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A Focus on Strong Health Systems and Data Use at MCIA

By Henry Mwanyika, Tanzania Director, BID Initiative

Mar 10, 2016

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Photo: Final day of the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. Photo: @AfricaVaxConf on Twitter.

Photo: Final day of the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. Photo: @AfricaVaxConf on Twitter.

At the inaugural Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa (MCIA), there weren’t questions around the BID Initiative’s success to date, but how soon could we scale across our two demonstration countries to strengthen health systems and create a data-use culture.

The MCIA was held from 24-25 February, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference, which was hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), was the first-ever, ministerial-level gathering with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can get access to life-saving vaccines.

Right now, one in five African children still do not receive the vaccinations they need. To cement their commitment to close the immunization gap by 2020, ministers signed a declaration to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Official Conference Report looks at the current state of immunization on the African continent. In the section on Immunization and the Importance of Strong Health Systems, the report emphasizes routine immunization as an integral part of the overall health system. If a health system is weak, routine immunizations stand to suffer as well.

Building off the conference’s momentum to strengthen immunization programs and data use, I had the opportunity to attend and meet with delegations from both Tanzania and Zambia, including the Honorable Deputy Minister of Tanzania and the Zambia Deputy Minister of Health and EPI manager.

Together with Dr. Dafrossa, Program Manager for Immunization and Vaccine Development in Tanzania, we assured the Tanzania delegation that we are working to align its immunization system with national systems (i.e. DHIS2 and VIMS) and link them with current birth registration to avoid duplicating efforts. Additionally, we emphasized our user-centered approach to identify and design interventions with users themselves at all levels of the health system and how BID’s approach and solutions can be applicable to other health areas beyond immunization.

The Honorable Deputy Minister emphasized the use of data for decision making as one of the priorities for the Ministry and the critical role for BID in creating a data-use culture in Tanzania. He further emphasized the need to scale BID across the country as soon as possible.

The Zambia delegation echoed sentiments on scaling BID across Zambia as soon as possible and the need to strengthen data-use among health workers. While we are pleased with the excitement to scale BID, we reiterated the necessity of testing and fine-tuning the interventions on a small-scale in our Arusha Region and Southern Province test sites to ensure any problems encountered can be efficiently resolved, before further rollout. We committed to keeping them apprised of our progress and continued efforts to source additional funding and identify costs associated with national scale in our demonstration countries.

With rollout underway in Tanzania and set to begin in Zambia, we are looking forward to helping the governments reach their goals to close the immunization gap

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