In Liberia, mobile phones are used to improve data flow for better nutrition interventions

The USAID/Food For Peace (FFP) funded Liberia Agriculture Upgrading Nutrition and Child Health (LAUNCH) project worked in Bong and Nimba counties to improve food security and reduce chronic malnutrition of vulnerable women and children under five years old. To better reach project beneficiaries and to improve quality of nutrition interventions, LAUNCH started an electronic data collection system at food distribution points (FDPs) designed to streamline the beneficiary registration process and collect nutrition and health monitoring information efficiently and cost-effectively.


A field worker uses the EpiSurveyor application to collect and electronically store data from a health card.
 
 
Electronic Data Collection System
In March 2012, LAUNCH started using EpiSurveyor mobile, a mobile application designed by DataDyne that facilitates the transfer of data through pre-sent forms on smart phones and enables transmission of data from the phones directly to the internet for immediate view and use. Nine field staff were trained in technical use of the phones, data collection methods, and obtaining informed consent from beneficiaries before interviews. The system was in place by the first of April 2012 and was then supported with on-going field supervision. Assistance was also provided to the central-level commodity and monitoring & evaluation teams on effectively managing the data once it has been uploaded onto the EpiSurveyor website. The first month of implementation showed promising potential in streamlining data collection and monitoring progress to improve performance of the FFP program.


A breastfeeding mother registers for food rations using mobile technology.
 
Beneficiary Registration
Previously, the process to register LAUNCH beneficiaries for receiving food rations was paper based, with beneficiaries waiting up to several months before receiving their first rations. LAUNCH field staff used mobile phones to enter and upload beneficiary registration information, providing the Monrovia-based commodity team with immediate real-time access to the data that is subsequently merged into the Commodity Database (where all project beneficiaries are registered). The commodity team almost immediately found that their process became more efficient through reduced paperwork, reduced data handling by different people, and improved data quality entered by mobile phone. Furthermore, this was expected to reduce the wait time for beneficiaries to one to two months before receiving food, increasing the opportunity for reaching beneficiaries in the critical first 1,000 days of life. In the first month of implementation, over 1,000 new beneficiaries were registered by mobile phone, and over 400 received food in May, some 4-6 weeks after registration date.


Nutrition/Health Monitoring

Many LAUNCH beneficiaries live in remote communities that are challenging to regularly access and track progress aside from resource-intensive surveys. To monitor nutrition and health practices, LAUNCH field staff conducted interviews using mobile phones with a sample of beneficiaries (pregnant women; lactating women with infants <6 months; mothers of children <2) at every FDP. FDPs provide an easy and cost-effective setting for collecting timely information from beneficiaries, as they are an existing opportunity of gathered beneficiaries, while the phone technology prevents the time and resource burden of paper forms and data entry. Information collected on the mobile phones included questions on exclusive breastfeeding, minimum acceptable diet based on 24 hour recall, hygiene practices, diarrhea, and Care Group & Farmer Group participation. In the first month (April 2012), 120 interviews were conducted with beneficiaries, comprised of approximately 30% pregnant women, 30% lactating women, and 40% mothers of child beneficiaries. The data is cleaned on an ongoing basis and will be aggregated and analyzed quarterly to help guide and target programmatic health messages and assess progress in improving behaviors on a timely basis, specifically related to infant and young child feeding practices, as LAUNCH continued to expand the delivery of community level health messages.