Siméon Avuta prepares the VSAT installation materials in Kananga, Kasai Central. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
Siméon Avuta prepares the VSAT installation materials in Kananga, Kasai Central. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)

By Linda James
IMA World Health 

W

ho knew that working with information management systems would require the skills of an anthropologist? In a country where internet connection is sporadic, IMA World Health Senior IT Engineer Siméon Avuta travels to the farthest reaches of this vast country to ensure that health zone teams are connected to the internet and to the health information management software DHIS2.

District Health Information Software 2, or DHIS2, is a web-based open-source information software that provides the Ministry of Health, as well as IMA, a method to effectively manage and analyze data. That data improves health care exponentially by providing mobile tracking of pregnant mothers in rural communities, medical services availability in the health areas, and management of medication deliveries among other notifications.

Ensuring that this software system works requires a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work. Under normal circumstances, connecting to the internet would be as simple as linking to the telecommunications carrier in the area. The catch in the DRC is that most areas are not covered by a telephone data network. IMA’s solution included installing VSAT satellite dishes that transmit data to and from 52 health zones in Congo.

THAT is no small feat! IMA technical team member Carlos Nyembwe arrived in Mushenge, the capital of the Kuba Kingdom, in the Kasaï to install a VSAT system. Naturally, he was on a tight schedule and looking to do a quick turn around on the site survey installation. Technology and tradition came face-to-face when upon his arrival he learned that the Prince of the Kuba Kingdom had passed away and the funeral was taking place that day. As a result, all activity was forbidden and participation in the funeral rites was required. Carlos’ schedule went out the window as he prepared to honor the legacy of the Prince. Local customs take precedent.

Given IMA’s depth of experience in Congo, the importance of cultural traditions in Congolese society are taken into account during each project. This unique understanding has been a key to the effectiveness of the DHIS2 ASSP project as well as to all other projects. Siméon, Carlos and their team of 18 continue to monitor and troubleshoot either from Kinshasa or from the field to work to advance health and save lives.

The IMA team traveled along the Mweka/Bulape road in the province of Kasai on their way to complete their important work. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
The IMA team traveled along the Mweka/Bulape road in the province of Kasai on their way to complete their important work. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
A data manager works on data entry into DHIS2 in the Kanzala Health Zone in the province of Kasai. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
A data manager works on data entry into DHIS2 in the Kanzala Health Zone in the province of Kasai. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
In Mushenge in the province of Kasai, the community gathered for the funeral of the Prince of the Kuba Kingdom.
Carlos Nyembwe searches for an internet connection on a supervision trip in Bulape in the province of Kasai. It was during this trip that he confirmed the decision to begin installing the VSAT system.
In the Kamuesha Health Zone near Tshikapa, a vehicle loaded with VSAT installation material encounters a common problem: mud. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
In the Kamuesha Health Zone near Tshikapa, a vehicle loaded with VSAT installation material encounters a common problem: mud. (Photo by Carlos Nyembwe/IMA World Health)
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