By Anabelle Nuelle
July 26, 2020
in Malaria, News
Zambia, along with a handful of countries within Southern and Eastern Africa, is on track to reduce malaria cases 40% by 2020. Relative to 2015, the country’s progress so far translates to as many as 700,000 cases prevented annually. Such tremendous strides speak to the success of preventative interventions, such as improved access to indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insecticide treated nets (ITNs), but the work is far from over.
The citizens and communities across Zambia rely on annual district planning to determine where, how much of, and what interventions are needed in a particular population. In answering these questions, district teams begin their microplanning processes, determining on a local level the nuances of the year’s malaria interventions. These teams must deeply understand the communities they serve. Who is at greatest risk of infection? Where do they live? What settlements ought to be targeted? And what resources are needed to bring a community out of harm’s way? Lacking this information, district teams cannot fully grasp the extent of preventable malaria cases and consequently limit their capacity to act.
Traditionally, teams of local community health workers aggregate this information on foot and process it in hard copy. This costly and time consuming work flow jeopardizes the data’s accuracy, totality, and speedy delivery to key decision makers. System bottlenecks, limited resources, or a lack of confidence in the data can then undermine the quantitative foundation of an intervention. Weary decision makers might turn instead to outdated data and an imprecise understanding of the population they aim to serve. What ought to be a concrete step in the year’s plan bends to inefficacious circumstances.
To maximize the efficiency of interventions, teams need access to precise population data and streamlined information sharing. In answer to this need, Akros is integrating GRID3 (Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development) data into its Reveal platform and approach. GRID3 combines the expertise of partners in government, United Nations, academia, and the private sector to design adaptable and relevant geospatial solutions based on capacity and development needs of each country.
Using maps generated by GRID3, the Reveal platform works with countries to generate, validate and use geospatial data on population, settlements, infrastructure, and boundaries.
The platform offers detailed household and community maps, protocols, as well as data collection and analysis tools to field teams and managers. In turn, these teams rely on Reveal to plan, implement, and adjust interventions in order to deliver the greatest impact. Through this collaboration, Akros has operationalized maps, utilizing GRID3 data into the hands of district planners, informed districts on how the maps are most advantageous, and shared these maps for use in ongoing microplanning processes.
District planning teams are anticipated to reap the following benefits:
- Ensure no one is left behind. District teams account for everyone and better position themselves to acquire the resources necessary to reach all settlements for vector control.
- Validated population data. By cross checking traditional population estimation methods (such as village headcounts and CSO data) against GRID3 data, teams can determine their accuracy.
- A new understanding of prior coverage. Using GRID3 population estimates as denominators, Reveal offers insight into the accuracy of reported coverage from preceding interventions, shedding a new light on prior strategies and shaping teams’ understanding of the interventions necessary today.
Akros has begun in-depth training for district teams across Zambia, collecting feedback and guiding teams on the most advantageous use of GRID3 maps and Reveal. Already, responses thus far confirm an improved planning and enumeration process:
“Planning using the GRID3 maps was very helpful because it gave us an opportunity to deal with real figures (structures) on the ground. We were also [able to] visualize catchment areas in planning and then decide the best malaria control intervention to take to a particular area.” – IRS Manager, Gwembe District
“It was easy to identify the areas eligible for IRS and LLINs and to allocate resources. Maps will make it easier for tracking averages during the implementation of the two interventions.” – Malaria Intervention Officer, Livingstone District
“The process is quite evidence-based planning in the sense that it gives [clear] road maps of which areas can be earmarked for intervention.” – Elimination Officer, Sinazongwe District
Reveal’s use of GRID3 data within its existing solutions enhances accessibility of geospatial data to users at every level of implementation programs, further promoting locally-informed processes and solutions. Soon to be scaled to 116 districts for vector control, Reveal will help district teams ensure no one is neglected and lessen the distance left to travel toward a malaria-free Zambia.