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Innovative, Cell Phone Bednet Distribution Plan in Nigeria

In Malaria on February 23, 2011 at 10:19 am
Nigerian naira

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The human and economic cost of malaria in Nigeria is staggering. There are currently 110 million clinically diagnosed cases in a population of 151 million.  Malaria kills 250,000 children under five years old in Nigeria every year, and is the cause of 11% of maternal deaths. 60% of out-patient visits and 30% of hospitalizations in the country are malaria-related.

In addition to the enormous toll malaria takes on public health, it is also expensive. 132 billion Naira (USD $870 million) is lost every year in the form of malaria prevention and treatment costs and from the loss of overall economic productivity.

 And yet in spite of the risk malaria poses to the Nigerian people, health surveys from 2006 to 2008 indicated that only 8% of households in the country owned at least one insecticide-treated net (So-called ITNs).

Needless to say, there is an urgent need for ramped-up malaria prevention efforts in Nigeria. 

The Nigerian government has been collaborating with a variety of international organizations, including the World Bank, World Health Organization, UNDP and UNICEF on a campaign to “Roll Back Malaria.”  This effort has led to the creation of the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) that seeks to unify all of the disparate pieces of the Nigerian malaria control strategy at the national, regional and local levels.

A quasi-instantaneous data collection system allows for more rapid response and more immediate distribution of food and other aid. The availability of timely and accurate information dramatically increases UNICEF’s ability to identify and resolve problems as they arise and translates into a more efficient and rational allocation of resources.

 RapidSMS is more than just a data collection tool, however. Erica Kochi, a communications specialist on the UNICEF Innovation team, says it’s a “two-way system.”  RapidSMS allows for an end user (most likely a field monitor) to report data. But there is also a “pull aspect,” Kochi explains, so a field worker can quickly access important information from a central, web-hosted database.

UNICEF first deployed RapidSMS in Nigeria in mid-2009 to track and collect data from the Immunization Plus days, a polio eradication initiative of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency. In order for RapidSMS to be used in the first phase of the bednet distribution program, new features had to be created, says Akinbo, UNICEF’s local software developer.  Because it was designed with flexibility and scalability in mind, RapidSMS is relatively easy to customize for specific projects with technical expertise.


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