I had the privilege of meeting Ruphin Ndumbala on my recent visit to Equateur province, DRC. Ruphin is one of the many frontline health workers who go above and beyond to ensure vaccines reach every last child. Recently, he made a promise, and I was honored enough to see him deliver.
“I used to spend at least two days’ roundtrip to collect vaccines.” Ruphin spoke outside of his clinic in rural Equateur province. “It was a big concern for my family that I was leaving behind, but also for the patients I was leaving unattended.”
Stories coming from Lolanga-Mampoko district in Equateur province often focus on the challenges communities face in accessing health care. I see these challenges every day and work with partners to help communities overcome them. But not all of our stories are about challenges. For this African Vaccination Week, we are celebrating what we have achieved over the past year.
Imagine a world with 18 million healthier children than today. Their lungs haven’t been collapsed by diphtheria, their legs haven’t been crippled by polio, they haven’t died from pneumonia before they were named.
These children grew up strong and healthy.
How do we make this imagined world a reality? This is what drives the OpenLMIS community every day. We strongly believe that with better access to supplies, data and feedback loops, vaccine rates will increase. OpenLMIS is at the forefront of moving information closer to those who need it and back to those who provided it. We do this by working with you– with partners, with governments and with health workers, OpenLMIS has developed an open source technology that supports the distribution of public health products to hard-to-reach places.
Vibrio cholerae can steal through a community quickly and quietly. This bacteria spreads in water or food, causing acute diarrhea that can cause severe dehydration and death in just a few short hours. But, cholera is both preventable and treatable.
Zambian Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya has seen first-hand the impact of cholera, and understands the vital role governments must play. As he said in a recent African Center for Disease Control (CDC) board meeting, it is unacceptable that a preventable and treatable disease such as cholera has continued to claim millions of lives worldwide. Dr. Chilufya agreed to sponsor a resolution on the elimination of cholera at the 2018 World Health Assembly – an important step towards global action.
What technology has had the biggest impact on vaccine supply chains over the last 10 years?
There is no ‘magic bullet’ that has revolutionized vaccine supply chains over the last ten years. Instead, a range of technologies working in concert with one another have contributed to more effective and efficient supply chains. Developments in cold chain technology, data gathering and analytics, and even in transportation have all had significant impacts on the availability of vaccines. These technologies all must work in-sync with each other to provide both the infrastructure and information needed to ensure vaccines are available where and when they are needed and in the right condition. We must also ensure these technologies are appropriate and available at all levels of the supply chain. As a global community, we have greatly improved the systems, infrastructure and financing to ensure sufficient vaccines reach low-resource countries, but the real impact comes when these technologies and systems work all the way down to the last mile as well.
At VillageReach, we often use numbers and data to understand how our work increases access to quality health care. Since our founding in 2000, our programs have reached more than 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – and that number continues to grow. But as we look at the progress we made in 2017, numbers only tell part of the story. The success of VillageReach is also reflected by our collaboration with partners, our dedicated staff and the generosity of our supporters. Their voices tell us why 2017 has been such a remarkable year:
Depuis plus de 14 ans, nous allons prendre les vaccins au dépôt du Bureau central de la Zone de santé situé à 135 kilomètres d’ici par pirogue à ramer et le voyage dure 4 jours au moins.
Quand nous rentrons avec les intrants au niveau du centre de santé ici à Monzambi, on arrive très épuisés par le voyage qui exige beaucoup d’effort à fournir mais, malheureusement, on ne ramène en plus que des vaccins virés ou en voie de l’être à cause de l’interruption de la chaîne de froid puisque nous transportons ces intrants avec des boîtes isothermes dans lesquelles nous mettons les accumulateurs.
Cet appui de VillageReach nous permet de nous occuper aisément de nos malades, d’économiser nos énergies et d’améliorer nos stratégies de vaccination.
Une bonne chose nous est arrivée maintenant depuis le mois de juillet 2017: VillageReach appui régulièrement le transport des intrants de bonne qualité en bonne quantité et dans les bonnes conditions depuis l’antenne provinciale du Programme élargi de vaccination (PEV). Cet appui de VillageReach nous permet de nous occuper aisément de nos malades, d’économiser nos énergies et d’améliorer nos stratégies de vaccination.
Nous en sommes très reconnaissant et implorons à VillageReach de continuer à nous soutenir.
Vaccines are extremely sensitive to temperature. They must remain between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius in order to remain viable. Outside of this temperature range, vaccines become less effective at preventing diseases. Because of this, the storage and handling of vaccines need careful attention. The equipment and devices used to ensure vaccines stay in the right temperature range are known as the “cold chain.” When vaccines are transported, stored in a refrigerator, or used in an immunization session, the cold chain keeps the temperature right. Significant investments have been made in updating cold chain equipment in many countries, but overall performance remains a significant concern.
With our new partner Bull City Learning, VillageReach is strengthening the vaccine cold chain in Malawi. Using human-centered design principles, we are creating an easy-to-use, interactive, digital manual on refrigerator maintenance and repair. By providing this tool for cold chain technicians, we hope to improve routine maintenance of essential equipment used to keep vaccines at the right temperatures.
OpenLMIS is a community dedicated to collective impact. We are always learning and listening for new ideas. We organize user-centered design workshops, talk with global leaders, and incorporate best-in-class technologies to meet the needs of global health supply chains. The most recent TechNet-21 Conference provided yet another opportunity to hear more from our partners in the immunization sector.
Donors and NGOs around the world are investing in technologies that promise to make vaccines available to children everywhere. Many of these innovations took center stage at last week’s TechNet Conference, reflecting the enthusiasm to try something new. But maybe what we need is not necessarily something new – just something different.