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Uganda Innovates

These innovators have created an app that addresses the challenge of drug stock outs in public health facilities

Health centres in Uganda face a serious shortage of drugs, many of them essential drugs, and this has always continuously caused a deep concern amongst citizens and health workers, and development partners alike.

These challenges could be attributed to the shortages in budget allocations by the Ministry of Health, or lack of clear monitoring of drugs distribution in health centres spread out across the country, among other reasons.

For example, Daily Monitor quoted a June 2015 report by the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit of the Finance ministry that paints a grim picture of public health facilities. The report shows that for a whole year, more than 90 per cent of public health facilities reported non-supply of ordered medical items, including drugs and stationary. Close to three years later, the perennial problem of drug shortage has not been resolved.

DrugDash a Ugandan startup is trying to solve this problem.

DrugDash is a decision support system that is enabling health centers and drug distribution players capture data on drug supplies and consumption so as to better understand consumption trends through easy to understand visualisation tools that support accurate decision making.

“The application has two ends. It has a mobile end and web app. The information is fed from the mobile application on devices like tablets or simple Android mobile phones at the health centres where stock is taken, issues are recorded, and monitoring of the stock happens at the district Health Office where the web application sits.” Solomon Kahuma, the Software Developer DrugDash explains.

The data on medicine stock levels are viewed on a web application in simple graphs and other ways which are easier for responsible personnel to interpret and make informed decisions.

“We believe that more lives can be saved if the stocking of drugs in Government districts can be optimized. We must leverage technology to enhance decision making and ease coordination between the district health centers and the central government medical stores.” Joanitah N Nalubega the Project Finance Officer explains.

Solomon from DrugDash explaining how the application works to health officials. (Photo credit: DrugDash)

Therefore, DrugDash seeks to solve the problem of poor decision making in drug ordering at health facilities due to under utilisation of data collected and stored in paper forms, leading to poor stocking of needed  within a community.

This was witnessed when the solution was deployed to ten (10) health facilities in Bukedea (Eastern Uganda) with support from the UpAccelerate initiative which enabled DrugDash to receive seed funding to develop and test out their solution in Bukedea District in Eastern Uganda.

Receiving the $10,000 seed funding from UNFPA’s UpAccelerate program. (photo credit: DrugDash)

“The current process has been a challenge because it is not easy to know which item is missing in facility X or which item is over stocked in Facility B but with DrugDash, this makes it easy for you to track the supplies.” George Akol the Medicines & Store Manager Bukedea District noted.

The mobile application is very easy to use because even with power shortages that render desktop applications in these facilities ineffective, the mobile devices can be charged and used anywhere.

In the end, DrugDash will save more lives by enabling better informed decision making and smooth coordination amongst the health centers that give people access to healthcare and the central drug stores.

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

Makanika Dot Com is looking to transform the way motorists access service providers in Uganda

Anyone who owns a car in Uganda will tell you that finding a good mechanic that is trust worthy and won’t steal your car parts when you leave your car overnight is a relief.  Makanika Dot Com  is  looking to transform the way motorists access service providers especially garages, as well the way providers get clients .

Makanika dot com collected data on worthy garages around two of the country’s cities (Kampala and Entebbe) to build the mobile application. The firm has built a data base of garages that motorists can access, and also buy car accessories like alarms, radios, lights. when in need through an app.

“When a motorist is stranded, they go into the app and send a repair request to the nearest garage. The garage, which has a dedicated application is notified about a stranded customer, they get in touch, solve their problem and get paid.” Michael Richard Katagaya the co- founder says.

Makanika which is also means mechanic is not only offering fast, reliable, convenient and secure way of sourcing car repair and accessories, but is also offering mechanics an opportunity to make more income, and transforming garages into stronger businesses through training and access to opportunities. The website and mobile app is now live.

Although the idea was conceived in 2012 with fruitless attempts to take off, it only became formal, with the incorporation of the company, in 2015. Since inception, they have grown their network of garages from zero to about 200 (several hundreds of mechanics), spread across Kampala, Entebbe, and a pilot site in Mbale.

 “We secured support from a tech hub – Hive Colab, we have worked with mentors to refine our idea.” Michael said.

What drives their passion is that they believe in an economy with high unemployment, growing initiatives that are looking to transform the informal (Small and Medium Enterprises – SMEs) and service sector work, is very critical.

