VL Uganda’s M&E Team Driven to Deliver the Data

This week’s Fist Bump goes to the M&E team for VL Uganda. Uganda began Phase 1 of its 2020 IRS campaign on March 3rd with complex challenges. The M&E team was tasked with updating thousands of organizational units in VectorLink Collect, while facing data loss due to issues with the desktop application and disrupted internet connectivity. Shortly after Phase 1 and before Phase 2 of the campaign, the entire country was sent into lockdown due to COVID -19, creating further difficulties as they tried to complete data entry and cleaning for Phase 1. Initially, data entry centers were not able to operate due to the restrictions. Once data centers were operable, many of the Data Entry Clerks (DECs) were still unable to move freely to the data entry centers.

Once data entry was underway again, the team devised novel approaches to managing data entry, which included work shifts for the DECS and expanding the space within their data entry centers. In the midst of these challenges, the M&E team worked tirelessly to plan for Phase 2. The team developed new ways of working to ensure social distancing for the DECS, and to reduce multiple people coming into contact with the data collection forms. This meant that forms were set aside for the first 24 hours after they arrived at the data entry center. Despite delays with Phase 1 and a reduced number of DECs available to work on Phase 2, the team successfully ensured that the data entry and cleaning for Phase 1 and 2 were completed on schedule.

Kudos to Denis Ambayo, Evaline Ajwang and Patrick Orumasido for going above and beyond to ensure efficient data entry operation and for successfully completing the campaign.

VL Tanzania Responds Quickly with Targeted ITN Distribution in Zanzibar during COVID-19

This week’s Fist Bump goes to VL Tanzania for their quick response in assisting the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program (ZAMEP) with their first-ever targeted, mini mass ITN distribution campaign. VL TZ already supports broad access to nets across Tanzania, including at health facilities, mass campaignsand school-based distribution. When malaria cases spiked and overall use of ITNs was shown to be low across three districts, PMI requested VL’s help in implementing a targeted ITN campaign outside the original work plan.

While macro planning for the distribution of ITNs in the targeted areas was envisaged before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zanzibar made programmatic changes to adapt and comply to the global recommended practices to prevent transmission of the virus to protect both net distributors and beneficiaries at the household level.

The nine-day campaign was launched by the Deputy Minister for Health in the presence of few spectators and media on June 6, 2020. Volunteers, who had been trained to register households, issued nets through a door-to-door approach as opposed to stationed issuing points as initially planned. Slightly more than 197,000 ITNs were issued to eligible households during the campaign. Targeted community mobilization activities were implemented before and during the issuing of nets primarily through public announcements.

The campaign was hugely successful thanks to strong coordination from ZAMEP leadership and the flexibility and willingness of all to adapt to new and challenging COVID-19 circumstances to support Zanzibar in its efforts to eliminate malaria.


Kudos, VL Tanzania!

VL Mali Moves Forward with IRS Campaign

This week’s Fist Bump goes to VectorLink Mali for the launch of their 2020 IRS campaign on Monday, June 15th, in Bandiagara and Djenne districts. VL Mali has gone above and beyond to ensure the most vulnerable are protected from malaria in one of the world’s most challenging regions, which faces high-security risks.

The Mali team was able to complete all site preparation and training activities on time and in compliance with the recommended preventative measures to protect participants from COVID-19 transmission.

Despite severe international supply chain disruptions — including delays to the Fludora Fusion delivery, which forced the postponement of the campaign in Mopti District — the VL Mali team was able to move forward with the campaign.

This was made possible thanks to the extremely strong relationships the Mali team has cultivated with the regional, district, and health area authorities, allowing them to collectively make appropriate operational decisions in good faith. A special shout out to the four district coordinators in the Mopti region who have fostered these relationships over the past several years, since the PMI began conducting IRS in Mopti region in 2017.

Congratulations, VL Mali! Good luck with the remainder of the campaign.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Fist Bumps

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to all the VectorLink photographers who submitted to this year’s Abt Photo Contest. Among the top 10 photos that are now being voted on for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, VectorLink has four photos in the running! I’m happy to say that there are two ITN and two IRS photos in that bunch.

While the photographers’ names are being withheld until the end of the contest (so as not to sway someone to vote with personal bias), it’s nice to see so many photos represented from the project. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but the one included in this email was taken in Tanzania by our very own Bezhan Muradi from the Home Office. Congrats, Bezhan, for taking such an awesome photo that happens to work perfectly for Fist Bump Friday!!

Kudos to Bezhan and all the VL photographers!

Go VL Ethiopia and VL Burkina Faso!

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes to VL Ethiopia and VL Burkina Faso as they launched their IRS campaigns during COVID-19.

