Transforming Drivers and Clerks into IRS Experts in Côte d’Ivoire

Earlier this year, Côte d’Ivoire was set to undertake its first-ever, large-scale IRS campaign to compliment the country’s existing ITN distribution program. Unfortunately, due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, all health activities were paused. But per WHO, PMI/USAID, NMCP, and the National Vector Control Steering Committee guidance, malaria prevention activities were authorized to continue, deeming them essential in helping to lessen the compounded effects that malaria and COVID would have on communities. Côte d’Ivoire’s campaign was initially intended to be in two phases, with a campaign in Sakassou in April and Nassian district in June. In order to mitigate the risk of spreading or contracting the coronavirus, the team decided to condense the campaign into a single, simultaneous campaign in the two targeted Districts instead of spraying one district at a time. But, with only the same amount of spray operators available, it seemed impossible to cover such a large-scale campaign in this way – after all, SOPs cannot be in two places at once! Coupled with the suspension of all STTA support due to travel restrictions, the team needed an innovative solution to the challenges they were up against.

With this being the country’s first IRS campaign, the Côte d’Ivoire team was determined to make it a success despite the numerous hurdles they faced. To maximize human resources and address campaign needs, the team established an internal capacity-building strategy for all VL staff members on the team. The team trained the technical staff on the specifics of IRS implementation procedures, preparing them to maintain, lead, supervise, and coordinate the operational sites in Sakassou and Nassian. Recognizing that the campaign would need all the human resource support it could get, the team even trained the drivers, office assistants, finance, and administrative staff on some of the technical aspects of the campaign for additional support! As an added bonus, all training was conducted virtually via WebEx, WhatsApp, and recorded training video demonstrations.

In Nassian Health District, Mr. Koffi Ange (Office Assistant/Janitor) and Mr. Grebe Abreham (Driver) were trained as supervisors of Sominassé and Banvayo operational sites. During the 30-day campaign, they led and coordinated all IRS activities including morning mobilization, vehicle and bike coordination, spraying supervision, warehouse store management, waste management, data collection, end-of-day activities, and community mobilization. Sominassé and Banvayo exceeded their spray coverage goals with 102.7 % and 99.4% coverage respectfully, while Mr. Abraham and Mr. Koffi were respectively ranked 2nd and 3rd for best spray coverage among all the operational sites of the Nassian Health District. As a result of their leadership, the teams sprayed a total of 6,739 structures, protecting 10,762 people (1,817 children under 5 years old and 264 pregnant women) from malaria.

Way to go team Cote d’Ivoire for your cohesive and strategic approach, and congratulations to Abreham and Ange for your accomplishments!

Entomological Progress Underway in DRC

This week’s Fist Bump Friday is dedicated to the VectorLink DRC team for their work to improve the quality of molecular entomology data in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In recent years, VL DRC has worked closely with the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in Kinshasa to conduct entomological research. When the 2016 annual report showed that the proportion of An. gambiae/coluzzii hybrids detected was very high (32%

), they realized this discrepancy was due to issues with the quality control of molecular data. The VectorLink DRC team was determined to improve the quality of data.

The following year, laboratory technicians attended a regional training in Benin to build the capacity of both INRB and VectorLink technicians. While building the capacity of local technicians is impressive, the VL DRC team did not stop there. A continued challenge in the lab has always been a lack of workspace. The INRB molecular biology lab is very small and is shared by all disease programs. The crowded laboratory was not conducive to conducting efficient, accurate and timely laboratory analysis.

By transforming the existing space at the INRB entomological unit into a new molecular laboratory dedicated to entomology, the team was able to conduct more efficient testing for more accurate results and data. The team went on to purchase brand new equipment for the new space including a water bath, Eppendorf centrifuge, compact drying oven, pH meter, vortex, PCR workstation, microplate reader, and more. The new entomology laboratory is now fully fitted and functional! Starting this year, all project analysis has performed in the new laboratory space

Kudos to the PMI VectorLink DRC team!

Expanding VectorLink Collect for Entomological Data

Last month, the VectorLink M&E and Entomology teams trained and onboarded 17 VectorLink countries as they adopt VectorLink Collect for use in entomological data management. Since the four-phased roll began earlier this year, the M&E team has launched 5 different programs to support data entry, data management, and analytics for longitudinal vector bionomics, insecticide resistance, and residual efficacy data. Over the past several months, the Entomology/M&E team developed new data workflows, data management, and data quality roles, responsibilities matrices, and geographical mapping tools to align entomological geographic levels to the organizational hierarchy for IRS within our system.

