Our News

Latest news from our blog

Reveal Joins Nigeria NMEP and Malaria Consortium for Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention in Africa’s Most Populous Country

By Parysa Oskouipour on July 7, 2022 in Malaria, News

Nigeria encompasses a unique and significant role in Africa. Not only is it the continent’s most populous country, clocking in at 206 million people, but it also is also the continent’s largest economy (with a total GDP of $441 billion in 2021). However, it also maintains a less desirable superlative title, which is that it bears the highest burden of malaria deaths on the continent, and 27% of all malaria deaths worldwide in 2020. In raw numbers, this amounts to an estimated 64.5 million cases annually. As a result, the public health challenge of malaria in Nigeria is enormous, and the stakes are high. Though Nigeria’s National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) has risen to meet this challenge consistently throughout the years, attaining the goal of reducing malaria morbidity to less than 10% parasite prevalence and mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1,000 by 2025 is far from guaranteed. One key in realizing this goal is seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), which typically consists of routine administration of two antimalarial drugs to children 3 to 59 months of age during the peak months of malaria transmission. Malaria Consortium and Akros worked with the Nigeria NMEP to support the planning, tracking, and delivery of SMC in six rural health facility catchments in the Shagari local government area of Sokoto State, Nigeria in 2021.

The malaria vaccine’s global debut and the road that lies ahead

By Parysa Oskouipour on December 8, 2021 in COVID-19, Malaria, News

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent joyous shock waves through the global health community and the Global South by officially recommending that the new RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine be adopted into widespread use among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria incidence. Now the international community, through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has just stepped forward to help finance the rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine.

A female mosquito takes a blood meal.

It has been true for some time that sub-Saharan Africa bears the largest malaria burden in the world, with children shouldering the largest proportion of deaths. Over 90% of global cases are on the continent, with children under the age of 5 years constituting a staggering two-thirds of all malaria deaths. This is due to a confluence of factors, not least because of the widespread prevalence of P. falciparum (the most deadly species of malaria parasite), and a very efficient mosquito that spreads it (Anopheles gambiae). The economic impact of malaria is estimated to cost Africa $12 billion every year—a figure that also factors in costs of healthcare, absenteeism, days lost in education, decreased productivity due to brain damage from cerebral malaria, and loss of investment and tourism. The introduction of an effective vaccine offers a beam of hope in the fight to mitigate the massive toll this centuries-old disease inflicts on Africa.

Spatial intelligence platform Reveal empowers Angola NMCP, MENTOR Initiative, and E8 to achieve impressive IRS coverage in Cuando Cubango Province, Angola

By Parysa Oskouipour on August 26, 2021 in Malaria, News

In recent years, countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region of Africa have been making outstanding strides toward the challenging goal of malaria elimination. This commitment to elimination is the guiding mandate of Elimination 8 (E8), which focuses on the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Through E8, these ministerial bodies have resolved to coordinate their efforts to collaboratively work toward the shared regional goal of malaria elimination.

A Reveal UI view of the campaign in progress.

To that end, in 2017, E8 contracted with MENTOR to deliver indoor residual spray (IRS) in border districts of southern Angola. The MENTOR Initiative is a registered nonprofit organization devoted to reducing deaths and suffering from tropical diseases. In Angola, MENTOR has been a stable National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) partner supporting vector control, case management, and surveillance activities since 2004. MENTOR has established offices across  Angola and has full country reach in its operations, making it the ideal partner for E8 to engage for expanded IRS interventions. Since 2017, MENTOR has implemented IRS with reported high coverage rates in all campaigns conducted. For its 2020 campaign, MENTOR aimed to improve IRS reporting systems and increase accountability to donors and NMCP. To realize this goal, they chose to pilot Reveal—a digital global good and open source spatial intelligence platform used to drive the delivery of life-saving interventions. MENTOR collaborated with Akros to configure and support the field pilot of Reveal v. 1 in Menongue District (Cuando Cubango Province).

 

Reveal community hosts first Reveal forum of 2021

By Kyle Hutchinson on July 1, 2021 in News, Uncategorized

The first Reveal Forum of the year was held virtually on Wednesday, 23 June 2021. The Reveal Forum is a community event that takes place several times a year, which includes government partners, implementers and developers from ~ 28 organizations who are currently implementing Reveal, or are tracking the roadmap and are interested in using Reveal to improve the impact of health campaigns.

The objectives of the Reveal Forum are to provide community members with the opportunity to:

  1. give an update on any new features that have been developed, or are in the process of being developed, and what we as community members can expect as a result;
  2. share valuable lessons learnt through new or ongoing implementations, and why these are important in the context of operationalizing and scaling Reveal; and 
  3. based on implementation experiences, provide a view on what is most needed, technically or otherwise, to better operationalize and scale Reveal in the future.

