Zainab Conteh and her team are on a mission to improve the quality of data received from health facilities in Bombali district, northern Sierra Leone. At the end of every month, the 112 health centres in the district are supposed to send data on more than 13 different areas of work, from the numbers of births and deaths, the types of illnesses being treated, and the numbers of women coming for antenatal and post-partum clinics. Until recently, most were not filling on time, and many were sending data that couldn’t be used.
“When you don’t get complete or reliable data, it means that decisions you make will be misinformed,” said Zainab Conteh, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Bombali District Health Management Team (DHMT).
With funding from USAID, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) in the districts of Bombali, Tonkolili and Port Loko improve their data flows through supportive supervision, including health centre visits by the district monitoring and evaluation staff.
Strong health systems require effective information management systems. That means that the data are accessible and of a high quality – complete, timely, accurate and consistent. Over the years, MoHS in Sierra Leone has faced challenges in collecting, reporting and using quality data, and the Ebola outbreak 2014-2016, in particular, revealed weaknesses in the health management information system.
To help address this, the Ministry set an objective to improve capacity for data management – and with funding from donors including the European Union, USAID and DFID, UNICEF supported the Ministry to establish the Directorate of Policy, Planning and Information.