Originally published on 8 June, 2015 on End Polio | Pakistan. Written by Sergiy Prokhorov. 

(c) UNICEF/Pakistan/Sergiy Prokhorov
(c) UNICEF/Pakistan/Sergiy Prokhorov

Getting vaccines to children from where they are produced, to rural Pakistan, unspoiled, is possibly one of the most amazing accomplishments in modern public health that you have never heard about. This is called the “cold chain,” and to work, every facility, truck and handheld cooler must maintain a steady temperature of +2˚C – +8˚C. Rafiq, a store keeper in one of the provinces of Pakistan, is one of the most important players in this journey. He ensures that cold rooms, where all vaccines are stored, maintain a steady temperature. Any deviation, even one degree, may result in the vaccine spoiling, potentially depriving a child a life saving drop.

Rafiq gets up early and comes back home late as he has to monitor the situation in the cold rooms facilities constantly. “Power cuts happen every day for at least several hours. If something goes wrong with the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) or the back-up generator the temperature quickly rises up and vaccines can be spoiled. I need to constantly monitor the work of all the components and keep record of the temperature twice a day,” Rafiq tells about his job.

Rafiq works in one of 67 cold rooms in Pakistan. Each cold room is a storage for vaccines that help protect children from multiple infectious diseases, including polio. Due to the complicated process of maintaining and monitoring cold room facilities sometimes, a store keeper cannot always come in time to fix the problem before the temperature inside of the cold room rises.

(c) UNICEF/Sergiy Prokhorov
Cold rooms, where all vaccines are stored, maintain a steady temperature. Any deviation, even one degree, may result in the vaccine spoiling, potentially depriving a child a life saving drop. (c) UNICEF/Pakistan/Sergiy Prokhorov

UNICEF Pakistan has found an innovative solution to that problem. Cold room facilities in Pakistan are now being equipped with a Central Monitoring System (CMS), which allows online recording and reporting of the temperature inside of the cold rooms. It does real-time cold room temperature monitoring and immediately informs the store keeper via SMS or email if a temperature fluctuates or a door is left open.

It communicates with battery operated wireless temperature sensors that are placed in storage facilities. Sensors contain temperatures and/or humidity receptors, but also function as wireless data loggers. Via a web application, data is collected from various locations into an integrated real-time view. The accuracy of system is +- 0.5 degrees centigrade.

The wireless network communicates using a radio frequency receiver and GPRS internet gateway. This wireless network is being installed to provide wireless communication for continuous temperature monitoring. Built in batteries keep the wireless temperature sensors functioning even if the power goes down.

“After installation of this system I can be sure that I will always receive a text message at my cell phone in case there is even a slightest deviation in temperature in the vaccine refrigerator. I don’t have to worry about the vaccine, the system does it for me”, – Rafiq happily tells us about the implications of the system for his work. Rafiq is sure that hundreds of store keepers like him across Pakistan will appreciate the CMS very much as the system makes it easier to keep vaccine properly stored.

(c) UNICEF/Pakistan/Sergiy Prokhorov
(c) UNICEF/Pakistan/Sergiy Prokhorov

As Pakistan still remains polio endemic country and a global reservoir for polio where around 85% of cases are coming from, innovative solutions like the installation of CMS may help Pakistan and the world to get rid of polio and remain polio free forever.

For the sake of security we have not disclosed Rafiq’s real name as well as his real work location.

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