We interviewed Rilwanu Mohammed, one of Malaria Consortium’s Project Managers on our seasonal malaria chemoprevention programme in the Sahel region. He spoke to us about his experiences overseeing the programme in his area, his achievements and his hopes for 2020.
How long have you been working on seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) programmes with Malaria Consortium?
I joined Malaria Consortium in 2017 and I have now overseen three SMC campaigns in Sokoto state, Nigeria.
What is your role and how does it relate to the distribution of SMC drugs?
As Zonal Project Manager in Sokoto state my role is an overseeing one. My job stretches across the three main phases of implementation: before, during and after distribution.
Before distribution, I oversee the selection of trainers to operate in each community. We will train the trainers who will then cascade what they have learnt to their teams of distributors. I also oversee managing the commodities for my area, ensuring they are in place ready to be transferred for distribution.
During the campaign, it is my job to make sure that everything is running effectively in Sokoto; that the commodities are in place, that the distributors have all the tools they need, and that they are operating in the correct place.
You mentioned you have been with Malaria Consortium for three years and that you have now been involved in three SMC distributions. Have things about your work changed in that period of time?
Yes, things have changed – for the better. We are looking to innovate. For example, we had a problem before with inaccurate population data. This data is important to us for planning the distribution effectively. Now we have are carrying out community enumeration during pre-distribution planning to improve the data.
Another example of change is in the selection of personnel. We now work more closely with community leaders in the selection of the most appropriate people to be involved in the distribution. This helps us to make sure they are of good character and that they are known to the community. It makes the distribution more successful.
The biggest change has been improvements to the training. We are targeting the training better for different groups based on their knowledge, and have made it more practically oriented. We also work with a group of national trainers who monitor those who have received training to ensure standards are good. The national trainers are a pool of experts who can be called upon for this purpose.
How else do you work with the wider health system to carry out the distributions?
We maintain a good relationship with the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP). In fact, just today, they are here in Sokoto to carry out their observations, oversee some of the distribution and provide additional guidance. The training tools we use were also developed by the NMEP; they are used across the country so we can ensure that we are helping to standardise the practice of distributing SMC drugs across the country.
From that national scale to the local level, how do you work with communities to ensure the distribution goes smoothly?
During this year’s distribution we introduced the idea of ‘lead mothers’ from each community supporting the work. Their role is basically to visit mothers and children the day after the distributors have given them the drugs to ensure the child has taken the full dose and to reinforce other messages that complement the drugs, such as sleeping under nets and keeping the environment around the home clean.
How do the mothers get selected to be lead mothers?
The idea is that the selected mothers are known and respected by the community. In most cases, at the local health facility there is already a health development committee that includes a woman meeting these criteria. She can be selected as the lead mother as long as she is respected by and familiar with the community. We did have to work very closely with the in-charges at the health facility to sensitise them to this concept and ensure they were happy with this activity taking place, with the role clearly outlined.
In other Malaria Consortium programmes, we use digital health solutions to strengthen community-based primary healthcare. How is this element covered by the SMC programme?
We do use one digital health solution. It is a mobile app which enables us to see what is happening during the distribution across the state. We have a monitoring and evaluation officer who oversees a digital dashboard which presents information submitted by distributors in the communities. We can then make faster decisions if there are problems.
Malaria Consortium will be distributing SMC in Sokoto again in 2020. What are your hopes for next year?
Like I have said, we have made improvements through my time so far. We want to continue this and have increased community engagement because we believe their involvement around planning creates increased cooperation later and improves the quality of implementation. We also want to work on the issue of sustainability, particularly with the state government.
Rilwanu Mohammed is Zonal Project Manager for Malaria Consortium in Sokoto state, Nigeria.