The goal of the Reveal Forum is to bring community members together so that all have a common understanding of the current and possible future state of Reveal; to understand who is doing what, where and how; and ultimately, to learn from and support each other in a collective ambition to scale and sustain the Reveal platform to help health and other campaigns achieve their intended impact.

The recent Reveal Forum was attended by approximately 35 community members. Kyle Hutchinson, Reveal Coordinator, opened the Reveal Forum by providing participants with an overview of the goal and objectives of the Reveal Forum, along with an update on some additional community building efforts, including the establishment of both Steering and Technical Committees. 

“No One is Safe, Unless Everyone is Safe”—Reaching Zero-Dose Children with Reveal

By Anabelle Nuelle on April 29, 2021 in COVID-19, News

Maximal coverage defines the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. Over one year after the start of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the globe are vaccinating those ages 16 and older, while vaccine-producing companies are conducting vaccine trials for children. Positivity and hope infuse vaccine distribution efforts, but as these initiatives ensue, attention is being drawn to the challenges of vaccine distribution, namely, those left behind. 

Mass vaccination campaigns are critical to the introduction of new vaccines, to providing doses to those who may have missed routine doses, and to giving a second opportunity to those who may not have developed immunity. In each instance, with greater coverage comes stronger, more resilient communities. However, zero-dose children, or children who have not received any routine vaccinations, are often missed by these campaigns. With every child left unvaccinated, communities’ vulnerability to vaccine-preventable diseases escalates. Fortunately, in bracing for future vaccination efforts, we can look to previous initiatives to guide our efforts. In particular, the potential of geospatial data and technology to ensure all, including zero-dose children, are included. 

From June through to December 2020, Akros, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, Macha Research Trust, and the Zambia Ministry of Health, utilized spatial intelligence and the Reveal platform to identify and vaccinate zero-dose children following a nationwide Zambian vaccination campaign for measles and rubella. 

Grand Challenges Explorations Grant Enables Further Reveal Development

By Anabelle Nuelle on March 12, 2021 in News

We are thrilled to announce Akros has been awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation! Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) grants support impactful innovations striving to remedy critical global health and development problems. With this grant, Akros will incorporate into Reveal the ability to integrate data from human movement models. Reveal is a web-based mapping platform which uses spatial intelligence to ensure all receive life-saving interventions. With the ability to integrate human movement models with Reveal, decision makers and field teams will be better able to predict where people will be at different times of the day and seasons to ensure no one is missed with lifesaving resources. 

The existing Reveal Platform, improves health campaign coverage by utilizing spatial intelligence and context-appropriate technology. Presently, Reveal maps communities at the household level and offers intervention teams a streamlined interface to plan, implement, track and monitor campaign coverage. Relative to traditional approaches in which local health teams aggregate population data by hand and process it in hard copy, Reveal’s user-centered technology offers a more accurate population count and implementation system—designed to include even the most remote of households.

Delivering health campaigns at high coverage rates can be challenging—particularly in places where frequent movement is common. Permanent relocation may swell or shrink a population, influencing critical resource distribution. Seasonal migration may redistribute a population for months at a time. Daily or weekly movements may make certain individuals more likely to be left out of a campaign. In these situations, health workers may arrive at a household to deliver interventions, but instead find the family has shifted, for even just a few months depending on fishing or farming needs. Take for instance, Nchelenge District in Northern Zambia. 

Anticipating Continued COVID-19 Needs: Lessons from Yesterday

By Anabelle Nuelle on September 28, 2020 in Health Data Systems, News, WASH

At the time of writing, 33.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide. Regardless of socioeconomic standing, health systems around the world have shuddered beneath the weight of an international pandemic; leading to overflowing ICUs, overextended health care resources, and disrupted critical supply chains. 

Accordingly, international attention and funding has turned to global public health and preparedness. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated approximately US$1.7 billion total funding is needed to adequately respond to COVID-19 until December 2020. As of September 21, 2020 WHO reports receiving 79.5% of their goal, with an additional 4% expected from pledges—a combined US$1.51 billion raised in the span of a few months. Resources have been rightly and urgently mobilized to offer aid now, but as a responsible global health community, we must look toward the future and set in motion plans to meet anticipated gaps and needs. 

If we are to respond effectively and reach the most vulnerable populations, our future interventions to protect people from COVID-19 transmission will inevitably rely on community health structures to disseminate aid and vaccines. If the systems in place are not adequately equipped to respond, those interventions will fall short. Further, if we lack good data on the population and location of communities, getting resources to all those in need will be even more challenging. However, presently, population data are often inconsistent, outdated or quite coarse. Compromised by unclear boundaries or moving populations, the resulting data typically offers only a blurred picture of communities, making it challenging for public health teams to allocate resources effectively.

