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Staff Insights

Using Data to Improve Care for Survivors of Torture

Published May 17, 2018

Jackson Mutavi is senior monitoring and evaluation officer, CVT Nairobi.

I am a graduate student at Kenyatta University’s Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science in the School of Pure and Applied Sciences. I graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology degree from Kenyatta University and a Monitoring and Evaluation certificate from Nairobi University.

I have been working in relief and development work for over nine years, including slightly over six years’ experience assisting international organizations and government in the planning, data analysis, and monitoring & evaluation (M&E) of development and humanitarian programs. I have extensive experience in multi-sector programming, development and implementation of M&E frameworks, quality assurance, accountability systems and capacity building in project management.

Before I joined CVT, my work was with a number of organizations, starting with long term contracts on issues within African populations at the Health and Research Center (APHRC), first as a data consultant, then in programs. I participated in projects on population, education and health. In early 2008, I joined Save the Children as a database consultant officer in Dadaab refugee camp. I lived two months there in Dadaab Main Office, which is a compound near the camps. This is where the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and support organizations work and live. While I was there, I saw a notice for an open research position at CVT, and I applied and got the job.

I was attracted to the kind of work CVT does, specifically to one thing: helping torture survivors and caring for mental health. I was interested in this as opposed to the work of other organizations that have wide missions. Some organizations are trying to do everything. I also knew that working at CVT was an opportunity for professional growth for me in the area of mental health care.

I have been eight years here. I saw the program in Kenya as we were just starting, and I’ve seen initial clients from the beginning of the program. One of the things I see in the data is that clients are very different at the end of their program compared to when they started at CVT. Things have changed over time, too. Initially when I was here, it was difficult. Many clients told us they thought our care would be just mere talk. They didn’t believe that would be healing. But after 12 months, I saw them coming back saying “I’ll keep coming back to see people. I feel security, I feel connected to the people who want to talk to me at CVT.” I could see the data for these clients, so I knew the symptoms were reduced.

I came to CVT in 2011. I was in Dadaab for two years and then moved to the program in Nairobi. In my role, I handle data management, quality reviews and report generation. Data monitoring is an ongoing, every-day task. I am responsible for the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system in Nairobi, which tracks all the forms coming in. These are primarily client forms that track our work from the time a client goes through an intake process to the three-, six-, and 12-month follow-up sessions the counselors conduct after clients complete the program. I ensure requirements are met and conduct analysis for Nairobi work. We produce in-country reports that are needed for headquarters, including monthly, quarterly and annual reports.

For these reports, we conduct assessment of the clients’ results. We monitor the impact of our work on clients and show the outcomes. In analyzing the results, we can track the outcomes to things like training – for example, when new training completes, we can watch for changes in clients’ results.

We get evidence in this data that helps us improve problems every day. When we apply what we learn from the outcomes, we help the trainers keep improving skills of the clinical staff. The data allows us to maintain quality of work. If we see that there is a problem, we work with the trainers to find out why. As an example, we can check to see if the interpretation of measures are different for the clinicians compared to our interpretation in the M&E team.

As another example, there may be places in the forms or process that are causing concerns. There may be some questions that people don’t want to ask. For instance, in Islam, it is an insult to ask about the end of life. So some staff may feel uncomfortable asking questions of clients that are about suicidal thoughts or other symptoms many survivors of torture suffer. If we see where there is a problem collecting data, we can work on fixing it.

I appreciate when our work with data helps CVT expand its program. For example, we’ve done presentations on parenting, looking at ways to grow psychosocial support. In Dadaab, we did work with parents, and I saw that it was something that lasted; the parents go to sessions and then bring so much home – it helps at home too. Now we’re doing parenting sessions here in Nairobi as well, so the process is getting to more people. I like the way this extends beyond CVT, sharing with families. Out it goes.

CVT’s work in Nairobi is made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration; the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture; the S.L. Gimbel Advised Fund at The Community Foundation – Inland Southern California.

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