VL Ghana Uses Mobile Technology to Improve School-Based Distribution of ITNs

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VectorLink Ghana for their support to Ghana’s NMCP in developing the mobile application Net4Schs App, which records data during school-based distribution (SBD) of ITNs. The Global Health Supply Chain – Procurement and Supply Management also supported this initiative.

The Net4Schs App eliminates the delay in data capture and enhances data accuracy as data can be synchronized daily and retrieved when needed from the Net4Schs platform housed by NMCP. To assess its field practicality and address any challenges before a full deployment for the 2020 SBD, implementing partners carried out a small-scale field assessment during the week of March 9. Twifo Hemang Lower Denkyira District and Cape Coast Metro from the Central region of Ghana were selected as test districts of the Net4Schs App.

ITNs were distributed to pupils in classes 2 and 6 in the two districts from March 9-13, 2020. Net4Schls shows a total of 13,479 ITNs were distributed in 267 primary schools across the districts. Eighty percent of reported data were entered by circuit supervisors within the week of distribution with minimal data entry errors. Previously, the same data collection could take a month to obtain with many data errors arising from the completion of multiple summary forms at the circuit, district and regional levels. The Net4Schls app eliminates the use of paper data collection and maintains the monitoring forms from all supervisors. The data is now available for analysis instantly unlike paper-based forms.

Congrats VL Ghana for this incredible innovation!

Stepping Up for SEAs

This week’s Fist Bump goes out to Sana Dieng Diop, VectorLink’s Regional Environmental Compliance (EC) Manager for her herculean efforts to complete two Supplemental Environmental Assessments (SEAs) back to back.

Under USAID regulations, each IRS country requires an approved SEA. Valid for five years, the SEA is an extensive analysis of the country’s environmental, legal, infrastructure, and human conditions and resources applicable to performing IRS. The preparation of the SEA requires STTA to the country to gather relevant information and to meet with stakeholders for discussion and coordination. The process starts five months in advance of spray to allow time for the USAID/PMI approval processes.

In 2020, Benin’s SEA was expiring and needed to be updated while Cote d’Ivoire, as a new IRS country, required a first-time SEA. unfortunately, the two countries’ spray schedules are back-to-back, so the SEA preparation for both had to happen at nearly the same time. Adding to the challenge, Benin’s spray schedule was moved up by a month and a new template for SEAs was being rolled out by USAID. Thus, Sana had to develop two different documents almost simultaneously and on an advanced timetable – a phenomenal effort indeed! Despite the challenges, Sana delivered the documents on time and responded to PMI’s and USAID’s comments and edits “at lightning speed”, as our client described it, all the while keeping up with her other responsibilities.

Working toward a Gender Equal World

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to VL Zambia’s Gender Focal Point Mary Malasa and the entire VL Zambia team for their commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020, a day set aside by the UN to commemorate women and explore issues relating to gender equality. This year’s commemoration marks 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, which has helped to advance women’s rights. The theme for the year is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. 

To mark the occasion, Mary Malasa organized photo sessions at VL Zambia’s various offices across the country – Lusaka, Ndola, Chipata, and Nchelenge, including the insectary located within the National Malaria Elimination Center. Photos were shared on Facebook, Yammer, and WhatsApp (in the Abt Gender focal person’s WhatsApp group). In addition, project staff were also encouraged to share their individual photos. VL Zambia’s Chipata office team also participated in the district’s march on March 9, 2020, commemorating International Women’s Day.

VL Zambia plans to sustain the momentum for gender equality by increasing the number of females to be recruited during the upcoming 2020 IRS campaign in September from the current 33% to a minimum of 40%. The adopted motto for this project initiative is entitled, “collectively, we can help create a gender-equal world”.

Way to go Mary and VL Zambia! You make us proud! Scroll down for all photos.

VL Tanzania Goes the Extra Mile to Expand Coverage

The Tanzania team successfully launched their 3rd spray campaign of the year this week, beginning IRS in two new districts only days after completing IRS in Zanzibar. Having already exceeded the targeted number of structures in the first two spray campaigns, the team now moves to a third area, including one district made up entirely of islands. Our impressive Tanzania team is also simultaneously piloting mobile data collection, overseeing a large ITN scope of work, including multiple distribution channels, and preparing for fall IRS.