The programs were also translated into French, Portuguese, and even Spanish to support new VectorLink activities in Colombia. The team initially planned to hold two in-person, regional trainings to support this roll-out process but due to the pandemic, the team quickly adapted to hosting these trainings virtually. After countless WebEx sessions, the team completed the final trainings just weeks ago. As of October, the M&E/Entomology team successfully trained over 80 VectorLink home office and country staff across all 17 target-countries!

The M&E and Ento teams have been working hard to make this a success – country entomology teams have already made over 5830 entries into the VectorLink Collect entomology programs, and the numbers continue to rise daily. With vector control and entomological data in the same system, we have exciting opportunities ahead for integrated analytics to support critical malaria control decisions.

Congratulations to everyone involved, with a very special thanks to Lilly Siems and Marianne Henry, and our country entomology teams, for so actively supporting this successful rollout.

Together, we succeed. Congratulations to the Ento and M&E Team!

IRS is Expending in Ghana!

This week’s Fist Bump Friday is dedicated to the PMI VectorLink Ghana Team for successfully expanding the geographical scope of indoor residual spraying in Ghana to include an additional district: the Tatale-Sanguli District (TSD). During early stakeholder engagements in TDS, the health directorate showed consistent malaria mortality among both children under five and adults since 2015. District Operations Coordinator, Tamara Amina Sulemana, and the rest of the Ghana team were ready to rise to the challenge of managing the preparation and execution of IRS in the new district, while also being mindful of the importance of implementing IRS in the context of the global, COVID-19 pandemic.

Tamara and the VectorLink Ghana team showed attention to detail throughout the process of preparing the Tatale-Sanguli District for IRS. The team organized and participated in meaningful stakeholder engagements, which resulted in productive collaboration leading up to the spray campaign. The local government contributed facilities and space for operations sites, households were timely enumerated with unique IRS identification numbers, operations sites were prepared according to the latest PMI Best Practices Manual Environmental Compliance specifications, all cadres of staff were trained, and mobile data collection devices were tested and ready for the entire district to collect its spray data digitally.

As a result of these efforts, it was not surprising that the hard work was rewarded with a spray coverage rate of 95.2%. By expanding IRS into TSD, VL Ghana is protecting 67,450 additional people out of which 11,812 are children under the age of five and 1,623 are pregnant women. District officials expressed appreciation of PMI assistance through IRS.

Kudos to Tamara and the Ghana team for their lifesaving work!

Master Training In Madagascar Sets the Tone for Upcoming IRS Campaign

This week’s Fist Bump Friday is dedicated to the PMI VectorLink Madagascar Team for successfully carrying out their master training with special attention to COVID-19 mitigation that shows a deep commitment to the safety of their staff, partners, and beneficiaries. Across the project, country teams swiftly rose to the challenge of implementing life-saving interventions and malaria vector control in the context of COVID-19 earlier this year. Now, equipped with the best practices from other countries’ campaign and training experience, the Madagascar team is proving that we can excel in our objectives while taking every precaution to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The Master Training took place from September 21st to September 26th in the Tulear municipal conference room which has several ceiling fans running as well as open doors and windows. This training was held in preparation for the upcoming spray campaign set to take place from November 2nd through December 3rd in five districts with 2-5 operational sites each. In total, 16 Operation Site Coordinators (OSC) and 17 Assistant Operation Site Coordinators (AOSC) attended the training and will in turn train the Team Leaders in their respective operational sites. Prior to entering the training facility, all participants used handwashing systems at the entrance, had their temperatures checked by a digital thermometer, and stepped in antiseptic water to sanitize shoes. All participants wore masks for the duration of the training and frequently applied disinfectant gels or sanitizers to their hands. Inside the venue, careful attention was paid to maintain social distance, with chairs adequately spread apart.

These measures posed no hindrance to the execution of the training, and government officials who attended the opening session were impressed to find their recommendations to mitigate COVID-19 risks taken to heart. Support for the mater training came from all levels of the Ministry of Health as well as the NMCP. The PMI Madagascar mission even facilitated video conferencing to allow for some trainers to attend remotely, thus limiting travel. Through this collaborative effort, the training was a success, with localized training cascading from OSCs across the five districts in the weeks that followed. The VL Madagascar team’s diligence in implementing strategies to mitigate COVID-19 in their race to the starting line denotes a dedication to the health and safety that will pervade throughout their spray campaign.