Uganda’s Youth Unemployment Rate is 80%. Many young people are employed in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) including garages. Most of these businesses are quite informal and find it hard to benefit from the growing potential of technology. For example most garages have their mechanics sit and wait for clients (motorists) to come to them. At the same time, their clients are looking for a nearest, good garage. This is a disconnect that could be solved by technology so that mechanics get more jobs to do and motorists save time.

In the recent years, Uganda has experienced a rapid growth in the automobile market, with automobile population more than doubling in the last decade. Between 2012 and 2013 there was a 38.7 percent increase in newly registered vehicles from 96,598 in 2012 to 133,945 in 2013.

This boom comes with an increasing demand for automobile services including repairs, services, car enhancements like sound and security. It is arguably true that the number of such providers has tremendously grown, finding a reliable one maybe hard as people keep complaining about dealing with crooks. Also, in case of emergency like a car breaking down on a long road trip or in the middle of the night, with no access to one’s regular provider e.g. mechanic, they may have no starting point.

It is such challenges that we intend to solve. These services will be hinged on the increased number of telecom and internet users. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) indicates that last year, Uganda’s telecom subscribers hit 19,506,5502  in 2014, and that the total number of internet subscribers increased by 33.6 percent from 2,692,705 in 2012 to 3,625,559 in 2013. Obviously, these figures have tremendously increased and this will provide an opportunity for this venture.

Makanika Dot Com has changed the lives of the clients that use this service.

During the pilot phase for the mobile application we had between 50 and 70 active users. These are people to whom we have delivered reliable automobile garages, especially in emergencies. We have about 200 garages (over 2000 mechanics on our network) – although not all of them are on our mobile application.

These numbers both of garages and users are growing very fast as we get reviews and intensify marketing. And so far. Feedback from both clients and the mechanics we work with; we are making a difference. For example, a good number of garages are assured of work, almost on daily basis – this builds trust in their work as a source of employment.” Katagaya Said

As of now, they have not encountered any major challenges in their operations, save for the need for funding to scale fast, now that our concept is proved, appreciated by both clients and garages/mechanics.

“In five years, we will have broken even and extended our services across East Africa.” Michael Katagaya Says.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

Here’s What You Need to Know About The Upcoming Uganda Public Health Youth Symposium

Uganda is set to host the first ever Public Health Youth Symposium that shall bring together various health experts with majors in social economic development, health policy, innovation, service delivery and advocacy to mention but a few. There will also be participants from social-political movements, business start-ups, social enterprises, civil society, international organizations and public institutions from Uganda and across the world.

The Public Health Youth Symposium (PHYS) is an avenue for the Ugandan public health community and professionals to communicate connect and collaborate on the latest public health efforts and findings. It will be a gathering of public health practitioners and multiple partners from government, academia and private organizations that share a common interest and dedication in protecting, preventing and promoting the health of the nation.

Follow updates here or use this hashtag  #PHYS2017 on social media.

 

The Expectations from the Symposium in Uganda

The Symposium seeks to turn young people into advocates, activists, champions and change agents by empowering them with information and skills on Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Management, Human Rights, Project Planning and Management, Evidence Based Advocacy, Communication, Social Entrepreneurship and Critical thinking using a problem-solving and learning environment. In addition to the above, they will also gain leadership skills, networking skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills and team work skills.

 

It is aimed at connecting youth to share experiences and learn from each other on the selected themes, discuss challenges they face and plan way forward to address them. It will bring youth in touch with their peers, researchers, entrepreneurs, influential speakers and development partners.

The theme for this year’s symposium is “Public Health: A Driver to Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3”.

Objectives

  1. Create a national platform for young peoples’ discussions and understanding of how public health issues hinder social economic development of Uganda.
  2. To understand the role of public health in achieving National agendas and SDGs in Uganda.
  3. Create a platform where young public health innovators in public health showcase their work to various stakeholders and promote a multidisciplinary approach in health innovation.
  4. Create visibility for young people’s decision making ability on public health at (community and national level) the Ministry of Health level in Uganda.

 

Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) is a registered not for profit youth led and youth serving organization comprised of young people working on issues of sexual and reproductive health and HIV awareness using health promotion, youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship and ICT for Health.

Registration

The one day symposium will he held on 9th November, 2017 at Hotel Africana. Click here to apply.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis up to the deadline of 30th October, 2017 hence you are encouraged to apply as earlier as possible. Should you need to get in touch with the organizers, write to us at info@phauganda.org

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Uganda Innovates

This Ugandan Startup is making low cost sanitary pads out of sugarcane!

