Nigeria – Monitoring Supplies


In Nigeria, RapidSMS was piloted in the first phase of a 70 million ‘long lasting insecticide-treated nets’ distribution campaign. As a pilot activity, RapidSMS was used in Kano state to capture data of commodities from state stores to the Local Government Area (LGA) and distribution points using logisticians in 21 selected LGAs and 4 pilot LGAs for mobilization and distribution of nets. Distributors who were not reporting were able to be identified and contacted immediately to follow up on distribution problems. Based on government recommendations, RapidSMS will be scaled up to monitor the rest of the campaign later in the year.

Country Profile

With over 148 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous country in the world. An early pioneer in the movement for African independence, Nigeria is now a regional power. In 2008, Goldman Sachs named Nigeria as one of the “Next Eleven” economies. With its considerable oil reserves and a celebrated entrepreneurial spirit amongst its sizable population, Nigeria is one of Africa’s most influential countries. Yet the majority of Nigerians live in poverty. The 2008 UNDP Human Development Report ranked the country 158th out of 177 countries in factors such as average life expectancy (46.5 years), adult literacy (69.1 percent), GDP per capita (US$1,128), and percentage of underweight children under five years (29 percent). The transition to democracy, achieved after nearly thirty-three years of military rule (interrupted only by the brief ‘second-republic’ in the early 1980s) has been challenging. With a diverse cross-section of ethnic tribes and significant tensions across religious lines, the future of Nigeria will have profound implications for the entire continent.

The Scenario

In Nigeria, malaria causes the deaths of an estimated 250,000 children under the age of five every year. Malaria is responsible for about 66 per cent of all clinic visits in Nigeria. Health workers are sometimes forced to work overtime, and doctors and nurses can be on duty for over 12 hours a day. Empowering families and communities through participation – while improving their knowledge about how to prevent, recognize and treat malaria – is an important part of UNICEF’s malaria prevention work. Community workers try to sensitize the local population about preventing malaria through the use of ‘long lasting insecticide-treated nets’ (LLINs). In 1998, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Development Program and the World Bank came together in the Roll Back Malaria partnership, with the goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010.

UNICEF, working closely with its Roll Back Malaria partners, supports this effort by supplying safe, effective and affordable anti-malaria interventions. The National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) is expecting to distribute about 70 million LLINs between 2009 and 2010 to be distributed within the communities at household level in all 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). This poses a big challenge of effective tracking, monitoring and reporting from these communities to quick responses for efficient and effective distribution during the planned campaigns.

NMCP has already developed a malaria management/roadmap tool, with McKinsey consulting, which will aggregate data from the States, LGAs and communities in Nigeria. While this tool has proven to be effective, the process of getting data to this tool is still labor intensive. Past campaigns have tracked supplies through paper printouts at the State and LGA level, which are then brought to the Federal Level.

RapidSMS Implementation and Results

Kano State in northern Nigeria was selected for the initial NMCP coordinated pilot distribution of LLINs. RapidSMS was used to track commodities from state stores to LGAs and distribution points by monitoring LLIN coupon distribution. NMCP employed the following stakeholders as monitors:

  • Warehouse stock managers reported incoming and outgoing supplies as well as stock balance.
  • Mobilization team leaders submitted daily data on number of villages, number of people, number of coupons issued, and number of households to be revisited.
  • Distribution point team leaders submitted daily data for number of nets distributed, expected balance, actual balance, and any discrepancy between these two figures. Distribution point team leaders also reported certain situations which require immediate action.
  • Additionally, ward focal points and LGA focal points were automatically alerted to abnormal data.


At the outset, monitors were registered using customized location codes. A website was developed and made available for stakeholders to monitor the campaign in real time, coordinate field activities, and analyze data. Information gathered about coupon issuance informed the positioning of supplies ahead of and during distributions.  RapidSMS also supported the LLIN campaign by providing information/feedback to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries that used this system were sent reminders about distribution times and locations.


Over the course of fourteen days, RapidSMS captured data for the distribution of 141,773 coupons, or 283,546 LLINs in total. During this time, 232 stock transfers were tracked, spread out over 226 unique locations. NMCP calculated that RapidSMS directly monitored distributions that met 69 percent of the projected demand in Kano State, or 652,919 beneficiaries. This targeted real time data allowed NMCP to later follow up on vulnerable pockets, delayed shipments and other irregularities.

Lessons Learned

Developing In-Country Capacity Technical Capacity

Building local technical capacity is critical for in-country and regional support. At the outset of the project, UNICEF identified ten Nigerian programmers and provided a rigorous training on the code base for RapidSMS. Two programmers with the highest marks were identified and hired by UNICEF to continue providing support for the project. This significantly decreased operational costs for the country office, while ensuring timely and appropriate responses to changing needs on the ground. Additionally, future regional implementations can incorporate and build on the growing network of locally trained programers.

Integrated Planning

Whenever possible, partners should support an integrated planning process for training, which should be conducted early in the implementation process. RapidSMS technology, as it has been deployed, is a tool intended to increase the effectiveness of larger programmatic operations. It is crucial that RapidSMS is understood within this context.

New Functionality Added to RapidSMS

  • RapidSMS Android (the server based version of RapidSMS ported onto open-source Android phones)

Links to News

Cause Global: Social Media for Social Change: Net speed (March 20, 2009) The team created RapidSMS last fall, following a famine in Ethiopia, to speed food supply data from … In Nigeria, how will Rapid Android work in bed net distribution? …


jpg RapidSMS Nigeria Workflow