The team faced an exceptional challenge of having to plan one campaign while executing another. It takes 2 flights, a drive, and a boat ride to get from Zanzibar to Ukerewe, for example, requiring nearly 2 days of travel time between them.

Islands introduce an added challenge of personal and environmental safety concerns. We don’t want our staff or our products to end up in the lake! To avoid these hazards, the Tanzania team undertook a rigorous review months ago of all of the islands, including the distances and population size and worked with the local government to agree on which islands were most suitable for IRS. We purchased a set of lifejackets to use when staff move among islands and hired local staff on some of the smaller islands to avoid having to transport folks back and forth daily.

Congratulations to the Tanzania team for their innovative planning and strategic efforts and good luck to them in their upcoming campaign!

Teaming Up for Data

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to the VectorLink Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Team for facilitating a third and final regional training in Accra, Ghana, on the use of the VectorLink Collect DHIS 2 database for all IRS data management and reporting.  With this final push, in 2020, we will have all 16 spray countries using the system! From January 27-30, 2020, 13 VectorLink M&E managers and database managers from six countries (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Uganda) learned the fundamentals of the VectorLink Collect system and are now equipped with the skills necessary to support all IRS data collection, data cleaning, reporting requirements, and critical skills in the development and use of visualizations to enhance data use. The training team included several home office M&E staff, our VectorLink Collect system administrator, and special participation by our VectorLink Madagascar M&E Manager who brought practical lessons learned based on his team’s recent rollout of the system. 

All participants remained extremely engaged throughout the sessions, asking relevant (and sometimes difficult) questions and taking advantage of the opportunity to exchange in-person with country counterparts. Our country M&E participants even created a WhatsApp group to remain in contact with their colleagues. Our team in Benin has already cascaded relevant training content to their colleagues in preparation for IRS campaigns and the entomology database roll out throughout Year 3!

Congrats to all of you who support M&E out there!

Scaling Up!

This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes to VL Rwanda for their success in implementing insecticide serialization at scale across all operations sites in a brand new district in their recent IRS campaign. During the campaign, VL Rwanda also field-tested digital scanning of serialized insecticide to assist storekeepers with necessary tracking of daily insecticide movement at four of the fourteen sites in Ngoma District. While digital scanning was initially piloted in Malawi in 2019, this is the first country to expand the practice beyond one site. As the project rolls out insecticide serialization across all countries to strengthen our insecticide supply chains at their ‘last links’ with storekeepers, team leaders and spray operators, these successes serve as an example of sound implementation of new initiatives. While not every country program will be testing digital scanning in 2020, these pilots feed into our learning curve and further build our project’s reputation for innovation, insecticide accountability, and continuous improvement.

Although Eugene Kiti arrived as VL Rwanda COP just weeks before the campaign kick-off, the team successfully sprayed 99% of structures in the districts, covering more than 92,700 structures, which was beyond their target. The campaign protected approximately 373,500 people or 97% of the district’s population. This was the first year VL sprayed Ngoma District, and VL Rwanda’s second round of campaigns, having sprayed two districts in Sept-Oct 2019.

A huge congratulations to the whole VL Rwanda team and a special kudos to Eugene as this was his 26th IRS campaign.

Great job!

Cost Savings through Collaboration

What happens when you bring the first large-scale IRS campaign to Cote d’Ivoire? If you’re VectorLink Cote d’Ivoire, you get everyone on board! This week’s Fist Bump Friday goes out to the VL Cote d’Ivoire team for their success in garnering strong community collaboration from the beginning. Recognizing that community ownership is key to the sustainability of IRS, VL Cote d’Ivoire, PMI, and the NMCP met with regional and district-level health directors and other community leaders from the targeted districts (Bouaké and Sakassou) in January to discuss the importance of the communities’ engagement and disseminate information about the benefits of IRS. A total of 55 attendees were involved in the advocacy sessions. The outcome of the two-day meeting not only created enthusiasm and support but a huge cost savings as the communities are providing all operational sites free of charge! Only minor costs will be incurred to ensure the sites are operable and compliant. This is a big win for VL Cote d’Ivoire and shows that community engagement early on pays off. In addition to the community collaboration, VL and district leaders discussed the creation of an IRS steering committee at the district level. VL Cote d’Ivoire will begin IRS operations in April.

