WASH discussed in Huffington Post blog series

WASH discussed in Huffington Post blog series

By Akros Media on June 1, 2015 in News, Water and Sanitation Health

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.

The story was part of a series supported by WASH Advocates on the relationship between WASH and the Millennium Development Goals. Click here to see all the articles in the series.

Mambova Teams Up Against Malaria

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.

Chienge District’s Accomplishments celebrated on NPR blog

Chienge District’s Accomplishments celebrated on NPR blog

By Akros Media on May 28, 2015 in News, Water and Sanitation Health

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.

A day as a lab technologist

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).

Zambia Commemorates World Malaria Day

Zambia Commemorates World Malaria Day

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on April 28, 2015 in Malaria, News

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.

Zambia and Southern Africa Celebrate First Open	Defecation	Free District

Zambia and Southern Africa Celebrate First Open Defecation Free District

By Akros Media on April 22, 2015 in News, Water and Sanitation Health

On 24 April 2015, Chienge will host a national celebration to mark the historic achievement of becoming the first district in Zambia and Southern Africa to be declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). With three chiefdoms in the districts becoming ODF at the same time, Chienge’s verification also makes Zambia the second country in Africa, after Kenya, to realize such an ambitious goal. The district moved from a low baseline coverage of 12% to the now verified 98% population reach (this includes all 13 wards being verified and certified as ODF by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing working with UNICEF.

The celebration is part of the “ODF Zambia by 2020” Campaign which has seen Zambia make progress on improving sanitation coverage with chiefdoms leading the way. So far, 10 chiefdoms have been declared ODF, an important factor in reducing disease outbreaks such as diarrhea in communities.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under 5, globally, and one of the significant contributors is the lack of access to adequate sanitation and appropriate hand washing facilities. In Zambia, approximately 40 children die each day because of a lack of access to sanitation and clean water and 40% of those affected are stunted – notably because of fecal-oral transmission of diseases. The negative outcomes disproportionately impact Zambia women and girls, who face additional risks to their safety when defecating outdoors or attempting to reach far away toilets. In the economic context, Zambia loses ZMW 946 billion annually due to poor sanitation, according to the review conducted by the Water and Sanitation Program (World Bank, 2012).

The Honorable Minister of Local Government and Housing, Mr. John Phiri, commented, “We are inspired by this landmark achievement which shows that by using community participatory approaches such as Community- Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), and effective sector collaboration at different levels, huge milestones can be made towards a defecation free Zambia. We salute their Royal Highnesses Senior Chief Mununga, Senior Chief Puta and Chieftainness Lambwe Chomba, for their distinguished leadership that has resulted in having the first ODF district in Zambia and other countries in the Southern African Region.”

“A lack of sanitation in the most vulnerable populations often translates to lack of good health, and a loss in economic and educational opportunities – outcomes that disproportionately affect the quality of a woman’s and child’s life and future,” stated Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, Country Representative for UNICEF. “This is why the district of Chienge achieving its open defecation free status is an important milestone in Zambia’s history, not only because of what it means for the health of over 100,000 residents in the district, but also because it demonstrates the great capacity of the Zambia communities and their traditional leaders to realize their own innovative solutions. I can only admire such a remarkable display of collective government prioritization, collaboration, and mobilization that have made this milestone possible.”

While the long-term health and development impacts of this achievement are still emerging, remarkably, Chienge was able to leap between its abysmal starting point to its currently outstanding coverage over just the course of one year – stakeholders watch with great interest as the district, which historically recorded almost yearly outbreaks of cholera, passes the 12-month mark with zero confirmed cases of cholera recorded.

“This has been an absolute team effort. Spearheaded by the strong leadership and commitment of the three chiefs, our tireless Community Champions, EHTs and CHAs, Sub-Chiefs, Headmen and head women, Ward Councillors, all District WASHE Committee members including the District Administration and key line Ministries and District Staff, especially our RWSSP Focal Point person and the proud and hard-working communities of Chienge District, with excellent support from facilitating NGO Akros, PDHID and provincial and national line ministries, “says Chienge District Council Secretary Mr Kauchingu.

Chienge is the first in the line of ODF districts to be verified in the upcoming months, which includes Lunga, Samfya, and Mumbwa to be confirmed soon.

The National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program is led by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, in partnership with the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, and the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health. The leadership is supported by many cooperating partners and NGOs in the sector, particularly by UNICEF and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program currently found in 67 rural districts, with a view to expanding into more districts this year. NRWSSP is committed to addressing the underlying causes of diarrhea and other waterborne diseases through a package of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions that include the evidence-based participatory approach of CLTS.

