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The road to recovery

Frida Njogu-Ndongwe 17 December 2021

Photo: Enumerator Nicholas Momanyi interviewing John Omonyo in Bungoma County, Kenya. Credit: Winfred Kananu, IDinsight

Dear Friends,

We’re coming to the end of another pandemic-stricken year. COVID-19 – nearly the only thing we have talked about since 2020 – has continued to decimate economies, endanger communities, and compromise healthcare systems across the world.

At IDinsight, we have tailored our support and innovated, developing new approaches to collect and analyse data in response to our partners’ continuously changing needs and priorities. We revised and reinforced our protocols for safe, in-person data collection. We creatively navigated lockdowns and restrictions to gather critical evidence to inform urgent programs. In some cases, we had to change our approach to remotely collect high-quality data.

At the beginning of the pandemic, government leaders of African countries needed to figure out how to balance containment measures – those that may inadvertently harm the economy – with keeping people safe and healthy. After several months of limited movement, many had to shift focus from merely surviving the pandemic to economic recovery and restoration of social services.

One example is the County Government of Meru, Kenya, which focused on bolstering its Community Health Volunteer (CHV) program – officially placed as the first level of the health system in Kenya’s Community Health Policy. While the county leadership wanted to invest in the CHV program, it was unclear where they should target their efforts and resources for optimal impact. We worked with the County’s Public Health Unit to establish what data was necessary to guide these critical decisions. After interviewing hundreds of Community Health Volunteers, we provided recommendations that we hope will guide the County’s approach to strengthening systems and delivering better healthcare services to the citizens of Meru County.

Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa – governments everywhere – constantly have to determine how to allocate limited resources across a wide array of development projects.

They must make decisions about where to invest scant public funds to have the most positive impact on the communities they serve. It can be an impossible task. But when essential data is not only available, but delivered in a timely manner, packaged and presented so it is useful for decision-making, and delivered by trusted advisors – these challenges become easier.

At IDinsight, we have explored various approaches to provide support to our partners across the region. We have been embedded with the Malawi Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare in a Learning Partnership since 2018. We have provided nimble support at different levels and worked with the government of Malawi to bolster their Social Cash Transfer Program, especially as they expanded it from rural areas into urban centers. This work supported vulnerable people whose income was significantly impacted by the onset of the pandemic, under the Covid Urban Cash Transfer Initiative. Tailoring our services and providing critical data quickly and efficiently contributed to the success of the program.

Working closely with policymakers and government leaders has shed light on the need for contextual, regular, cheaper, up-to-date data to guide crucial decisions. IDinsight developed Data on Demand (DoD), a cutting-edge rapid approach to collecting survey data in a fraction of the time – and at a significant discount compared to traditional survey methods. In 2022, we are looking forward to setting up the infrastructure for DoD to support partners in East and Southern Africa. We hope the deployment of DoD empowers more leaders in government and the social sector to put data at the center of their decision-making.

We look forward to the new year with hope, optimism and a lot of gratitude. Our work is made possible by the faith and support of partners like you: People who believe in the power of data and evidence to improve lives.

As data becomes more available and accessible, we anticipate an increase in demand for contextual up-to-date evidence that will lead to more impactful social policies and programs in Africa.