More than 5 million children per year still die of readily preventable or curable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, sepsis/meningitis, malaria, measles as well as suffer from undernutrition due to lack of access to medical services. Sub-Saharan Africa has 25% of the global burden of disease but only 4% of the health workers.
Dokolo, one of the districts in Northern Uganda, where IKARE since 2006 has been engaged in the control of sleeping sickness through the roll-out of veterinary services, is home to approximately 182,600 people whereof about 37,000 children under the age of five. Only 30% of the population is literate, which is the second lowest proportion in Uganda.
There is a great shortage of human resources in the 17 health facilities which provide vaccination services, with only a few facilities having enrolled nurses and many only having access to nursing assistants. Only Dokolo Health Center 4 has access to more reliable electricity, while other health facilities rely on gas containers to keep the vaccine refridgerators at an optimal temperature. Vaccine preventable diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles are high with 1,949 cases of pneumonia and 1,917 of diarrhea reported between January-October in 2015.
Through its previous engagement on the veterinary side, IKARE knows only too well the importance of access to knowhow, products and reliable data for creating awareness at community as well as at government level and when addressing gaps in disease surveillance, diagnosis and follow-up. Without basic health infra-structures in place to provide the necessary services and data, measuring progress and impact of activities is near impossible as is informed decision making.
IKARE thus partnered with Shifo Foundation in late 2015 to look at whether the Shifo developed digitalized MyChild system could be adapted to a low-resource setting like Dokolo in order to improve the quality of child health services through capacity building of health workers and reduced time spent on paperwork. This input was critical in the development of the MyChild Card system for registration and follow-up of new-born children.
In September 2016, supported by IKARE, Shifo and Dokolo District Local Government embarked on the first-ever district wide implementation of the MyChild Card system. IKARE will fund the implementation and fully carry the operational and maintenance costs of the first year, with Local Government, as from the second year, covering an increasing share of these costs with a view of having full ownership after five years. Over these five years the aim is to have between 70,000 and 100,000 children under 5 registered, new-borns as well as existing.
MyChild Card is an innovative child health card that is a hybrid of conventional paper and digital technology. It merges the usability of paper at the point of care delivery with the accuracy of technology when it comes to data access and processing. Health workers capture information relating to each child on paper-based MyChild Cards. Specifically designed Vouchers which are part of MyChild Cards are subsequently scanned and data uploaded onto a secure server where an electronic medical record is created for each child, detailing all of the vaccines and preventive health services they received. Moreover, parents receive SMS- messages to remind them about their child’s next due date and aggregated reports are automatically generated and shared with key stakeholders.
Picture by Nargis Rahimi