Finding a village never before visited by IRS

`Ernest Mulenga March 8, 2018
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The SOPs in search of polygon 01-455.

Background

The mSpray tool is more than just a mobile data collection tool that improves data quality and timeliness. The mSpray tool provides spray teams with maps to navigate to areas that might otherwise be difficult to find. These maps are highly accurate and complete, made through our satellite enumeration process. The district mop-up teams are especially reliant on these maps. Mop-up teams, are teams designated by the district with the specific task of revisiting areas that were not sprayed well during an initial visit or areas that were missed completely.

Unsurprisingly, mop-up teams help more areas reach the coverage goal of 90% sprayed and these teams visit some of the most remote villages, some of which have never been visited before. Ernest Mulenga, an Akros Surveillance Officer, documents the Chadiza’s mop-up team visit to a village; because the the team relies heavily on maps to navigate, they adopt vernacular of mapping and navigation, referring to the villages by the codes assigned to the “polygon” shapes appearing on the maps.

The search for polygon 01-455

It was the 9th of November 2017 when the mop-up team left Chadiza IRS base in search of Polygon 01-455 under Mtaya catchment area, which is located to eastern side of Chadiza district about 45 km from the district main post office.

Passing through Ngala area under Miti catchment, the team made a first stop at polygon 01-457 around 11:00 before proceeding to 01-455. The team used the GPS locator on the mSpray application, to navigate to a road that would lead to the village. Discovering the road to be impassable due to flooding from the heavy rain the team was re-directed by locals to a path that went through the mountain, and was said to be passable with a vehicle.

The Mtaya catchment area. The spray team was progressing through this area when they found polygon 01-455, which had never before been visited by a spray team.

The journey through the mountain started off well. After climbing some distance, however, the path became too filled with potholes for the Land Cruiser to continue. The team was left with no choice but to complete the journey on foot. At this point the team felt that they had covered a considerable distance with the Cruiser and that the polygon must not be far off. Thus, the team began to move with the aid of a GPS on the tablet. Once the direction of walking was set, the tablet was switched off for fear of using too much battery power.
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USAID Awards Global Contract to PSI and Partners to Advance Malaria Service Delivery in 28 Countries

`Andy Prinsen February 26, 2018
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We are excited to announce that PSI has been successfully awarded a new contract by USAID to support the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to Advance the Progress of Malaria Service Delivery (APMSD) in 28 malaria-affected countries and selected Akros as an implementing partner. The project, worth over $160 million USD over five years, will be delivered by a consortium of core partners, led by PSI and including JHPIEGO, Medical Care Development International (MCDI) and University of California-San Francisco.

The project will focus on supporting national malaria control programs in USAID-supported Malaria Endemic countries including 25 in Africa and three in Asia. The interventions aim to improve quality of and access to malaria case management and malaria in pregnancy interventions. They will also improve quality of and access to other malaria drug-based approaches and provide support to pilot/scale-up newer malaria drug-based approaches. Global technical leadership, support for operational research, and advances in program learning are priorities as well. In addition to the core team, private sector partner Akros and University of Oslo and Medicines for Malaria Venture will support.

Akros will lean into its experience working with national ministries by leading efforts on strengthening capacity building of Ministries of Health (MoHs) for HMIS and executing a central strategic plan around data use within the MoHs and communities.

Globally, the world has made remarkable progress in controlling malaria; halving the burden of disease between 2000 and 2015, but progress is stalling. The WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report highlights the current state of case management of children under five years and delivery of intermittent presumptive treatment for pregnant women as major concerns.

The President’s Malaria Initiative, led by USAID and implemented with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the U.S. Government’s primary vehicle for assisting malaria affected countries to scale up proven malaria control and elimination interventions.

The PMI Strategy for 2015-2020 accounts for much progress over the past decade and offers a strategy for new and emerging challenges. Malaria prevention and control remains a major U.S. foreign assistance objective and PMI’s strategy fully aligns with the U.S. Government’s vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and protecting communities from infectious diseases. By working with PMI-supported countries and partners, the U.S. Government aims to further reduce malaria deaths and substantially decrease malaria morbidity, towards the long-term goal of elimination.

This new contract comes as PSI launches its new global strategy for consumer-powered healthcare. APMSD will innovate ways to bring healthcare closer to the consumer in developing countries. PSI is proud to be associated with USAID and its partners to achieve this goal.

A Low-Cost Platform for Administering Land Rights

`Andy Prinsen December 12, 2017
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How can the same sort of systems we use to collect and organize health data from rural areas be used to collect and organize land use? Why is land use important for development? Check out this recent article from “The Best of Africa” blog to learn some of those answers and more!

Click here to read the full article.

Akros joins Nonprofit Organizations Knowledge Initiative in webinar for their series on DHIS2 for NGOs

`Andy Prinsen November 28, 2017

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.”

