Advancing innovative solutions at the Accelerator’s first virtual Transition to Scale Up Programme

By Linda Nyemba

The WFP Innovation Accelerator tested out its first Virtual Transition to Scale Up Programme in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). This initiative grew out of the collaboration between the two organizations on the WFP Innovation Bootcamps focused on increasing the effectiveness of health campaigns. Typically, the WFP Innovation Bootcamps focus on supporting bold solutions that address the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG 2) by 2030. However, effective health campaigns have a positive impact on nearly all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

The eight innovation teams who participated in the Virtual Transition to Scale Up Programme were selected by BMGF’s Grand Challenge Explorations (GCE) program. GCE is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. From February to May 2021, the innovators came together virtually and worked on their projects and covered topics including solution testing and validation, impact measurement and sustainability and scalability. Now that the programme is finished, the teams are in the process of submitting their requests for further funding from BMGF and other potential funders.

Teams were offered the opportunity to let us know about their projects.

Stage: Growth

Team members: 5

Website

The Problem: Due to reasons such as demand and supply-side barriers, access to universal immunization coverage is a challenge for individuals in low income communities. In Pakistan, 49 percent of its total population are women. However, women who reside in low income communities often lack access to quality education and healthcare facilities, which lead to health consequences for themselves and their children.

The Solution: In an attempt to promote behavioural change within these rural and low income communities, the Kiran Sitaras team is leveraging the power of referral networks. The project is enabling adolescent girls in Pakistan to become community health leaders who can identify and connect under-immunized peers and their parents with immunization information. In collaboration with child psychology experts and curriculum development specialists, Kiran Sitaras has designed a concise and easy-to-comprehend Adolescent Health and Leadership Program curriculum to serve as training material. The curriculum includes audio-visual learning tools, workbooks and role play exercises.

Traction: Since 2020, Kiran Sitaras has trained over 500 adolescent girls across three communities in Karachi, who have then conducted community mobilization and screened over 10,000 households and identified the immunization statuses of 3,000 children in hard-to-reach areas. Through this initiative, they have effectively counselled primary caregivers on immunization-related knowledge and linked zero-dose and under-immunized children to health facilities, thereby increasing immunization uptake.

The Kiran Sitaras team currently seeks:

  • Partnerships with organizations currently working in or interested in supporting maternal and child health, specifically immunizations for children;
  • Collaborations with organizations interested in female empowerment.

Stage: Prototype

Team members: 5

Website

The Problem: Mothers working in both informal and formal sectors in Ibadan, Nigeria, encounter time challenges when visiting traditional immunization clinics with their child. The long wait times in the clinic can result in losses of income or jobs. Furthermore, the consequences of the time constraint is a major contributor to why completion of childhood immunization is low in Ibadan.

The Solution: SheVaccs is tackling the resulting low childhood immunization in Ibadan by creating three solutions. The first is through a mobile clinic that specifically targets informal working mothers as it brings immunization services to where they work, and eliminates clinic queues. The second is through personalized vaccine appointment services for formal working mothers, so they can reserve time with one of the SheVaccs nurses. The third solution is an educational mobile app that will change social norms to increase childhood vaccinations.

Traction: Since June 2020, SheVaccs has reached 144 informal working mothers and 250 formal working mothers with their solutions. In addition, about 44 percent of zero dose children of the informal working mothers were reached. The team has also recorded complete immunization among children of 57 percent formal and 49 percent informal working mothers, with a zero-dropout rate. Their on-going solution has raised immunization completion rates from a baseline of 15 percent to 49 percent (a 35 percent increase) in three markets within Ibadan.

The SheVaccs team currently seeks:

  • Technical support for mobile vaccine services information system;
  • Collaborations with local and international organizations focused on maternal and child health.

Stage: Pilot

Team members: 3

Website

The Problem: Each year, millions of births occur in Nigeria but only a third are officially recorded. Without accurate birth data, it is difficult for healthcare workers to estimate or deliver vaccines and nutritional products. In conflict or fragile settings, such as northern Nigeria, the challenges of obtaining birth data are even greater due to the high rate of home births, low coverage of civil registration systems and lack of public education on the importance of birth reporting.

The Solution: The Finding Nuhu project by Avigo Health addresses the unregistered births and low vaccination uptake in Nigeria by enabling community leaders to report births via mobile text messaging and connecting clients to health workers. Although a high percentage of the population has access to mobile phones, there is still a challenge of ensuring that the solution is low cost yet sensitive to data protection and provides accurate birth data.

Traction: Currently conducting a pilot study in a northern Nigerian district.

