The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), through its regional Zika operation, visited Bolivia from 30 May – 5 June, to assess their progress in implementing their response plan with the Bolivian Red Cross.
This technical mission focused their work in department of El Beni, 80 km from the border with Brazil, by working with the Riberalta branch of the Bolivian Red Cross. Due to the climate properties of the area, this forested region of Bolivia is conducive to the transmission of Zika. Both Dengue and Chikungunya are common to the area as well, according to the Ministry of Health.
Since early 2016, the Bolivian Red Cross, through its Public Health Unit, has been developing a response plan for Zika and other vector-borne diseases in the departments of El Beni and its municipalities of Guayaramerin , Trinidad and Riberalta and Pando and its municipality of Cobija. The response plan aims to reach over 20,000 people.
An important part of the mission’s agenda was focused on strengthening Bolivian Red Cross community based epidemiological surveillance protocols, particularly in the Riberalta branch. The surveillance model developed by the IFRC, which aims to build the capacities of National Societies in this area as well as complement existing local systems, was presented in Riberalta.
To complement the knowledge regarding the surveillance model for Zika, the visit included a workshop for volunteers in Riberalta on Open Data Kit (ODK), an Android based mobile data collection tool capable of sending real time results from the field to an online server, regardless of the availability of functional internet service. This 15 hour workshop was attended by 29 volunteers, 28 of whom are women. With this training, the Riberalta branch will be able to carry out the activities in their action plan in a more secure and efficient manner.
In addition, a team of Bolivian Red Cross staff and IFRC delegates had the opportunity to collect data on 120 households in five neighborhoods identified as priorities in the Bolivian Red Cross action plan for conducting KAP (Knowledge, Skill and Practice) studies. As part of the Zika Operation in the Americas, KAP studies are a key activity for National Societies and the IFRC, as they provide data regarding the effectiveness of the response and of the information reaching the communities.
The team also visited the Nuestra Señora del Carmen school, where they held focus groups with teenagers, key interviews with pregnant women and health workers in maternity centers.
“We have to generate communication based not only on mass information about Zika virus, but on a series of actions contextualized to each society as well. This empowers communities, encourages individuals and increases the responsibility of each person facing the fight against Aedes mosquito” statess Monica Posada, Community Engagement and Accountability Delegate for the IFRC Zika operation in the Americas.
The IFRC Zika operation in the Americas works through Red Cross National Society activities in 12 countries in the region through an 9 million Swiss Franc emergency appeal implemented in February 2016.