Malawi Pharmacy Assistants Program

VillageReach is partnering with the Malawi Ministry of Health, the Malawi College of Health Sciences, and the University of Washington Global Medicines Program to implement a new approach to the training, deployment, and support of pharmacy assistants in Malawi. The three-year initiative was developed to address key barriers to medicines availability at the health facility and district level. We anticipate seeing significant improvements in the amount of time that clinical health workers spend on logistics tasks, improved commodity availability for community case management, improved LMIS reporting from the health center level, and improved quality of the dispensing practice.

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CCPF “Health Center by Phone”- mHealth for Maternal and Child Health


VillageReach operates a program in Balaka District to extend the reach of the district health services for rural communities. The Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) or “Health Center by Phone” program is part of Concern Worldwide’s Innovations in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health initiative. Key goals are to reduce health facility workloads, save patients’ time and transportation costs, and provide women with greater control and opportunity to interact with the health system without having to travel to a health facility.
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Kwitanda Community Health

Since 2008, VillageReach has led a program to strengthen the health system at the community and health center levels by building capacity of community health workers, implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce malaria and diarrheal diseases, and improving communication between community health workers and the health center through SMS communication systems.
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Medicines for Malaria Venture SMS

VillageReach developed and implemented a pilot SMS-to-Internet data system to collect information on the type, volume and sales price of antimalarial medicines distributed from both public and private facilities in rural contexts in Malawi. VillageReach Malawi staff train dispensary employees and drug vendors to format SMS messages for transmission to the system and then monitor incoming message via the web interface, manage vendor air time, correct messages with errors and produce reports of the data.
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The program is building the systems needed to support improved medicines management by training and deploying health facility-based pharmacy staff and by improving data management and reporting of logistics data across the country. VillageReach and its partners will have a significant and sustained impact on commodity availability and rational use of medicines across the country, and will serve as a model for other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Key program elements:Pharmacy Assistant Trainees

  • Develop a training curriculum in collaboration with the Malawi College of Health Sciences focused on practical skills in medicines management and logistics responsibilities;
  • Launch a MOH-managed training program for Pharmacy Assistants;
  • Support the MOH with innovative deployment strategies based on available data;
  • Develop a package of support and tools at the facility and district level to ensure appropriate supervision, data management, and oversight of a growing Pharmacy Assistant cadre; and
  • Capture and broadly disseminate program learning through advocacy materials and academic literature.

We continue to make significant progress toward the expected direct and indirect outcomes. To date, 50 students are currently enrolled in their second year of studies. With five months of practical training at health facilities each academic year, the students are contributing to improved supply chain performance. 100 additional students will enroll and begin their first
year of studies in March, 2014.

We are pleased to be supporting the University of Washington’s impact evaluation of the Pharmacy Assistant Training Program. We have worked with the UW team to finalize and submit IRB proposals both at UW as well as in Malawi. Through that process we contributed to the study protocol, instruments, consent forms, and identification of local researchers to partner with. In addition, we contracted with a local independent evaluation organization, Invest in Knowledge (IKI), to complete data collection. We look forward to working closely with the UW team in March to begin the data collection activities.

Key Partners

Publications for Reference

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Key program features cover:

    • A toll-free case management hotline offering protocol-based health information and referrals.
    • An automated and personalized tips and reminders service for pregnant women, guardians of young children and women of child bearing age.
    • Community volunteers to mobilize users and ensure access to services for those without phones.

Voices from the Field - CCPF Impact

Mercy_CCPF (2)Mercy - A 24-year-old pregnant woman from Dailesi village in Balaka, told her family that she wasn’t feeling well, and set out for Kalembo Health Center seated on the back of a bicycle driven by her neighbor. Read Mercy’s story:How a Phone Call Saved a Life


Fales Fales-is 26 years old and lives in Kazondo village in Balaka. In the eighth month of her pregnancy, her condition continued to worsen and her husband and relatives were greatly concerned but did not know how to care for her or what needed to be done.  Fales then remembered Chipatala cha pa foni. Fales Story

0000242  Elina found out she was HIV positive during her pregnancy. She used tips and reminders for guidance during and after her pregnancy, and is grateful for the support CCPF gave her when she had questions about caring for her baby. Elina’s Story




CCPF  gave Belinda the information she needed to prevent a dangerous birth situation, and advocate for herself at the health facility, where she was initially turned away during labor. Belinda’s Story

Invest in Knowledge (IKI) conducted a mixed-methods evaluation on the effectiveness of the two-year mHealth pilot. Based on the success of the pilot, VillageReach is currently working with partners to expand CCPF services to additional districts in 2013.

Key Partners

Publications for Reference

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VillageReach’s program aims to reduce levels of malaria and diarrheal disease in the Kwitanda catchment area by 35 percent by the end of 2011. To accomplish this goal, VillageReach facilitates distribution of existing cost-effective preventative measures, manages community health worker training, and provides infrastructure support for the health center and community. Activities include:

  • Malaria Prevention and Treatment — Distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets, expanding access to treatment, IEC on proper usage of mosquito nets, and improving diagnosis;
  • Diarrhea Prevention — Provision and maintenance of sources of safe water, training of water point committees in basic borehole maintenance to ensure continued access to safe drinking water, and implementation of a community-based sanitation and hygiene program;
  • Strengthening the Community Health System through Support and Management of HSAs — Employment, training, and supervision of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), who staff village clinics and conduct environmental health activities;
  • Establishment of Village Clinics — Strengthening prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services for children under five at the village level;
  • Transportation Support — Provision of bicycles to HSAs, bicycle ambulances to the community (which are strategically located to best serve rural health emergencies), and facilitation of community-based road improvement; and
  • Infrastructure Support — Provision of essential health center equipment, such as a refrigerator for vaccine storage, and support for building repairs and maintenance.
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In the pilot, SMS data sent to the internet application by vendors in remote locations was instantly recognized online and registered. Responses were sent back confirming message receipt, and the online charts and graphs displaying the recorded were updated. The system was designed to be flexible in order to be relevant for a variety of health system programs operating in challenging physical environments. The system can support tracking and recording of any type of drug or vaccine, scale to large volumes of vendors, and health clinics, and account for whatever SMS charges are incurred. For the MMV program, the system additionally provided an incentive by sending SMS top-up value as a reward to vendors for successful reporting. The pilot program now serves as a leading example of data collection and data processing that can efficiently and effectively leverage the expanding presence of cellular-based communications networks throughout the developing world.


Population 14,268,711
Rural Population 81%
Population living below international poverty line of $1.25 per day 74%
Life Expectancy 50
Hospital Beds per 1,000 people 1.1
Maternal Mortality – Lifetime risk of maternal death 1 in 18
Immunization Rates (DTP3 Vaccination Coverage of 1 year olds) 87%
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