Zambia to Celebrate World Malaria Day in Livingstone

Zambia to Celebrate World Malaria Day in Livingstone

By Akros Media on April 20, 2015 in Malaria, News

World Malaria Day is celebrated each year on April 25, commemorating the work that has gone into fighting the disease and driving efforts to continue towards its elimination. The theme for this year is “Invest in the future, eliminate malaria.” Zambia will be commemorating the event this year in Livingstone with round table discussions, visits to community health centers, and entertainment all aimed at spreading the malaria elimination agenda.

“World Malaria Day commemorates where we are in the malaria fight and where we are headed,” said Anna Winters, CEO of Akros, an organization working in several facets of malaria control and elimination here in Zambia. “Zambia has made huge strides such that some areas of the country are closing in on elimination,” she said.

Over the past four years Akros has been working with the Government of Zambia on an innovative, community-level malaria surveillance system that leverages community health workers (CHWs) to:

  1. Find, treat and, report all malaria infections in the community
  2. Reduce the burden of outpatient care and staff work load at the health facility through expanding access to malaria diagnosis and treatment by CHWs at the community level

“Community-level malaria surveillance has helped to ensure the district data is a true reflection of the malaria burden because the data is generated by both the Health Facilities and the Community Health Workers,” said Dr. Mwaba Phallon B., District Medical Officer of Kazungula District. “In fact, there are more cases being recorded at the Community level than the health facilities. This helps the district in planning for malaria control activities effectively based on a true representation of the hot spots. Unveiling cases at the community level as well as active detection of cases in the area surrounding the index case also ensures that the parasite is eliminated very quickly without allowing it to multiply. This way, it is envisaged that malaria elimination could be achieved if the program is sustained,” said Dr. Mwaba.

This community-level malaria surveillance approach has already been implemented in 11 districts in Zambia’s Central, Southern, and Western Provinces. 1,500 CHWs have been trained in follow-up, treatment, and reporting protocols required by the system, and the program has already led to an incredible 45.5% increase in the number of malaria cases identified and treated, a huge step forward for Zambia’s malaria elimination agenda. This strategy has also enhanced real time reporting by using a reactive case detection (RCD) protocol and instant transmission of information using phones into the DHIS2 database.

This year’s World Malaria Day commemoration will be held in Kazungula district beginning with a show case of elimination interventions at Kabuyu where Akros, in partnership with the Government and PATH/MACEPA, has worked with CHWs to implement community level malaria surveillance. This occasion is scheduled for 24th April, 2015 beginning at 08:00 hrs and will enable attendees to witness how these intervention efforts are practically deployed in the fight to eliminate malaria. This will be followed by a March Past, song and dance and speeches on Saturday in Livingstone at Mukuni Park.

GRZ/Akros highlighted in DHIS2 newsletter

GRZ/Akros highlighted in DHIS2 newsletter

By Akros Media on April 16, 2015 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News

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.

[icon size=”22″]icon-file[/icon] Download a PDF about community-level surveillance.

Akros Staffer, Anne Mutunda, to make presentation at Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Boston

Akros Staffer, Anne Mutunda, to make presentation at Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Boston

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on April 9, 2015 in Capacity Building, News, Water and Sanitation Health

[icon size=”16″]icon-camera[/icon] Anne Mutunda (far right) celebrates the 1 million new users of sanitation milestone with her W.A.S.H. colleagues at the Akros offices in November. Mutunda will present on her research at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in Boston this June.

World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 each year as a global health awareness day that also marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization, established in 1948. For the past two years, this day has also marked the start of World Health Worker Week, a weeklong celebration of the inspiring health workers who make health care possible. This is also a week to celebrate health workers who provide health care in the hardest to reach places, often compromising their own comfort for the sake of health equity.

Anne Mutunda, an Akros Water & Sanitation Health (WASH) Surveillance Officer, has been invited to make a presentation during the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research to be held at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston from June 4 – 6. “I am very happy to be invited to this conference, I feel delighted as this will make me known in the international research community as a subject-matter expert in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Mutunda.

The life of a Community Champion

The life of a Community Champion

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on March 30, 2015 in News, Water and Sanitation Health

Justine Mwape is one of the most hardworking Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) volunteers in the Serenje District of Central Province. He led Kabamba ward to end open defecation in 2014 when he was serving there as a Community Champion. His journey was not so smooth as he had to work as the only Champion in the area for some time after his co-champion left. He had to supervise about 51 sparsely populated villages alone. This did not limit him as he decided to put in some extra hours to ensure adequate sanitation in his area of operation. Mwape became a Champion soon after the CLTS programme was introduced to the area in 2013. He describes community work as an inborn thing, something that comes naturally and enables him to thrive with ease even in challenging situations.

Asked how he was able to lead the ward to stop open defecation, he stated that the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Chief Kabamba and Akros were very instrumental in helping him facilitate the change. He further stated that his vast prior experience in community work instilled some skills that he used in the CLTS programme such as team building, facilitation and conflict management.