As the only Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team working with UVP this year, it’s safe to say that we believe in the power of data! It has been a busy and fulfilling summer spent in the field conducting follow-up surveys and collecting important health data about the two communities that we are working in. Being welcomed into the homes of community members has not only allowed us to build strong relationships with them but also to gather essential information about the general health status of both Nabirere A and Nabirere B villages.
To add some context to our work, let’s start with a quick background of UVP’s implementation model. UVP’s programs are undertaken over a three-year period. Simply put, in the first year, Launch Teams have the hefty task of introducing all health initiatives associated with the Healthy Villages Program. In the second year it is our job, as the Monitoring and Evaluation Team, to follow this up by collecting and analyzing data in order to gain perspective on where things lie from the previous year’s activities.
Casual conversations have helped us to uncover gaps in knowledge levels and to learn what the community’s main health priorities are, especially since it’s not always possible to capture this valuable information from the surveys alone. So, while the numbers often reign supreme, in reality both the quantitative and qualitative data that we have collected have been invaluable to our understanding of whether UVP’s interventions are making a genuinely positive contribution to improving people’s health…which, after all, is why we are here! Having collected all of our data, we were in a great place to design and plan effective health education sensitizations that addressed the central health issues that persisted and to consolidate health knowledge and literacy amongst the villagers.
So, while to some people M&E may not always sound quite as fun or sexy as launching a whole new program into a village (even though it totally is!), we should remember that this is a space that a lot of very important work is done. While implementing innovative and fresh programs is incredibly important (not to mention a tough job), an equal amount of the hard work is done when gaps need to be addressed, failures to be admitted and solutions to be made. After all, sustainable impact comes from continually assessing and refining what can be done better as well as by putting these systems into place while we are still here so that they will last long after we have left.
On a final note, going through the villages and collecting follow-up data is a whole bunch of fun! We have always felt so welcome and at home as we ‘jambo’ our way through the village. And if educating the community that you now call home about important health issues wasn’t incentive enough…there were also all those peanuts, mangoes, jackfruit and avocados that were gifted to us during our surveys that made the end of a long day sitting on our back step together just that much sweeter…literally!