Stage: Pilot

Team members: 4

Website

The Problem: Given that 82 percent of India’s rural population has no access to internet connection and 65 percent use feature phones, it is challenging for healthcare providers to interact with the population in a regular and efficient manner. This has a negative impact on both changing social behaviours towards vaccines and informing individuals of their immunization schedule. Adherence to a standard immunization schedule is essential to reduce childhood death from vaccine-preventable diseases. However, many mothers in rural and remote India are unaware of the recommended childhood immunization schedule and how crucial it is to follow it.

The Solution: The Mahfooz project by Onekeycare Ventures is a voice-based platform for health workers in rural India to easily update immunization records and to provide automated reminder calls to caregivers when vaccinations are due. They will also further develop tools to educate caregivers on hygiene best practices and the importance of immunization for health. These solutions will not require internet or smartphone access.

Traction: The solution is currently rolled out in two blocks. The direct beneficiaries of the solution comprises 2,693 mothers, 3,312 children and 50 frontline workers. Additional community support provided by the solution reached 820 peer mothers, 2,430 male members of family and 12 district administration officials.

The Mahfooz team currently seeks:

  • Network with organizations operating in healthcare systems to exchange lessons learned;
  • Partnerships with organizations in low and middle-income countries;
  • Assistance in fundraising.

Stage: Pilot

Team members: 5

Website

The Problem: Despite free availability of vaccination services, gaps in information access impede immunization uptake in low and middle-income countries. In Pakistan, where routine immunization services have been provided for free for the past four decades, only 66 percent of children receive all basic vaccines and only 51 percent of these are age appropriate. A major contribution to suboptimal coverage is caregiver unawareness, driven by caregivers’ inability to receive answers to trivial yet crucial questions regarding their child’s immunization.

The Solution: Bablibot is a local-language, text-based chatbot which connects caregivers to immunization-related information in real-time. Leveraging artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning and human-in-the-loop features, Bablibot mimics human conversation, and converses with caregivers in unconstrained natural language in Roman Urdu (Urdu written in English script).

Traction: Since its launch in March 2020, Bablibot has served over 600 users and responded to over 2000 messages. Bablibot has also guided caregivers on how to proceed if their child is unwell on their vaccination due dates and counselled caregivers on managing post vaccination side effects or discomfort. These conversations have yielded a high user satisfaction as indicated by a text-based survey administered at the end of each conversation as well as from qualitative data collected during the pilot.

The Bablibot team currently seeks:

  • Partnerships with organizations working in or supporting child healthcare, especially routine immunizations;
  • Collaboration with organizations working on developing natural language processing based chatbots;
  • Mentoring on designing effective marketing strategies to expand reach and scale.

The Problem: Due to sociocultural factors and lack of accurate knowledge, Tanzania is facing high drop-out rates for vaccinations. Despite the high supply of immunization and commodities, the Maswa District of Simiyu Region has persistently recorded high dropout rates. When the Damax Solutions team was in its early stages, it discovered through a human-centered design approach that men had a big influence on vaccine adoption. The male population had decision-making power on women going to the clinics and prioritization of economic activities, such as going to the farm over vaccination visits. They also had limited awareness of the importance of vaccination among communities and caregivers.

The Solution: The Damax Solution team addresses the social context inhibiting vaccination uptake in Tanzania with a training program for healthcare providers. The program is aimed at engaging male caregivers in order to increase childhood immunizations, dispel misconceptions and overcome psychosocial barriers. The training is done by using human-centered design principles to develop a community-supported, social marketing approach.

Traction: The project has involved 12 health facilities from seven wards in the Maswa district. Data show that in Maswa the number of clients for childhood immunization has increased in 2020 compared to 2019 when the intervention was not yet introduced. From January to October 2019, the total number of clients who sought service was 3750 while from January to October 2020 in the same ward, the total number was 5874. There have also been positive changes in the role men are playing in ensuring their children are being vaccinated on time.

The DAMAX Solutions team currently seeks:

  • The identification of key stakeholders to adapt and apply the Intervention Scalability Assessment Tool (ISAT) to determine the scalability of the intervention;
  • Networking opportunities with other organizations or innovators who have undergone similar journeys to share lessons learned;
  • Technical support that would help in generating more data to validate the hypothesis;
  • Financial support to help the implementation of the pilot phase.

The Solution: Tika Vaani overcomes delays and errors in vaccination record keeping with instant digitization and optical scanning enabling timely, data-informed decisions on immunization.

  • Stage: Growth
  • Team members: 7
  • Website

The Solution: Socialize to Immunize uses community mapping tools to estimate vaccine demand in rural Myanmar. The tools are integrated with a Facebook-based chatbot to share vaccination information to caregivers.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

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