VL Ethiopia launched the first phase of their IRS campaign on June 2nd in 17 out of 44 districts, while continuing to prepare for the 27 remaining districts to begin on June 23rd. The campaign was postponed by three weeks due to the emergence of COVID-19 cases. The team along with government counterparts and PMI Ethiopia determined that gathering large groups for training was inadvisable while the situation was still so uncertain. With the additional time, the team was able to restructure training and operations to minimize the risk of exposure to workers and beneficiaries.

With this delay came many logistical challenges. The heavy rains started even earlier than expected and made some target areas inaccessible by road. The VectorLink Ethiopia team mobilized their partners and resources to plan a safe, BMP-compliant water crossing to deliver IRS commodities to a very difficult-to-reach district called Akobo, and is monitoring conditions in collaboration with local authorities to gain access to the affected areas when/if the roads become passable.

VL Burkina Faso launched its spray campaign on June 1st in the districts of Kampti and Solenzo. An official launch ceremony took place in both districts and were chaired by the High Commissioners of both provinces. In addition, Representatives from NMCP, Provincial Security Services, Department of Environment, Regional Health, District Health Management Teams, Mass Medias, Mayors and Prefects, were present at the ceremony. The ceremony included opening speeches and physical observation of spray activities in select households. Supervision of spray activities is conducted in the field in by the VL team, Chief Medical Officers, Health Post Nurses, among other district staff. After a successful roll-out in 2019, the Burkina Faso team is again implementing in all districts mobile data collection to collect spray data through the exclusive use of tablets by SOPs at the household level.

Safety measures have been put in place amid COVID-19 and the unstable security situation in Burkina Faso in close coordination with local authorities and security forces with daily check-ins prior to deploying teams to the field. For spray quality assurance, the entomological monitoring team has joined the spray team in both Kampti and Solenzo to conduct cone bioassays.

What a huge accomplishment, VL Ethiopia and VL Burkina Faso! Congrats and good luck with the remainder of your campaigns.

Spray On!

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VL Uganda for restarting their IRS campaign and to VL Senegal for the launch of their IRS campaign this past week. As we all know, implementing IRS during COVID-19 is no easy feat, and congratulations are due to these teams who have navigated this brave new world to protect people from malaria.

For example, VL Uganda – our largest IRS program with 1,393,562 structures targeted to be sprayed in two phases – has dealt with an ongoing nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, which came into effect during the project’s first phase of spraying in April. Despite the lockdown, the project achieved 94% coverage in eight districts with 695,891 structures sprayed. The lockdown disrupted Phase II of the IRS campaign, however. To ensure continuity of the malaria prevention measures and IRS gains, the project worked with the Ministry of Health and received clearance to continue implementing IRS during the lockdown in all eight districts targeted for Phase II. The project ensured that COVID-19 protection guidelines issued by the government and PMI were followed and started Phase II of spraying on Monday, May 25th.

VL Senegal, while not on a nationwide lockdown, also managed to overcome barriers, such as a curfew, the closure of some businesses, and limited travel between regions. VL Senegal launched Phase 1 (of two phases) of spraying in two districts, targeting nearly 45,000 structures, on Thursday, May 28th. Phase II will begin on July 2nd and will target more than 90,000 structures.

Similar to VL Uganda and all country programs spraying during COVID-19, VL Senegal has instituted measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and has adhered to PMI guidelines, while preparing for and implementing IRS, including:

  • Additional handwashing stations at entrances to all training rooms and at operational sites.
  • Decentralized training so that no more than 10 people were in one training room.
  • Masks provided for all training participants and facilitators.
  • Daily temperature checks using a touchless thermometer.
  • COVID-19 mitigation strategies and community communications included in training materials for all seasonal staff.
  • Additional vehicles hired to allow for fewer staff to travel together.
  • Master Training conducted with VL Senegal staff remotely, using Web-ex.
  • Box lunches provided to minimize contact with vendors.
  • Posters and flyers indicating signs, symptoms and prevention measures for COVID-19 posted at operation sites.
  • Morning mobilization conducted (including breakfast) in shifts of 15 minutes each so no more than 10 people are mobilized at a time.

A Team Player You Can Count On!

A big shout out to Solomon Wasse, VectorLink Ethiopia’s Operations Manager, for his recent presentation on the Vector LearningXChange webinar “Mapping 101: How Geospatial Data Improves Planning and Implementation in Vector Control.”

Solomon shared VL Ethiopia’s experience with using satellite image maps to ensure all individual structures in the kebeles (villages) were identified and counted to provide an accurate benchmark for the 2019 campaign. Using maps, in conjunction with ground-truthing, enhanced VectorLink Ethiopia’s ability to find structures. In addition to providing structure numbers, the enumeration results indicated locations/pockets that should be visited and sprayed by the district IRS team.