Congratulations to our Madagascar team for exemplary training!



Entomological Surveillance in Kenya takes a Community-Based Approach

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to PMI VectorLink’s Kenya Ento Team for their efforts in capacity building. The team recently held a special training for four, county-level entomologists that work in two counties to support community-based surveillance in two counties: Kakamega and Vihiga. Understanding the importance of our journey to self-reliance, the VL Kenya team eagerly arose to the opportunity to also invite local entomologists to attend the training and include them in ongoing community-based entomological surveillance.

The training in Kakamega acted as a refresher for community health workers/volunteers (CHV) implementing community-based entomological surveillance. Four local entomologists, for whom this was their first training, serve in the Division of Vector-Borne and Neglected Diseases (DVBD) in Kakamega and Vihiga. As they plan to share the new knowledge with other DVBD entomologists, they will conduct monthly supervision of the ongoing entomology surveillance themselves.

The training culminated in a joint site supervision visit by VectorLink and DVBD teams with community health workers and the local entomologists putting their training into practice. One of the most interesting sessions involved the demonstration of Anopheles species identification by Ernest, the CHV for Mumias East (pictured holding the hand lens) after collecting the day’s catch. Also in attendance was a local area chief, marking a milestone in VL’s aim to engage and empower local capacity to respond to vector-bornediseases, especially malaria, at the local level. All in all, the VL Kenya team has exerted tremendous effort to respond to the call for capacity-building with support from PMI, all while taking every precaution to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 transmission.

Kudos to our Kenya team for paving the way for the rest of the PMI VectorLink project!

Going Virtual: Delivering Regional Environmental Compliance Training Workshop Online

Increasing the capacity of host-country IRS staff across various facets of environmental compliance remains a priority for the VectorLink project. With face-to-face regional training programs being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important to reassess the original workshop design in order to maintain a high level of productivity and progression despite these uncertain times.

Embracing this challenge, the VL EC Home Office team developed a training plan to target IRS staff from the Anglophone, Francophone, and Portuguese-speaking VectorLink countries. This resulted in a three-part workshop series: first with VL ECOs only, second with ECOs and invited government NMCP participants from Anglophone countries, and third with ECOs and invited government NMCP participants from Francophone countries and Mozambique. 

Finding the best tools for the job

“Understanding the dynamics and constraints in the countries we work was the first step to finding a platform that matched our training needs,” said Albert Acquaye, VL Environmental Compliance Manager. “Zoom was chosen because it requires low bandwidth and offered multiple tools for engagement, which was critical to the success of the workshop.”

The workshop was designed to be instructive and participatory, using videos, breakout rooms, chat boxes, polling questions, and simultaneous translation which were ways to keep the participants interested, engaged, and assess their progress throughout the training.  

With challenge comes opportunity

Compared to the original plan for face-to-face training, the virtual training workshop provided the opportunity to engage a larger number of participants per country. “We were amazed at the number of people that participated in each workshop series. In total, 80 government implementers and 53 VL staff were trained with the resounding request for more environmental compliance training” stated Kerri-Ann Guyah, VL Environmental Compliance Manager. “It shows real interest in the subject area and a zeal to align existing systems to best management practices.”

A big congrats to our VectorLink EC Team for going above and beyond!

Entomological Training in Cambodia Boasts Impressive Outcomes

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to the VectorLink Cambodia Team for conducting their first-ever entomological training and technical activity under the VectorLink Project. PMI initially planned to begin supporting entomological monitoring in Cambodia under VectorLink in 2018/19 in two sites: Mondulkiri and Stung Treng provinces. However, activities were delayed until a memorandum of understanding with the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM) could be finalized. The outbreak of COVID-19 and ensuing pandemic-related travel restrictions then delayed the on-boarding of the Cambodia team’s proposed technical manager who was set to oversee this training and following technical activities. Despite the absence of a technical manager, and with the on-boarding of a new COP, VectorLink Cambodia was able to successfully complete its first-ever entomology training on mosquito surveillance and vector species identification.

The training was led by Stung Treng and Mr. Didot Prasetyo (Entomology Manager of the U.S. NAMRU2 laboratory in Phnom Penh) with notable outcomes. Participants included staff from the Cambodia National Center for Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control (CNM), two provincial health department staff, and two district health center staff. In the two-part training, VectorLink technicians Yan Chanly and Yean Sony supported sessions in a CNM laboratory that included eight days of hands-on field training in Stung Treng province. During laboratory sessions, participants learned about Anopheles mosquito behavior such as breeding, host blood-seeking, and resting. Participants also learned the various mosquito trapping methods and practiced species identification of mosquitoes using microscopes. In the field sessions that followed, participants got hands-on experience with mosquito identification and trapping techniques in a local village before presenting their results to their fellow peers.

