5th COUNTDOWN Annual Partners Meeting, Monrovia - Liberia

News article 5 Apr 2019

The COUNTDOWN Consortium held its 5th Annual Partners in Monrovia, Liberia. The meeting was hosted by partners from the Liberia Ministry of Health and the University of Liberia - Pacific Institute of Research Evaluation (UL-PIRE) from 26th - 29th March 2019. 

The main objective of this meeting was to assess the impact of the research evidence produced over the past 5 -years by the partners. As the project draws to a close, understanding what the legacy of the project will look like in terms of policy informed and capacity developed in partner countries was discussed. 

The meeting was preceded by a four-day writing workshop which ran between 21st - 25th March 2019. The workshop was led by Professor Sally Theobald and facilitated by other team members from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. It was attended by 13 participants from Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia and Liverpool. The aim to conceptualise manuscripts from research synthesis, to mapping and writing manuscripts for publication. Over 6 papers, 2 policy briefs and 2 blogs were worked on and should be published in the coming months.

Writing Workshop, Libassa Ecolodge, Liberia

Close to 50 participants from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, the UK and the USA attended the two-days meeting, with the 28th March 2019 dedicated to Liberia research and Communications Strategy Launch. The meeting closed with a series of meetings on Friday 29th March 2019. 

Pic 1: Engaging group discussion   Pic 2:Liberia NTD Ambassador Dr Evelyn Kandakai launching NTDs Communications Strategy

Following a series of sessions which involved group discussions, brainstorms and presentations, the challenges faced throughout the research were explored, producing the below key lessons: 

  • The use of visual images and local languages during dissemination helped in communicating the research results to the endemic communities
  • Community drug distributors remain a key cadre in the control of Neglected Tropical Diseases because they link  health services to endemic communities and act as conduits for effective community engagement
  • Advice and food provision prior to mass drug administration can increase adherence

COUNTDOWN's research impact is becoming visible with the pilot of precision mapping(link is external) in Edea, Littoral Region of Cameroon garnering international and national attention as a key tool to move from control to elimination of schistosomiasis. In Ghana, the work on female genital schistosomiasis has filled in knowledge gaps(link is external) within communities and local health workers, providing recommendations on improving training materials for doctors, nurses and community health workers in Ghana. This work was featured on the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA) resource site, indicative of how much traction is being gained in bringing the FGS discussion to the fore. In Nigeria, participatory action research  has yielded multiple results as there has been a surge in stakeholder engagement at every level of the health system within Kaduna and Ogun States. This research led to the creation of learning packs to help with mass administration of medicines (MAM) within schools and communities in Ogun and Kaduna States. Liberia's research informed the country's Strategic Plan for Integrated Case Management of Neglected Tropical Diseases which was launched in October 2016 and the recently launched Neglected Tropical Diseases Communication Strategy 2019 - 2023 which was directly informed by COUNTDOWN social science research in Maryland and Bong Counties.

L-R: Christine Makia, Marlene Siping, Prof Sally Theobald, Irene Honam Tsey, James Yashiyi Nuphi

The meeting provided four young researchers through a COUNTDOWN-funded Early Career Researchers' Scholarship, to attend and present on research they have been working on. Christine Makia who works as a researcher on the social science team in Yaoundé, Cameroon, gave a presentation on her work on ‘The Selection of Community Drug Distributors within Neglected Tropical Diseases Programmes in Cameroon: A Need for improved monitoring of selection procedures.’ Marlène Siping working on the social science research team in Yaoundé, Cameroon enlightened attendees on her work relating to the seldom ever researched role of ‘Local Councils – A Key level of Health Systems: Lessons from onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis Mass Drug Administration in Cameroon’. 

James Yashiyi Nuphi a social scientist researcher with the COUNTDOWN Ogun team in Nigeria, gave a presentation on his work relating to ‘Health Worker Ivermectin Administration (HWIA): An emerging Mass Administration of Medicines strategy for Preventive Chemotherapy of Neglected Tropical Diseases in urban Centres.’ His work was led by a need to understand how house-to-house distribution by volunteers in the community would work or how successful it could be deployed in urban settings. 

Irene Honam Tsey from the Dodowa Health Research Centre in Ghana, presented her findings on research into how calendars be there seasonal, festive or cultural affected the NTDs drug distribution. Her presenation was titled ‘Leaving no one behind: Using seasonal calendars to help understand and address context complexities in Lymphatic Filariasis Control Programmes in Ghana’.