Congratulations, VL Cote d’Ivoire, and good luck with the campaign!

Entomological Monitoring Returns to Angola

This week’s Fist Bump goes to the VectorLink Angola team for restarting entomological activities in the country in mid-January – the first time since 2016 under the PMI Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project!  

Though planning discussions began in late 2018, Angola officially joined VectorLink in May 2019. The team successfully overcame challenges over the next several months in recruiting qualified staff to launch and lead entomological collections, as well as to engender interest in entomological data within Angola’s National Malaria Control Program.

Working closely with the PMI and CDC teams from headquarters and the in-country mission over several months, the team developed a realistic plan to collect data from three sites during the peak mosquito season (January-March 2020). The first samples were collected from Huambo, the first site, on January 24. The team will move to the second site in Lunda Sul in mid-February, and wrap up in Luanda about a month later.

Though an external consultant entomologist was brought on board to oversee field collections, the rest of the team is Angolan. A local entomology coordinator worked hand-in-hand with the NMCP and Ministry of Health at central and provincial levels to facilitate logistics and gained buy-in from all stakeholders before the start of collections. Three of the five technicians working in Huambo were previously trained by PMI and supported by the NMCP.

The team also brought life back to the dormant insectary in Huambo, which was set up with PMI’s support in 2014. An insectary in Luanda based at the country’s National Health Research Institute (INIS – Instituto Nacional de Investigação em Saúde) is in the process of being established, and INIS will provide technicians to support the Luanda site collections.

With accurate, reliable and timely entomological data, Angola will be empowered to make informed, evidence-based decisions on the deployment of appropriate vector control interventions.

Congratulação on this milestone and keep up the good work, VectorLink Angola!

Rolling Out the Red Carpet in Kenya

When the Ambassador calls, VectorLink responds. Last month, US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter visited one of VectorLink Kenya’s field sites in Sumba Village, Migori County, where the project conducts mosquito surveillance activities. During the visit, the entomology team demonstrated how mosquitoes are collected to monitor the impact of IRS in Migori and Homa Bay counties. VL Kenya showed the Ambassador the CDC-light trap, wall bioassays, pyrethrum spraying catches (PSC) and the Furvela tent trap. The Ambassador praised VectorLink Kenya for reducing the risk of malaria to more than 2 million people in the two counties, particularly children under the age of 5 years and pregnant women, and urged the team to continue the great job.

While a visit from the U.S. Ambassador is not an everyday event, many of the country programs are graced with such visits. However, VL Kenya went the extra mile by creating a wonderful video that captured not only the visit but the entomology work of the project. Watch the video of the visit here.

Congrats to the VL Kenya team for showcasing the project so well!


Informed Decision Making

This week’s Fist Bump goes out to VectorLink Zambia for supporting the country’s National Malaria Elimination Program to use data to guide the IRS insecticide choice for the coming year.

During the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Insecticide Resistance Monitoring & Management Plan meeting last week, VectorLink core partner PATH presented visualizations integrating 610 entomological data points across five partners for the period from 2000-2019. This was the first time that these datasets had been combined and viewed at the same time, and painted a comprehensive picture of insecticide resistance and species predominance across the country.

Using these visualizations, VectorLink worked with TAC members to determine a systematic way to use the available data to guide the 2020 IRS insecticide choice for each district. This exercise also resulted in a documented decision-making process that can be used and refined by the TAC in future years.

These efforts resulted in the TAC recommendation for the 2020 IRS insecticide choice, as well as a request from the TAC that this activity is continued. The TAC already has other ideas on how this newly-compiled data can be used to support malaria prevention efforts – and will soon use this data to identify gaps and inform insecticide resistance data collection for the coming year.

Congratulations VectorLink Zambia!