Building data capacity during a pandemic to save lives

Building data capacity during a pandemic to save lives

Building data capacity during a pandemic to save lives 1200 800 Right to Care

As Covid-19 infections soared, Buffalo City municipality in South Africa’s Eastern Cape needed urgent assistance with data analysis and information management to ensure that accurate data informed decision making and resource allocation.

With funding from USAID, Right to Care began supporting the Eastern Cape Department of Health. Epidemiologist, Zikhona Jojozi, was seconded to assist. She quickly realized that in facilities, there was a huge gap in data clean-up and a serious backlog in the status of Covid-19 outcomes. “The gap in Covid-19 outcome status – active, recovered, hospitalized or deceased – was of great concern.

Jojozi immediately trained the team of data capturers, data clerks, tracers and monitors in Excel. The time it took to identify and correct data gaps was slashed from weeks down to a day. In two weeks, the case backlog had dropped from 574 unknown outcomes to zero. All cases were resolved. The time taken to report was also reduced. This ensured that the contacts referral rate for screening and testing increased from 27% to 80%, minimizing the spread of Covid-19 in communities.

Teaching in the local language fast-tracked outcomes which enabled the team to analyze data into daily situation reports for the relevant authorities. Data capturer, Pamela Tshambu, said, “Zikhona helped us to manage and understand the data. Now we report better. We hope that she does not leave the district until the pandemic is over!”

The Buffalo City Metro Health District Deputy Director, Nokuthula Sopiseka, requested an extension to Jojozi’s secondment. “Zikhona made a big impact in our analysis and monitoring of Covid-19 trends in Buffalo City.”

Through USAID’s support, Jojozi supported an entire team to be able to accurately report and manage Covid-19 case investigation, contact tracing and outbreak identification. She removed the guesswork, ensuring that informed action was able to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the region to ultimately save lives.

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