Reveal and GRID3 Bring Geospatial Data to the Ground for Malaria Prevention

By Anabelle Nuelle on 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.

Spatial intelligence for planning, targeting, and real-time management of interventions in low-resource settings

By Kyle Hutchinson on June 28, 2020 in Malaria, News, Uncategorized

The Denominator Challenge

Accurate quantification of a population, and the ability to locate this population with precision, are fundamental requirements for reporting the true coverage and effectiveness of public health interventions—such as childhood immunizations, indoor residual spraying (IRS) for malaria, or mass drug administration (MDA) for neglected tropical diseases.

Public health interventions, however, often rely on field teams to locate rural villages or even homes on the ground. In areas where there are no street address systems, or where homes are not mapped, manual searches often result in groups of households being missed; thus preventing the delivery of services to those in need. When service coverage is subsequently reported as a function of the population found, the impact and effectiveness of an intervention may be overstated.

Spatial Intelligence and the Reveal Solution

Reveal features a field-verified denominator, data collection points, and maps.

The transformative field of spatial intelligence is revolutionizing digital health and public health more broadly. Artificial intelligence (AI), digital maps, and spatial modeling are powerful, burgeoning toolsets; but until more recently, they have not benefited field workers and large-scale, labor-intensive campaigns. Now, the power of these digital tools is being accessed by field workers in rural, underserved communities. 

Reveal, an open-source platform and global good, uses spatial intelligence to help field workers effectively navigate and deliver life-saving interventions to people who previously would have been missed, increasing the true coverage of interventions and improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations.

Supporting an IRS Campaign in Zambia

Satellite imagery was enumerated to establish a baseline understanding of structure count and spatial distribution in several districts. These were layered with risk maps to target high-risk regions, which enabled users to identify eligible households and assign teams to priority areas.

Using Reveal’s mobile and map-based interface, field workers were able to navigate through communities, identify targeted households, and collect intervention data against eligible households in a coordinated manner within and across teams. The near real-time feedback of data, as a result of the mobile application’s offline and peer-to-peer (P2P) syncing functionality, inspired increased teamwork and cohesion as the campaign progressed and teams worked toward a common goal.

Reveal uses electronic data collection forms that are smart and easy-to-use to ensure data quality, collect GPS data, and provide real time data feedback for decision making.

Through dashboards, map-based visualizations, and built-in feedback loops, intervention managers were able to actively monitor campaign progress toward targets, in a given spray area and as a whole, thus facilitating data-driven course correction to optimize performance and maximize impact.

With the support of Reveal, Siavonga District increased its absolute coverage of IRS from 51.5% to 75.5%, while Sinazongwe increased from 31.5% to 61.9%. These changes in coverage were possible due to a better understanding of resource needs. In other words, the use of Reveal allowed districts to better understand the size and distribution of the target population, thus impacting planning and implementation.

When good leadership meets smart technology

By Parysa Oskouipour on November 14, 2019 in Health Data Systems, Malaria, News, Uncategorized

On a sweltering summer day in Siavonga, a lakeside jewel of Zambia’s Southern Province, I sat down with Mr. Bisael Phiri, the District Surveillance Officer for Siavonga District, to get his perspective on the malaria situation in his region and at large in Zambia. A breeze lazily floating through an open window and a small desktop fan provided the only reprieve from the oppressive heat as we got down to brass tacks about the progress made in the last few seasons of malaria interventions and how Reveal has impacted that progress.

Team members using Reveal-enabled tablets during an IRS campaign.

Mr. Phiri has been working in public health for several years, and is a big picture thinker when it comes to tackling malaria in Zambia. His motivations to work in this field are straightforward, “I know the kind of impact that good health can have on people’s lives. I wanted to do this work to help change the environment so it doesn’t constitute a danger to the public.” His work is based in one of the select districts of Southern Province that utilizes Reveal for their indoor residual spraying (IRS), mass drug administration (MDA), and reactive IRS malaria interventions through a PATH MACEPA and Akros-implemented program. Reveal is a powerful, open-source platform that aids in household-level intervention management and data authenticity by using spatial intelligence and smart planning tools. Mr. Phiri stresses that learning how to use this technology is self-explanatory and that the dashboards, which are tailored to his administrative level, greatly assist his day-to-day responsibilities. In his own words, “the dashboard is important to view on a daily basis because it identifies the status of various teams and shows us where we need to go and where the problem areas are. When we have this information, we can change our strategy based on how well our teams are performing, and change targets midway if need be. For instance, if I didn’t receive updated data from a certain district, I would not know that there’s an issue there. Now because I have these data, I would be able to make a quick plan for how best to move forward with that district.”

Beyond program planning, Mr. Phiri’s work is strengthened by the hard proof the platform provides that work is being done where it is supposed to be done.