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Innovative smartphone partnership fights polio in northern Nigeria

06 August 2012

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As part of a ground-breaking public-private partnership to fight polio, Nigeria is harnessing the power of smartphones to monitor real-time performance of vaccination teams during door-to-door campaigns. Using GPS data, a specially designed android application helps map the location of communities in high-risk areas for polio, and for the first time enables monitoring of the quality and coverage of campaigns in real-time.

Accounting for more than half of the world’s polio cases so far this year, success in Nigeria is vital in the battle for polio eradication. Too many children are still missed during campaigns, especially in the country’s conflicted north, where ongoing religious tensions and low levels of trust lead to children going unvaccinated. According to recent Independent Monitoring Data, 65% of missed children went unvaccinated in the last campaign because they were not at home when vaccinators visited the household, and another 9% because vaccinators failed to visit the household at all. This could be due to poor scheduling of visits, or confusion over which houses had already been visited. To improve overall performance, the GPEI is harnessing the power of smartphone technology to look much more closely at vaccinators’ performance.

In this exciting new public-private partnership, the GPEI is working with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and telecommunications service provider Etisalat to deploy an Android-based application that helps map the location of communities in high-risk polio areas, tracking real-time progress of vaccination teams during door-to-door campaigns. Using data from the global Geographic Positioning System (GPS), the specially designed software aims to help the programme achieve the necessary 90% vaccination coverage to stop the spread of the disease. An earlier study mapping polio reservoirs along the Congo River in DR Congo found that use of GPS data helped identify outbreak locations much more precisely, helping vaccinators mount a more effective response. Given the priority, high-risk areas in northern Nigeria have been selected for the first phase of full deployment.

With GPS transmitters attached to vaccine carriers, the specially designed software tracks the daily progress of vaccinators, uploading their routes to the ESRI ArcGIS server. Maps are then generated showing which areas have been successfully covered, highlighting where the risk of polio transmission still remains. These ‘risk maps’ and reports will provide vital real-time micro-planning data for polio teams, program managers and communities, helping them make immediate adjustments to make sure they reach – and vaccinate – more children.

Speaking on the partnership’s behalf, Etisalat Nigeria’s Chief Commercial Officer, Wael Ammar, praised the efforts made so far by the Federal, State and Local Governments as well as NGOs and local communities. He also highlighted the importance of the new application in mapping the high-risk areas. “Polio eradication efforts are not only about the disease, but also about delivering an innovative and effective solution and leveraging the opportunities of mHealth. This application will significantly improve the chances of identifying and eradicating polio in Nigeria.” Against the rising trend of polio cases in this country, the partnership between ESRI, Etisalat and the GPEI is an innovative approach towards achieving polio eradication. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Source : Polio Info

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