RapidPro for Nutrition in Nigeria

The open-source tool is being scaled to monitor and evaluate the prevention and treatment of malnutrition

Robert Johnston
Fatima Masai, whose baby boy Mohamed suffers from severe acute malnutrition, sits with him at a critical care ward of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria
UNICEF/Nigeria/Vlad Sokhin
24 October 2016

Across Northern Nigeria, UNICEF is scaling up the use of RapidPro for the monitoring and evaluation of both the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. RapidPro is the UNICEF INNOVATION open-source tool that allows two-way communication by text messaging. For this project, we are half way through our scale up plan and have trained over 600 implementation, and supervision personnel.  Now we are able to collect program data in real-time. And through an agreement with three of the four national mobile phone providers, all text messages are sent at no cost.


The prevention of malnutrition is monitored through reporting on the promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Data are collected in a monthly summary on IYCF support group participation, supervision and referrals of mothers and children with feeding complications.  Participation and engagement will be strengthened with the introduction of tailor-made instructional video content in local languages for use at IYCF support group meetings.

The Nigeria Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program has quickly become one of the largest programs of its kind in the world.  Currently, the programme is treating over 400,000 children a year. Before the introduction of RapidPro, program data took three weeks or longer to travel from the treatment site to the national level.  These delays often meant that late detection of stock-outs and other critical events provoked poor or inadequate responses reducing the effectiveness of the program to save lives.

With the introduction of RapidPro, data are sent from implementation sites directly to the national database. Stock-out alerts are sent immediately to program managers and comprehensive analyses shared with the supervision personnel help to detect all other critical events that could interrupt program implementation.  Implementation staff are reminded to send all missing reports weekly if reporting is not complete and immediate feedback is provided on data entry errors.

The health personnel appreciates that use RapidPro both reduces their reporting burden and presents information on the quantity and quality of services delivered. The health service staff are already comfortable with sending text messages; they often express their delight as they can quickly learn how to send data and receive immediate feedback from the RapidPro tool.