Early Review Enables Quick Learning: END in Africa’s Initial Activities in Cote d’Ivoire
April 26th, 2016
Although it has only been a few months since the USAID-funded, FHI 360-managed END in Africa project for the control/elimination of 5 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)—lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis—began operations in Cote d’Ivoire, the project already has several important lessons to share with the NTD community.
The country’s first project review mission took place in February 2016, when END in Africa Project Director Bolivar Pou and Associate Technical Director Dr. Joseph Koroma traveled to Cote d’Ivoire to meet with the in-country END in Africa project team and staff from Cote d’Ivoire’s NTD Programs (NTDP), USAID’s Mission in Cote d’Ivoire, and the Abidjan offices of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and MAP International. While in the country, they also visited Agboville to observe operations in the field.
Identifying Challenges, Finding Solutions
Early reviews give project managers a chance to get initial feedback from their teams on the ground, to see what’s working first-hand, and to make adjustments that can improve project efficiencies and avert expensive missteps before they happen. For example, during discussions with the in-country END in Africa team, NTDP staff, and finance and administrative personnel, staff noted that a few activities that needed to be done in FY2016 had been under-budgeted or omitted from the current work plan. This feedback prompted the team to examine the current budget and scope of activities with a view toward prioritizing the activities and items that must be implemented or purchased during the current fiscal year. To ensure funding for these essential activities, they recommended that NTDP staff and the in-country project team identify several activities in the USAID-approved work plan that would likely not be implemented the current fiscal year, so the funds could be reallocated to the activities the need to be undertaken before the end of the year. In addition, they also identified certain activities that had been omitted from the current FY budget, such as political advocacy, and made plans for their inclusion in FY2017.
Exploring Opportunities for Collaboration
END in Africa managers also took advantage of the early review mission to explore opportunities for synergistic collaboration with other projects and organizations. After learning that USAID is funding a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in Cote d’Ivoire, END in Africa visited the WASH Unit of the UNICEF office in Abidjan to discuss possible areas of collaboration between UNICEF and the NTDP on aspects of NTD control related to WASH. They also visited the WHO Country Office in Abidjan to discuss supply chain logistics and request WHO support for helping the NTDP navigate the process for clearing NTD drugs upon arrival into the country. In addition, they explored potential areas for collaboration with MAP International, an organization that supports schistosomiasis control by funding or supporting NTD morbidity management, disability prevention and WASH activities in Cote d’Ivoire.
Showing Up Shows Commitment
Besides giving NTDP staff and the in-country project team a chance to voice concerns and update the project’s managers on progress-to-date in Cote d’Ivoire, the early project review also had an unspoken objective—showing the managers’ commitment to the controlling and eliminating NTDs in Cote d’Ivoire.
During a field visit to observe a segment of an ongoing 3-day training on NTDs and supervision of activities for their control and elimination for staff from the Office of the Director General for Health in Agboville, the END in Africa management team were pleased to learn that the Director General for Health and his office have also demonstrated a special interest in NTD control. In fact, local staff reported that not only has Director General Prof. Boa Yapo Felix attended similar trainings, but he also attended the first day of this particular training in order to motivate the local staff and enhance their commitment to fighting NTDs in the country. This type of support is commendable, and it bodes very well for the future of the project in Cote d’Ivoire. After all, nothing shows commitment like being physically present and taking an interest in what’s happening on the ground.
Before concluding the early review mission, the in-country project team organized a ceremony at the FHI 360 country office to deliver the first set of equipment procured by the project for the Cote d’Ivoire’s NTDP. Going forward, the eight laptops, computer bags, eight projectors and six cameras will assist NTDP staff in their day-to-day efforts to advance toward eliminating and controlling NTDs in Cote d’Ivoire, with full administrative and technical support from both END in Africa leadership and the in-country project team.