It all started when Lydia Asiimwe Sabiiti the Founder of EcoSmart Pads, met a 16 year old girl Kyomuhendo who had travelled a long way, hailing from her village in Rwanyamahenbe, the Western part of Uganda.

Kyomuhendo was being escorted by her mother in search for better health care at Mbarara Regional referral Hospital. She had developed wounds in her vagina that had first presented with itching soon after her menstruation period.

“As I approached her, I could tell she was in so much pain. Her eyes were swollen from crying and her mother seemed weary from managing her daughter’s pain. They couldn’t find their way through the hospital so I offered to walk with them to the department of Obstetrics.” Lydia explains.

As the two walked and talked, Lydia learnt that due to failure to afford sanitary pads, Kyomuhendo had been using 3 pieces of the same old cloth over the last 2 years of managing her menstrual flow. She learnt that the same cloth was shared among 3 of her sisters and 2 other cousins who all lived with them.

Her mother mentioned with distress that the cloth had not only changed color over time but had also developed a very bad odor making it increasingly uncomfortable to wear at school or any other public place.

“I silently concluded that this form of menstrual management was the source of Kyomuhendo’s pain and I was determined to do something about it. I facilitated the CAMTech Uganda internship programme and I got my chance to tell this story to ateam of students who had enrolled for the programme.” Lydia explains.

When Lydia finally told her story, three other students on the programme were inspired to act and they joined her and together, they formed a team. The team grew to be known as the EcoSmart Pads team and they have figured out a way to upcycle sugarcane fiber into a material that they are now using to make low cost and eco friendly sanitary pads that people like Kyomuhendo will be able to afford. Their vision- To ensure equality, vibrancy and dignity in menstrual management among girls and women in Uganda.

Lydia conducting an awareness session

The Eco-Smart Pads idea

The Eco Smart Pads are sanitary pads made out of sugarcane recycled residues for girls and women of menstrual going age from low income backgrounds.

“Sugarcane residues at sugar manufacturing factories are the raw materials to our product and are obtained at an affordable price.” Lydia says. She is convinced that this idea will work because of the low costs of production that will significantly lower the price of this product.

The team first conducted an experiment in the Microbiology lab at Mbarara University of Science and Technology to determine which one of the two between Maize and Sugarcane had residues with a high absorbance rate. Sugar cane emerged with a higher absorbance percentage and was selected as the plant to be considered as a raw material for this innovation.

“We did conduct a needs assessment, interacted with our end users and generated findings from them, informing our price estimates and product packaging quantities.” Lydia explains.

Right now, EcoSmart pads team is sending on the market a 12 piece pack (because the end users said on average each would be conformable to use 12 pieces in a single menstruation period).

“We are selling each pack at UGX 1500 cutting down current costs by 50%, 90% of the end users we interacted with said they could only afford to pay between ugx 1000 – 1500. We are not looking to generate much revenue from sales because we are selling to low income earners. We are looking to work with philanthropists to cause impact in our local community. As for the sustainability of our company, we are looking at other income generating options.” Lydia elaborates.

These pads are also disposable. The team figured you don’t give a reusable pad to uneducated- rural based -low income earners and expect them to maintain it at its required high standard hygiene levels. They will maintain it the same way they maintain the old cloth that they use – washing it at night and keeping it wet under their beddings. It will cause infections and the problem will not have been solved. The EcoSmart sanitary pad is disposable and our packaged quantities allow them to change the used pad at least 3 times a day which is more healthy.

The primary beneficiaries of this product are school going girls from low income backgrounds whose pursue of education has been affected by this challenge.

Other non school going women from low income backgrounds such as women in prison, refugee camps, public hospitals, are also primary beneficiaries of this product. Generally, female Ugandans from high income earning backgrounds will too benefit from the low cost of this product as they will be able to make some saving.

In June 2017, EcoSmart Pad team won a $10,000 grant from UNFPA’s UpAccelerate program to move the idea from inception to prototype development.

The issue of menstruation

Menstruation is one thing which almost every woman has to deal with. Every month.

Many Ugandan women still use scrap cloth from old saris and towels, the traditional method for managing menstruation for thousands of years.

On average, a single woman generates 125kg of sanitary waste during her menstruating years when she uses disposable sanitary products.

A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.

Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating. Young women miss twenty percent of school days in a given year due to a lack of facilities or a lack of information or a lack of sanitary products.

In june 2017, EcoSmart Pads told their story during UNFPA’s Up Accelerate challenge and the judges were touched. They won a $10,000 to move our idea from inception to prototype development.

Don’t you think Eco Smart Pads is going to change this status quo?

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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