Tag Archives: malaria

Admitting Failure: The Key to Success?

On Tuesday, we talked a lot about why ICT4D projects fail. We even attempted to watch a YouTube video that detailed the main reasons why ICT4D projects fail but the video failed to load. Hopefully that was just a coincidence.

Failure is not a new thing and it certainly won’t go away anytime soon. But all this talk of failure made me think about what these innovators and social entrepreneurs are doing to combat ICT4D projects that fail. What are they doing to overcome them and how is this impacting development? We are often measured in life in our ability to succeed and overcome failures and the ICT sector is no different. ICT4D projects and the innovators that spearhead these ideas are ambitious and risk takers so it is only natural that failure will come for some if not all. What donors and outsiders looking in need to know about failure in ICT4D projects is that these ventures will not give an immediate return on private investment. But sometimes these development projects are not given the chance to succeed and as a result the social entrepreneurs are forced to omit aspects of their idea and they are not allowed to be as wild and as innovative as they need to be.

I came across the organization Global Fund, a non-profit organization that utilizes a “21st century approach” to combat AIDS, TB and Malaria. The organization has grown immensely since its inception in 2002, currently providing ARV therapy to 6.1 million HIV positive people, they have treated over 11.2 million people with TB and distributed over 360 million insecticide-treated nets. But the organization has not always been a success. In 2011, Global Fund announced that it had mismanaged grant monies and donor funds leading to some countries retracting their support for the organization. But this negative turned to a positive because of the transparency of the organization and their decision to admit the failure. This honesty led to renewed support for the organization as it showed they were willing to admit failure and work to address the problem. Thus, this admission of guilt allow Global Fund to continue to be innovative as support for them increased, which is a win-win for everyone because the social world needs more programs like this to reach their full potential and make a difference in health and medicine.

Lastly, I came across a great site to read individual stories about development failure. The site is a great resource to help us (international development students or people interested in creating development projects) understand why failure is important and what we can learn from others to overcome that failure and succeed: http://www.admittingfailure.com/.


Malaria Drugs in Developing Countries

“Many of the drugs — even those approved by the World Health Organization — are Chinese fakes or low-quality variants that failed quality tests…”
One of the biggest problems the Health Sector faces in developing countries is eliminating malaria. But, with so many fake and low-quality malaria drugs being used, malaria is actually being accelerated! By distributing malaria drugs that are low quality causes drug resistance in the mosquitos. The drugs do not have enough potency to kill the parasite, but just enough to make it resistant. We are already using the strongest drugs we have in developing countries to fight malaria, and if we continue to produce drugs of low-quality medicines they will become useless and possibly make malaria untreatable.
The scary part is that the World Health Organization approved some of the drugs that were shown to not have enough medicine to kill the parasite. A study found that 20-42% of malaria drugs in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were of bad or fake quality.
We cannot reach our MDG if we continue to sell fake drugs. If we continue it is possible that malaria will become incurable in many developing countries.

Mapping Malaria in Africa

This article describes an innovative approach to using ICT for development initiatives. Malaria remains one of the deadliest diseases on the planet with a great deal of malaria cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.In order to track and prevent the disease, it is necessary to know where people live. Though this sounds simple, it is harder than one might think in Africa. A new project, the AfriPop Project, used cell phone records in Kenya to track popular travel routes between population centers, therefore mapping the location of almost 15 million people. The project then applied this map to a malaria transmission model to reveal how malaria is likely to spread in Kenya. The use of cell-phones, rather than GPS, surveys, and traffic flow data, provided exponentially more data, making the transmission model much more effective and powerful. This technique maximized very limited resources in order to help prevent the transmission of malaria in Kenya.

How could this technique be replicated in other countries? In what fields, other than disease transmission, might it be applicable? What are potential drawbacks of this approach?

Tracking Malaria in Kenya With Cell Phones

This article discusses the results of a Harvard School of Public Health study which was released this month regarding the use of mobile phones in tracking malaria in Kenya. In this study, researchers tracked the timing and location of calls and texts from 15 million mobile phones in Kenya between June 2008 – June 2009 and compared this data with data on malaria prevalence by region. By studying the movements of people relative to the movement of the disease, the researchers were able to identify primary sources of malaria, as well as those most at risk for infection. They concluded that the most significant amount of malaria transmission in Kenya is from travel from Lake Victoria to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

This study differs from some of the others we read about and discussed this week in that it does not use mobile technology to directly communicate with mobile phone users. It is interesting to see how the prevalence of mobile phone use, particularly in Africa, can be utilized for development in ways other than direct communication. Because this was a large scale study, rather than using mobile phones for direct communication within a smaller population, these results might be immediately applicable to policy decisions. In addition they can be applied to mHealth efforts more similar to the ones we read about this week, which directly engage and interact with their target populations to help more effectively educate about, prevent, and treat malaria. One of the researches associated with the study suggested warning texts to travelers to and from malaria hot spots.

While this study has the potential to provide a great deal of insight regarding patterns of malaria transmission, the data is biased due to the digital divide, and population differences between those who have mobile phones and those who do not. Younger, wealthier, male, and urban populations are more likely to have mobile phones and therefore be reflected in this data, so initiatives and policy based off these results may disproportionately benefit those groups. These results, and this method of data collection, may be less effective particularly in terms of helping rural, female, lower-income, and less geographically mobile populations. Of course, any knowledge which can promote health, even disproportionately, should be considered and used to implement public health initiatives – however hopefully there will be other measures taken to make up for disparities in data, as not to further disadvantage already disadvantaged groups within the population.

Mobiles and Mothers Against Malaria in Mali

In a project that was first announced in the summer of 2011, female community health workers (CHW) will be using cell phones to help track, prevent, and treat malaria in parts of Bambako, Mali. The expected  outcomes include :

  • A mobile application in local language for data collection
  • 50 community healthworkers trained on mobile data collection
  • 10 medical staff trained on using ICT and data analysis
  • Child mortality in the two target areas reduced by 30%
Women: Community Health Workers
Additionally, each person is supposed to be linked to their own client number that can be tracked by the health centers and used by the CHW on follow-up visits. It’s important to be using native women who are already accepted ant trusted in their communities and this should create a much higher outcome of patient information.  These women will also have the advantage of being able to ensure the safety of the program and encourage people who would not typically visit a health facility to do so.   It is hoped that this will also decrease the cost of malaria prevention because it will be much quicker to collect information (by using the CHWs) and easier to synthesize information (using SMS which can be input into a system much easier than by using paper methods).

My concerns with the use of cell phones deal with what we have discussed in class and the articles we have been reading this past week.  If these are poor neighborhoods, how do we ensure that the cell phones can stay charged, or even have the capacity to send the messages (is there service available in these areas).  Additionally, from previous research, I know that the use of individualized numbers is not always the best idea because people lose track of them, especially if they are not used to them and they have six children, all of whom have different IDs.

Germany withholds Payment for Global Fund

This Al Jazeera article explains that Germany is withholding its annual payment of 270 million dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, all of which are diseases that primarily affect developing nations. Germany is withholding its money until an investigation is made about where billions of dollars may have gone.
The issue of corruption in developing countries that make use of aid organizations is a big obstacle for international development. On the one hand, the Global Fund has delivered treatment to many people, and this reduction of funds will adversely impact their ability to continue doing so. However, it is also not fair to ask wealthier countries to continue to pump money into organizations that are meant to help, but that fall victim to corruption and fraud.
Original Post by Eliza Arnold