A few weeks ago I traveled to Malawi to work on two projects that use SMS phone technology. One of these projects focuses on providing community health workers (CHW) with an easier and quicker way to communicate with their local hospital, supervisors, and fellow community health workers. I spent an afternoon with 18 of the 21 CHWs in the Kwitanda province to understand how they would utilize such technology, and used that information to develop use cases (e.g. outbreaks, inventory shortages, emergencies, etc.) that will help them provide better health care to villagers in their catchment areas. For the other project, I met with shop owners, assessed the medicines they sell, and discussed the benefits of inventory management with them (which is of personal interest to a supply chain person like myself). The insights I gained through interacting with CHWs and shop owners were then funneled to our technology team, which is working on our upcoming Management Information System (vrMIS3).
I am excited about the potential that these two projects will have for those working in rural and remote areas with poor road and electricity infrastructure and for us, who will be able to collect real-time information about what the needs are in the field and how we can develop programs and innovative approaches to strengthen health systems at the last mile.
Although my time in Malawi was quite busy, I was glad to have had the chance to visit an under-5 clinic, where large numbers of women brought their children to be weighed (for growth monitoring purposes) and to be immunized. In Malawi, like in most of the world, women spend their days collecting water and firewood, washing clothes, caring for handfuls of children, tending to their fields, and preparing meals. Yet these women were willing to put their other duties on hold so that their children could receive vaccines and have a chance at growing up healthy. The health workers in Kwitanda have done a great job at educating these women about the importance of vaccines and health care for their children.
-Jessica, Logistics Manager