Dogs and data: Lilongwe SPCA (Malawi) shares their experiences with surveillance during mass vaccination campaigns

A dog being vaccinated and the data captured using the GARC Data Logger (GDL), saving time and money.
One-man team: A Rabies Project Officer vaccinates a dog just after entering data with the GDL (around his neck)

Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (LSPCA) in partnership with Weltierschutz gesellschaft e.V (WTG) and RSPCA has vaccinated more than 200,000 dogs in Malawi over the past 4 years. Our vaccination teams collect valuable information on numbers, gender, health, and age of dogs. As we understood that tracking the vaccinations was key to directing our efforts, we developed a home-built app for mobile phones. This app was used by the vaccination teams to enter the data. However, we soon ran into some challenges - mobile phones are delicate and mobile data in Malawi is expensive. To effectively deliver the vaccinations we needed a team of 3 people to vaccinate 1 dog – 1 vaccinator, 1 data collector, and 1 person to analyse the data (back at the office). More people, delicate phones and expensive mobile data meant bigger budgets to do the job, taking money away from getting more vaccines into dogs! Furthermore, our government and project partners were really interested in finding real time data to share with stakeholders in the country working on disease surveillance and rabies.

When GARC launched their GDL gadget we were on board as it presented an all in one solution for data, mapping, impact graphs and more! The GDL enables 1 person to both log data and vaccinate a dog, saving time and personnel costs. With a tap of a button to enter and upload data onto the Rabies Epidemiological Bulletin (REB) via a computer (a 2-minute job in the office), data is analysed and shared on the Rabies Epidemiological Bulletin (REB). No more creating maps, inserting location points, estimating numbers, etc.

“[the GDL is] an all in one solution for data, mapping, impact graphs and more!” - Edson Chiweta, Rabies coordinator, LSPCA

The GDL has a plastic, white, touch pad which you can choose the entries without needing to adjust brightness before entering a record of vaccinated animal. This makes it easier and saves time too.  Location, time and date are automatically recorded as you collect each entry since the moment GDL gadget locks the GPS it records data in real-time as an entry is being recorded. Mobile phone apps we previously used required us to manually input a set of variables or use drop down menus, thereby taking a lot of time to record even a single dog/cat vaccination, which resulted in delays to the vaccination process.

“No more creating maps, inserting location points, estimating numbers, etc.”

The data can be uploaded directly into the Rabies Epidemiological Bulletin where the data is updated automatically and is presented in meaningful graphs or map overlays. We no longer need a data analyst to prepare information for reporting or for organisational use in monitoring and evaluation. We often use the download to PDF function to write reports or present the developments in the vaccination activities to our stakeholders, partners, and donors.

“We no longer need a data analyst to prepare information for reporting or for organisational use in monitoring and evaluation.” – Lieza Swennen, Executive Director, LSPCA

This is the best data collection tool that has ever been used by LSPCA and we have seen how amazing the GDLs work in other activities such as remedial vaccinations (in response to an outbreak). When data recorded by a GDL is uploaded to the Rabies Epidemiological Bulletin, dots are plotted at every household or street where an animal was vaccinated. The remedial rabies vaccinations are usually conducted on a door to door basis and street by street in a radius of 1km. These dropped dots differentiate cats and dogs by color and are displayed on the geographical map with the number of vaccinations held in an area. With a glimpse of an eye, anyone can tell how the vaccinations were carried out by the display pattern of the dots.

“This is the best data collection tool that has ever been used by LSPCA” – Edson Chiweta, Rabies coordinator, LSPCA

In mass vaccination where hundreds of people stand in a queue, the GDL simplifies and saves the day by saving a lot of time compared with data recording using a mobile phone application. Traditionally, some dog owners were discouraged by the long queues waiting to get their animal vaccinated. They would go back with their animal and probably return for another time to get their dog vaccinated. This alone meant that some dogs would skip the vaccination process for that year should the discouraged owner be busy and engaged at the time they were supposed to return to the fixed animal vaccination site. But with the GDL, dog owners stay motivated, as they wait for a shorter time before they are attended to.

You can learn more about the GARC Data Loggers (GDLs) and how they work to speed up mass dog vaccination campaigns here. You can also contact the GARC team for more details by sending us an email: [email protected]


Article contributed by Edson Chiweta and Lieza Swennen (Lilongwe SPCA)