All participants enjoyed and actively engaged in the laboratory sessions and felt confident in their abilities to identify mosquito species prior to undergoing the field practicum. The results of pre- and post-testing for the training revealed notable improvements in participants’understanding and knowledge of concepts covered. The post-test results showed that all participants scored with passing grades, while 3 participants received perfect scores! Now that training has been completed, the VL Cambodia team will begin its first monthly surveillance on October 11th in Mondulkiri Province.

Congrats to our VectorLink Cambodia technicians for a job well done!

VL Zambia District Coordinator – Kabaso Mambwe

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VL Zambia District Coordinator Mambwe Kabaso for her 17-year dedication to fighting malaria. Ms. Kabaso’s passion for malaria prevention was ignited when she lost her cousin to malaria.

In 2018, when Ms. Kabaso joined the PMI VectorLink Project, she was deployed to Mansa District of Luapula province as a district coordinator. Mansa District had the reputation of having annual extensions of their IRS campaign due to poor program implementation. However, with the arrival of Kabaso, things turned around and for the first time, the 2018 campaign in Mansa was completed without an extension to the calendar and with the district recording 92% coverage. In 2019, she was redeployed to Chipata District of Eastern Province, which is the largest and most challenging district in the Eastern Province with an estimated 120,117 target structures, 10 operations sites, and 286 spray operators.

Again, Kabaso was able to complete the spray campaign within the stipulated campaign days and recorded 93% spray coverage. Having completed the Chipata District campaign, she was quickly deployed to the Copperbelt Province to assist the Lufwanyama District to complete their spray campaign. With Kabaso on the ground, the Lufwanyama spray campaign took a turn for the better and was successfully accomplished with a spray coverage of 87%. 

VL Zambia COP Dr. Nduka Iwuchukwu said, “Kabaso is a tried and tested performer. Her organizational skills, consistent dedication to duty, and hands-on approach to providing solutions in diverse field situations are better experienced than pontificated. She is a great asset to the project.”

Ms. Kabaso believes that through the continued support of PMI in Zambia, her dream of compensating for the loss of her late cousin who died from malaria will come true. For her, this can only happen when malaria is eliminated in Zambia.

Kudos, Mambwe Kabaso!! We are lucky to have you on the PMI VectorLink team!!

VL Liberia Completes ITN Durability Monitoring Data Collection

During times of COVID-19, completion of our activities are worthy of congratulations. This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VL Liberia for their success in completing the 24-month data collection for ITN durability monitoring in Lofa and Grand Gedeh. 316 houses were surveyed and 607  ITNs were examined for attrition and integrity. In addition to the household survey, 60 nets (30 per site) were collected for bioassay and chemical content tests. Household surveys are important for assessing how long ITNs remain in usable condition, providing effective vector control against mosquitoes. The physical durability of ITNs can vary greatly, depending on a wide variety of behavior and environmental factors. The study results will guide procurement and timing decisions for future ITN campaigns and inform the design of communication messages to increase the use of ITNs and improve ITN care and repair behaviors among the population of Liberia.

Due to COVID-19, the durability monitoring the training of trainers (TOT) was held online from July 21 – 23 with 2 VL staff, 7 NMCP staff, and 3 data collection agencies(UL-PIRE) staff, while in-person fieldworker training was conducted July 28 – 31. VL Liberia took special measures to mitigate any exposure to COVID-19, including:

    • Added screening questions to the beginning of the questionnaire to avoid coming into contact with suspected and/or confirmed cases
    • Asking for oral consent rather than a signature
    • Trained fieldworkers on using a ruler instead of a template to minimize contact with the mosquito net
    • Performed all interviews outside and asked families to bring nets outside for evaluation
    • All individuals, including field workers, trainers, and drivers, wore masks at all times during training and fieldwork
    • All data collectors used a new pair of gloves at each household with used gloves disposed of in a plastic bag and incinerated at the health center
    • Sanitizer was used throughout the day, and
    • Social distancing was maintained during in-person training with space between each participant.

A big congratulations to the team for completing the data collection successfully and on time in August despite COVID-19 and the difficult road conditions due to the rainy season. Results from the survey are expected to be ready by December 2020.