Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
12.01 2016

HIV has a profound impact on communities around the world and the health systems that serve them. Many remote, underserved communities feel the heavy burden of the HIV epidemic and can face substantial challenges in accessing health services. New approaches, systems and technologies have the potential to strengthen these systems and provide greater access to quality healthcare in these last mile communities.

As a global health innovator, VillageReach is dedicated to identifying, testing and scaling these potential solutions, which can be leveraged to support the global fight against HIV. World AIDS Day gives us a moment to reflect on our work with partners and governments that contributes to the reduction of HIV, particularly at the last mile.

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11.28 2016

The annual Global Health Supply Chain Summit brings together supply chain professionals from all over the globe to discuss and share important trends in global health and the supply chains that support global health efforts. Last year, the big ideas from the event reinforced critical components of our work to improve health supply chains: public-private partnerships, system design, and data for management.

This year’s summit provided another great opportunity for VillageReach and our ministry partners to share our experiences, to learn from others, and to identify important trends shaping the global health supply chain community. The VillageReach team reflects on some of these trends below.

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11.23 2016

For the past month, I’ve been in Democratic Republic of Congo working to further establish and expand VillageReach’s presence in the country. I’ve also been preparing for a workshop to present the preliminary results of a supply chain modeling exercise that will help key stakeholders identify opportunities for improvement. In the process, I’ve been making the rounds to all our partners, and a key question about our work keeps coming up:

What is taking so long?!?

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11.16 2016

Having just returned from a visit to Malawi and Mozambique, I had the opportunity to meet with many health workers who contribute to and shape VillageReach’s work at the last mile. Most of them  work in incredibly rural and remote locations, challenged by many of the barriers we talk about most frequently at the last mile – lack of infrastructure, human resources, information, and access to medicines. One of the health workers that made an indelible impression on me was Mackson Khalawako. Mackson joined VillageReach in September 2008 as a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA). In this role, he serves a population of around 1,000 from two villages: Bakili and Makande. In addition to the health surveillance assistant’s duties facilitating community clinics for vaccinations, growth monitoring and health education, Mackson also helped to implement and continues to run a village clinic for children under 5.

Mackson and his fellow HSA deliver vaccines and dother supplies for the village clinic
Mackson and his fellow HSA deliver vaccines and other supplies for the village clinic

VillageReach supports HSAs as part of the Kwitanda Community Health Project which aims to address healthcare through a community-led and managed approach, supporting health interventions that address the most critical needs of the community. I caught up with Mackson at the Bisani clinic for children under five, held in a small, two-room structure that was built brick-by-brick by the community members last year. Previously, the clinic had been conducted outside under a tree, not uncommon for village clinics in rural communities like Kwitanda. His performance has won the hearts of many people in his catchment area, and it’s easy to see why.

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11.15 2016

OpenLMIS, SELV, iSC. To most people these acronyms don’t mean much. To me, they tell a story of getting vaccines to the most remote communities in Mozambique. Sistema Electronico de Logstica de Vacinas (SELV) is the local name of a software used to record information about where vaccines need to go and how they are going to get there – an implementation of OpenLMIS, a logistics management information system (LMIS). As the Information Systems Officer at VillageReach, it’s my job to provide technical assistance and support for this critical software.  The BETA version of  OpenLMIS 3.0 was launched last week, representing a major milestone in the evolution of software that continues to demonstrate the import and impact of robust information systems at the last mile.

photo-3Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I traveled to five provinces around Mozambique to talk about SELV. In some provinces like Cabo Delgado, SELV is an established tool. In others like Maputo City, SELV is brand new. VillageReach and the Ministry of Health are just beginning to expand the reach of SELV to all eleven provinces, so this trip provided me an opportunity to meet stakeholders, introduce myself as a resource, and find out how we can better support SELV within the immunization supply chain.

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11.10 2016

Reposted from OpenLMIS

The OpenLMIS Community is pleased to announce the beta release of OpenLMIS 3.0!

The initial offering to come out of the re-architecture effort for OpenLMIS, 3.0 Beta contains one slice of functionality, Requisitions, based on an all-new micro-service architecture. This release is the first to utilize the new architecture and is a strong step in the direction of “shared investment, shared benefit” that is the primary mission of the OpenLMIS Community. 3.0 Beta is a proof-of-concept for this architecture and is not a feature-complete release. It does not contain every feature that the eventual 3.0 OpenLMIS stable release will, and further features will be added to the system as we work toward the full 3.0 release scheduled for the end of February, 2017.

Please reference the Living Product Roadmap for the high-level estimated release schedule through version 3.3, and read the 3.0 Beta Release Notes for further details. Visit the OpenLMIS GitHub page to view the 3.0 Beta code repository.

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10.28 2016

It was a bit of serendipity when the young woman’s phone started buzzing. Normally at a conference, a phone call or a text message would be an embarrassing disruption, but not this time. This interruption came as twenty young women gathered to share their personal stories. Some had children, some were sex workers, others had dropped out of school. These women were representatives of the many young women around Zomba and Machinga Districts in Malawi who face challenges in accessing quality reproductive health services, providing real faces to the broader issue at hand.

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The twenty young women received certificates at the end of the workshop.

This text message was received at the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Ambassador Workshop in Blantyre, Malawi – where I represented VillageReach as one of the 56 winners chosen to find new, innovative ways to reduce the impact of HIV on women and girls. This workshop brought together Innovation Challenge winners from around Malawi, as well as this group of young women. We were all there to learn and share, creating new connections while underscoring the importance and urgency of this work.

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10.26 2016

dscn0082Today marks my second day of a two-week tour to visit the VillageReach offices in Malawi and Mozambique. My mission? To get a firsthand perspective of the “last mile” and document our work through the words and stories of those who benefit directly from VillageReach programs. Unlike most of our program staff who travel regularly to the field, this is my first time traveling to Africa. I came as prepared as I could, following all the recommendations from the travel clinic, purchasing electric chargers and outlet converters, buying out all of the bug repellent at my local drugstore, and overpacking. But today, all of these preparations and details that I’ve been so focused on for the past few weeks seem insignificant in light of the experiences I’m having — and will continue to have over the next two weeks.

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10.24 2016

In 1972, The UN General Assembly agreed to mark October 24 each year as World Development Information Day in order to draw the world’s attention to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them. The Assembly felt that improving the dissemination of information would lead to greater awareness of the problems of development, and thus, promote efforts in the sphere of international cooperation for development.

img_1017_benin_2014At VillageReach, the last mile of delivery is the first mile of information. Data is the pulse that drives our work – the fundamental core of our programming strategy. Without information, we are working in a state of assumptions and half-truths, and fervently hoping we are right. Want evidence of this principle? Of the four blog posts we published this month alone, three focus directly on information – what goes into collecting it, the insight it provides, and an example of how it all comes together!

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10.19 2016

Last week, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) brought together hundreds of the top minds in global reproductive health issues at the Coalition’s 17th Annual Meeting. This meeting provided a forum for discussing the many triumphs and continuing challenges of reaching 120 million additional women with reproductive health services by the year 2020. Access to reproductive health commodities allows women to decide if and when to have children. This ability is not only a human right, it can be a life or death situation for many women and young girls. Increasing access to reproductive health is also one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reduce infant and maternal deaths.  As an active member of the RHSC’s System Strengthening Working Group, VillageReach eagerly engaged in this week of conversation and idea exchange. Many of the central themes reflect the work of VillageReach, allowing us to bring our experience and expertise to the conversation while learning and growing from the experiences of our partners.

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