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Maps play an important role in Zambia’s COVID-19 vaccination planning

June 17, 2022

Since February 2022, the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI), under Zambia’s Ministry of Health, and GRID3 have been organising and facilitating district-level microplanning workshops. The first round of workshops were held in all of Zambia’s 10 provinces and over 2,700 health officials were trained on how to incorporate GRID3 maps into their COVID-19 vaccination microplans. 

“Microplanning” refers to the process in which health workers plan how to deploy resources—including vaccines and other health-related commodities—to ensure that vulnerable populations are reached during a health intervention. 

In preparation for these workshops, the GRID3 Zambia team produced over 2,000 health facility catchment area maps featuring GRID3 data on population, settlements, and health facilities.

“We also produced over 200 district level maps,”

says Gillie Cheelo, a GRID3 Zambia technical consultant.

“For these, we delivered hard and soft copy versions and demonstrated how they can be used to locate vulnerable populations, understand access to healthcare, and plan for outreach services.”

Behind the map production and delivery process

Producing the maps was no easy feat. It required a number of engagements with EPI to understand microplanning needs and ensure the maps were as comprehensive as possible. It also required extensive coordination in order to have the maps produced, printed, and available in time to effectively train health facility staff at each of the three-day, district-level workshops. 

“We travelled extensively to deliver maps to districts and lead trainings in person. For areas that were hard-to-reach due to the terrain or distance, we connected with local couriers to get maps to district offices. When we could not attend a workshop, we provided resources to EPI officials, such as standard operating procedures for maps, so they could conduct the training on their own,”

explains Chisenga Musuka, another technical consultant on the GRID3 Zambia team.

Showcasing the maps

At each workshop, the GRID3-focused training began by having officials orient themselves to the maps. Officials familiarised themselves with important map features such as the legend and data frame. They then used the maps to understand where access to and utilisation of COVID-19 vaccination services may be low based on the location of populations in relation to health facilities. The maps also helped participants understand where they can place outreach vaccination points by looking at population counts and settlement extent data provided by GRID3. Officials used this information to fill in microplanning templates which were customised for COVID-19 vaccination by the GRID3 Zambia team.

The GRID3 maps were well received. Feedback gathered from trained officials gave insight into the ways the maps are being applied as part of their planning processes. Scroll through to see testimonials from health officials:

Through the use of maps, we were able to see which outreach posts are within 5 km, between 5-10 km, and those that are above 10 km. We then calculated the distance from a health centre to each outreach post. We also were able to determine the amount of fuel needed to reach a post. We now know which strategy should be used (fixed outreach or mobile) and which posts still have individuals who have not been vaccinated. These maps will ensure the community I serve has proper access to COVID-19 vaccination services.

Nachula Medina
Nurse at Mweniwisi health post in Mafinga District

The maps had a positive impact in our planning. They helped us determine which modes of transport we should use according to distances from health facilities. We were able to develop solutions so that we can access hard-to-reach areas. Above all, they helped us understand health service coverage.”

Janet Sakala
Nurse at Sichitambule Rural health post in Mafinga District

These maps will help in the management of resources for each vaccination post.

Dedan Jempa, nurse at Nyampande rural health clinic in Petauke District
Nurse at Nyampande rural health clinic in Petauke District

The work by the GRID3 Zambia team does not end here. Cheelo and Musuka are currently supporting EPI with additional trainings for districts not covered in the first round. 

GRID3 is proud to support the government of Zambia’s drive to use the best available spatial data for its COVID-19 vaccination initiatives. 

To learn more about how to use GRID3 data for COVID-19/COVAX vaccination planning, please read the following guides:

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