Nonprofit Organizations Knowledge Initiative, take a look at the full recording below. Akros team members Dr. Robert Ntalo, Rabson Zimba, and Bethany Joy Larkin share some of the things Akros learned while implementing CLTS across Zambia. The title of the webinar is “Data Empowers Decisions – How Traditional Zambian Leaders are Making Decisions using DHIS2 Mobile Platforms.”
I’ve realized that, in Zambia, almost everything is done in groups. I’ve arrived at a village called Ngandu Jakalasi expecting a short sit-down interview with a certain Mr. Mwiinga, but am instead greeted by every adult in the village, beginning to spread out on blankets and on logs. “Yes, everything in groups,” laughs my companion, Akros Surveillance Officer Anne Mutunda. “It’s the way we do transparency!” she muses, though I think she’s actually quite serious.
When my subject arrives I am at first a bit confused because my preparation notes say the man is 70. Instead the man I meet is spry-looking, wearing a trim gray goatee, a mischievous grin and a red bucket hat. After we exchange greetings and have a seat on opposing logs, ingeniously supported about a foot and a half above the ground by separate, y-shaped logs, I ask him about this apparent age discrepancy. “I am 70!” he tells me, “though I feel younger than that. Look, I can even run!” he says as he springs back up from his log and gives a demonstrative lap around the collected audience who clap and laugh in approval.
He attributes much of this energy to his having been a teacher for 20 years, first in Zambia’s Western Province and then in its Southern Province. When Mr. Mwiinga was a boy, his uncle was a teacher, and he envied the man, who he saw as getting to spend enjoyable days with the children of his class, having fun while passing down knowledge. So go into teaching he did, and successfully, rising through the ranks of teacher and head teacher and, eventually, school principal. He says his job was difficult at first – the schools at times had no materials. As the years went on, the job got easier as he knew more of what to expect.
In 1990 he retired from teaching and decided to return home. He had grown up in the village and he wanted to return. “I was brought up as the son of a farmer so I decided to come back and farm,” he said. “We depend on the farms. We grow what we eat.” He now grows cabbage, tomatoes, onions, rape, and sometimes carrots. Though he had begun his new “retired” life as a farmer, Charles was still a connector of people – he maintained his teacher’s proclivity for explaining things in ways people could understand. (He has been given the nickname “The Professor” in his community as a result.) It was likely for this reason that the Environmental Health Technician (EHT) for his community chose him to attend a workshop in Mazabuka when the first training for Community Champions began. “I didn’t know exactly what it was but I went,” he said.
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.
CLTS has been shown to be an effective method to combat malnutrition and stunting in children under five. In this study, a mobile-to-web platform increased the uptake of CLTS even further, allowing for greater community feedback, a reduced cost per new user of sanitation, and increased data transparency.
Akros, in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) and UNICEF, layered a unique mobile-to-web application over traditional CLTS delivery methods, resulting in an innovative service delivery and monitoring system dubbed “CLTS M2W.”
CLTS M2W uses mobile phones, automated data feedback loops, and engagement of traditional leaders to provide communities with the ability to clearly see their progress towards sanitation goals. CLTS M2W paved the way for unprecedented CLTS uptake in Zambia, facilitating the creation of over 1,500,000 new users of sanitation in 18 months. In short, CLTS creates the demand, and CLTS M2W creates the critical transparency necessary to drive sustained behavior change.
Monitoring is always an important part of the development process, especially in CLTS. What are the factors and milestones we discuss when it comes to improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene? We discuss Open Defecation Free status (ODF). We discuss uptake of handwashing with soap. We also discuss the construction of latrines. All of these factors can be indicators that will point to improved sanitation standards and the potential reduction of diarrheal disease. But how can we monitor and evaluate these indicators in a regular, timely, and accurate way?
Recently, the Government of Zambia and its partners implemented a system to track one of these factors – the construction of latrines – at a local, granular level, meaning the collected data can be sub-divided with information about each latrine, helping policy-makers know what type of improvements to implement in each area. Using the District Health Information System (DHIS 2), the same system the country uses to track things like malaria indicators and community-level trachoma prevention, everyone using the system can now see where latrines have been built and where they are lacking.
“DHIS2 is one of the few systems that enables simple feature phones to report directly into a central database that enables users to build custom dashboards from all levels, live feedback mechanisms, and custom reports,” said Scott Russpatrick, Informatics Manager at Akros [www.akros.com]. “It’s also free and open source to use, which is essential for ministries to sustain the system beyond the lifetime of donor projects.”
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%.”
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.
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!
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.