More than 85 people attended the webinar with a robust discussion that followed. If you missed the webinar, you can listen to it here.

Congratulations, Solomon, on a job well done!! Your efforts outside your normal day-to-day job are much appreciated and contribute to our entire team’s learning.

VL Ethiopia Takes Gender Equality to Task

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VL Ethiopia for establishing a Gender Task Force to ensure gender mainstreaming efforts are prioritized, even against the challenging backdrop of COVID-19. Persistent challenges in improving women’s participation in IRS led the team to conclude that focused effort and new approaches were necessary. An equitable IRS workforce is aligned with the Ethiopian Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs’ vision to “ensure women’s equal participation in and benefit from economic, social, political, and cultural spheres; to protect the right and welfare of children and promote gender equality in Ethiopia.”

The task force, including Getinet Mitiku (ECO and chairperson of the task force), Habtamu Berhanu (an operations manager), and one Zonal Coordinator from each of the three regions (Tomas Haile, Girma Alemayehu, Hailu Turura), developed a detailed gender mainstreaming plan to ensure universal understanding of the objectives listed in the work plan among regional and district-level partners. The task force meets regularly with the VL Project Gender Advisor to ensure gender mainstreaming efforts are aligned with project best practices.

VL Ethiopia is sharing plans with the regional and district authorities, including recruitment targets and identifying one representative from each district to raise issues women are facing. VL Ethiopia seeks to continually improve conditions for IRS personnel and beneficiaries, recognizing districts that performed well in 2019 to motivate other districts to improve in this area. The task force is identifying women from previous campaigns and encouraging them to apply for leadership positions.

VL Ethiopia is also connecting with other VectorLink country teams and gender focal points who have had success in gender mainstreaming and have been recognized by PMI for their accomplishments to exchange ideas and apply best practices that are appropriate to the Ethiopian context. 

Kudos to the VectorLink Ethiopia Gender Task Force for their leadership in prioritizing the women’s empowerment agenda and setting an example of how to ensure gender mainstreaming is everyone’s business.

VL Tanzania Trains Together with Technology

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to the VL Tanzania team for their training initiative during this “work-from-home” period. In efforts to promote professional development among all staff, five members of the team have led Webex trainings. A special focus has been on the training of administrative staff and drivers to increase their ability to conduct technical supervision. To date, the following people have led trainings in the respective areas:

  • Emily Hubert (Senior Driver/Pump Technician) – Pump Repair & Maintenance
  • Elisante Mshingo (Driver) –  Log Book filling & Recording
  • Gaudence Rutta (Operations Manager) – IRS Supervision Guidelines
  • Dorothy Moshi (Administrative officer) –  Assisting on Administration Activities (Fuel, Invoice,  Travel, & Advances)
  • Kenan Mwansasu (IT Manager) –  Online Meeting, Calendar, Outlook view and Appointment

A huge congratulations to all the trainers and trainees for this excellent initiative, which is promoting professional development and building leadership and training skills for the trainers. You’ve really demonstrated what real “TEAMWORK” is and how we can all adapt and grow even during these most difficult days. Way to go, VL Tanzania!

Training for IRS in the Age of Covid-19

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes to VectorLink Senegal as they prepare and train for the start of their IRS spray campaign scheduled for May 28th in Kedougou and Makacolibantang (two districts which have never been sprayed), while adhering to PMI and WHO guidelines around COVID-19 to keep all participants safe and reduce the risk of spread of disease.

VectorLink Senegal worked with the home office to accommodate for COVID-19 travel restrictions by replacing the IRS Boot Camp with a virtual Master Training, held April 23-25th. Several members of the country team participated in this three-day training on IRS operations, led virtually by Allan Ware. Sana Diop and Abdoulaye Bangoura also led virtual training sessions on environmental compliance and M&E, respectively. Kudos to Allan, Sana, and Abdoulaye as well!

Those trained facilitated the Training of Trainers (TOT) held this week. The TOT was held over 5 days from April 27-May 1st in Tambacounda District. A total of 30 staff participated in the training – this group was split into three groups of 10 and each trained in a different classroom. Each participant was separated by 6 feet or more. There is a handwashing station at the front of each classroom where participants must wash their hands before entering. Participants are also getting their temperature tested daily to ensure no one has a fever. All participants and trainers were provided with locally procured masks at a ratio of one mask/day. The team set-up a rotating training agenda so that trainers can rotate among the three classrooms. Training materials included modules on COVID-19 response and best practices. All practical training is also being done with space of greater than 6 feet in between participants as well.

Congratulations, VL Senegal, and good luck with your campaign!