In a recent visit to Kaduna in Nigeria to review the function and use of the RapidSMS tool for reporting stocks and program data for the management of severe acute malnutrition, a very stupid labeling error of the post or title of the user was presented to us. In the registration with the tool, each user must identify their post or role within the program. There are the range of different posts from volunteer, nurse, doctor, district and regional level supervisor. In the design of the tool, we only considered the positions that government staff would play and did not identify and describe the roles of persons outside the government structure.

Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) program implementation staff weighs child's weight in mothers arms. Photo credit: Robert Johnston, UNICEF NYHQ
Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) program implementation staff weighs child’s weight in mothers arms. Photo credit: Robert Johnston, UNICEF NYHQ

When a colleague was making a regular check over program activities, he identified stock outs in a few sites of one district. He called the regional level supervisor and ask if the SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition) Reports tool had sent a stock-out alert that morning as reported on the dashboard. The regional level supervisor reported yes, and that his technical assistant was following up. When our colleague called the technical assistance, he also reported that he received the low stock warnings previously and the stock-out alert that morning. My colleague asked why he did not respond prior to prevent the stock from occurring. The response was – because the technical assistants are registered as observers within the system and therefore our role is to observe.

During the design and training, we unthinkingly did not create a role or position for technical assistance. As a workaround, we just asked those persons to register as observers. From that point on their roles and responsibilities shifted and the program operations suffered.

Upon recognition of this problem, we created a new registration position entitled “NGO / IO Technical Assistance”. This post will be included in the trainings for scaling up and all other country implementations. We greatly appreciate the support and feedback that is provided by partners providing technical assistance to improve the quality of program delivery.

Our slightly painful lesson learned was – Know your users and ensure that their needs, perceptions and responsibilities are accounted for in the project design and implementation.

Robert Johnston
Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF New York

You can follow Robert’s Nutrition RapidSMS blog here

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