Summer has finally hit in London….public transport is a no go and the parks are packed but the city is alive and kicking so I have taken to walking to work….and I’m so glad I did. I have personal interest in street art and there is a colourful trail on my route which wakes me up in the morning.
Surviving the heat was also the first survival lesson at security bootcamp…how to make it through 35 degree heat, sleeping in a scout hut…😱 we did make it through though and joking aside it was a really great experience. I am now ready for things I had never even considered before…which floor to sleep on in a hotel to avoid 1.being looted and 2. To survive a car bomb… How to survive a grenade attack, what not to hide behind in gunfire as well as how to apply a tourniquet! Hopefully I never have to use these skills! And it also didn’t stop me getting looted by a squirrel last week as I ate my lunch….fail (Sorry no Lions or Giraffes here -that’s about as exciting as the wildlife gets in London, unless you count the 6am survivors surfacing the clubs on a weekend morning).
The training also gave me a chance to speak to people across Save the Children; media, fundraising, project managers and others outside of Save, humanitarians going to set up new emergency aid programmes in Afghanistan and Myanmar. All a massive eye opener to the scope of work NGOs cover and some fascinating stories -from celebrity partnerships to frontline aid work in Ukraine and Ethiopia…
Which brings me to the focus of my work at the minute, preparing for my first field trips! I will mainly be observing the use of CMAM report in the field, going out to clinics to see how things work on the ground as well as getting user feedback from all levels inside Save the Children country offices, other NGO’s and partners. The idea is to evaluate the impact of the tool so far in terms of data quality to feedback into improving malnutrition programmes and to look for improvements that could be made for further development.
The street art above near the office pretty much sums up my last few weeks-engaging-both engaging with stakeholders and users, starting to build relationships which has been a kick start to the project and also engaging with my new work environment and finding my feet.
I have been getting out and speaking to people who have used the reporting tool in the last year or so (key informant interviews) which has been fascinating to learn about different roles within the organisation and how the tool is and could be used. It has been reassuring to find some common themes coming across as key barriers and enablers to using the tool, which is helping me focus and explore potential solutions and opportunities for development. As part of this I’m exploring the world of Mhealth (Mobile health) applications-a way of monitoring and reporting health indicators (weight, height, treatments etc) which is rapidly expanding in the developing world. This has thrown up challenges and opportunities equally-the technology is out there already, often (frustratingly) being developed in parallel by multiple organisations, so making connections and finding areas to collaborate are vital especially when funds are limited. It’s also a case of identifying what is viable in countries with limited internet access, accessibility to phones and of course funds. The good news is Africa has 800 million cellphones which has positioned the continent as the world’s leader in mobile banking and smartphone users are expected to rise from 7.2 million to 525 million by 2020 (data taken from this article). So there is huge potential for these applications to play a role in healthcare monitoring, be it reminders to attend clinics for immunisations, or use to record realtime data to feed in to supply chains for medicines and food supplements.
A big learning has been that there is no magic wand and one size doesn’t fit all! Political and cultural factors are equally as important to consider as the cost and efficiencies of a project, as uptake from key stakeholders will ultimately measure how successful a project is- flexibility, and sensitivity to different needs is so important. But there are learnings and best practice from each case and pilot study to help develop the next. Making the most of the data and supporting users to improve the quality of healthcare at community levels is the main objective. Specifically to recognise severe malnutrition cases as they happen and be able to provide nutritional supplements or support inpatient care as quickly as possible.
Ethiopia is currently facing its worst drought in 50 years, and there has been hardly any press coverage of this. More than 10 million people – including nearly 6 million children – are in need, and up to 450,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition expected in the coming months read more about it here: Ethiopia crisis.
My trip to Ethiopia will be a huge reality check and also a great insight into the potential impact of the project. I’m eager to get there and see what can be done to help imrove these services and very aware the things I will see will having a lasting impact on me too.