Akros GHC crew hosts webinar on what it’s like to be a GHC fellow at Akros

`Andy Prinsen November 21, 2017
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From left to right, former and current Akros GHC Fellows Aimee Edmondo, Aaron Mwamulimba, Nguza Yikona, Bethany Joy Larkin, Phillip Siwila, Musonda Chikwanda

On November 16, current and former Akros GHC fellows shared their experiences and fielded questions from hopeful GHC candidates. Each year, GHC a diverse group of young leaders with a vested interest in health equity joins GHC to complete a 13-month fellowship with partner organizations in five countries: Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and the U.S.

Below is a full recording of the webinar in case you missed it!

“The Professor” Charles Mwiinga on life as a teacher, farmer, and Community Champion

`Andy Prinsen November 19, 2017
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Community Champion Elijah Charles Mwiinga

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.

Elijah Charles Mwiinga, 70, sits with his neighbors to discuss bringing the message of CLTS to his community.

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.
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Akros featured in recent reports

`Andy Prinsen August 28, 2017
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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.
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Akros in India: Perspectives on ICT4D

`Brian O'Donnell June 20, 2017
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What do you feel when the Star Wars end credits roll? If you’re like me, it’s an abrupt mental shift from awestruck fantasy back to real life, a reminder the movie only got made when thousands of real people collaborated towards a singular vision. If you’re nerdy enough to dive into “behind the scenes” extras, all the grunt work needed to make a blockbuster franchise looks… well… less exciting. Of course, once you discover how a film was made, you begin to appreciate its artistry on a whole other level.

I had the same feeling as I absorbed two weeks of conferencing in India with digital development and global health practitioners from around the world on behalf of Akros. At the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) conference in Hyderabad, we joined global experts to share our practical experiences in applying new technologies across a wide spectrum of development and humanitarian programs. Akros also participated in the Health Data Collaborative’s community health experts’ consultation in Goa, The workshop convened academics, government officials, and implementers from eight countries to craft technical guidelines on digitizing mobile health data from community health workers, the volunteers who deliver critical services in the most remote regions of Africa and Asia.

From theorizing on the broad meaning of the “Data Revolution” down to nitty-gritty tech requirements of community information systems, the overarching theme of both events was mainstreaming technology into day-to-day operations of development programs. That means moving past the futuristic “gee wiz” stage of exploring what’s possible with ICT4D, towards setting practical expectations and realistic national strategies. This is very familiar territory for us at Akros, where we have a developed for applying practical informatics systems for a variety of complex development challenges, ranging from malaria prevention to education management.

Some of the tips shared at the ICT4D Conference might seem obvious in theory, but can be surprisingly rare in practice, especially in public health. For example, before you start an new system to collect community level health data, you ought to know what kind of data already exist, and ask real people how these data are used. This tactic was exemplified by Cooper/Smith, which presented a robust landscape analysis of HIV data in Malawi under the Kuunika – Data for Action! project. Their focus groups with stakeholders found over 3,527 unique data elements across five systems, informing 335 unique decisions. Detailed assessments like these will not only increase the use of routine health data for decision-making, but might catalyze new innovations to send data where its most needed. Ona presented on the tablet-based mSpray tool, deployed by Akros in Zambia, which gives managers of Indoor Residual Spray teams the localized geographic information they need to manage local spray operations. Mangologic and e-Registries also presented on two adaptive tools for health professionals to bridge individual-level patient records with population-level health management systems— two solutions which only arose from assessing what tools already exist, and finding their design inappropriate for the complex user needs.
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Akros entries selected in photo competitions

`Akros Media May 31, 2017

Over the past few months, two photos by Akros Communications Lead Andy Prinsen have been selected as winner and honorable mention in their respective photography competitions. The first was the “Picturing inclusive CLTS photo competition” sponsored by the CLTS Knowledge Hub, and Prinsen’s photo titled “School Sanitation: Equal and Proud” was selected as one of three winners.

Female students from Maunga School in Zambia’s Southern Province stand in front of one of the school’s new improved latrines. When the girls were menstruating, they would often stay home for lack of sanitation facilities at school. Now, with funds from UNICEF, the girls’ latrines are built with a privacy enclosure and a specially built water-channeling floor so they can wash properly before returning to class. Through sanitation tracking done by Akros, the school has seen a significant decrease in the young women missing school for days at a time.

The CLTS Knowledge Hub is a collection of news and information on the Community-Led Total Sanitation Movement and is a great resource for professionals working in the field or those interested in learning about CLTS.

Another of Prinsen’s photos was selected as the honorable mention for the category of mHealth and Communications Technology in the 12th annual Photoshare contest.

An Akros surveillance officer sits with Community Champions from Nyimba, Zambia, to map the villages they serve. In this innovative mapping process, the surveillance officer uses Google Earth’s satellite imagery to navigate these community members’ villages “like a bird in the sky.” Most community champions have never seen satellite imagery before, but they know their communities so well that the mapping process works amazingly well. This is the first time decision makers at the national level will have detailed location data on these villages, allowing them to make more informed decisions and reach villages in times of emergency.

Photoshare is a service of the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project, based at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (CCP). Photographers submit images to Photoshare for free, public use by nonprofits and for educational purposes. Photoshare is a leading source for public health and development communication, focused on demonstrating the value and impact of photography in global health efforts to improve health and save lives.