Abt Associates’ Peter Chandonait Named USAID's Grand Prize Winner for Innovation to Action Award

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Peter Chandonait of Abt Associates has been named the Grand Prize Winner of USAID’s Innovation to Action Award.

Peter Chandonait, Abt Associates Principal Scientist and Director of Environmental Compliance and Safety for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (AIRS) Project, has been named the Grand Prize Winner of USAID’s Innovation to Action Award.

The Innovation to Action Award, a USAID Catalyst Award, recognizes USAID staff and implementing partners who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in motivating teams to test or implement innovative approaches through active or recently closed USAID projects/programs to increase program impact.

Chandonait was awarded the prize for creating and driving the adoption of a mobile soak pit, a type of water filter that has improved operational efficiency, produced cost savings and extended the reach of the AIRS project. The project protects millions of people in Africa from malaria by spraying insecticide on the walls, ceilings, and other indoor resting places of mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

The PMI AIRS Project manages indoor residual spraying (IRS) operations and logistics in 12 countries where malaria is endemic. Working with country governments, PMI AIRS ensures spraying does not harm people or the environment. Clean-up is an essential part of the indoor residual spraying (IRS) process, as contaminated water is generated from rinsing spray tanks and washing personal protective equipment.

The mobile soak pit (MSP) consists of a 5-gallon plastic container with layers of sponge particulate filtration, nylon screening, and activated carbon. The mobile soak pit weighs about 10 kilos, and can be carried to a spray location and installed in minutes, allowing a traveling IRS spray team to clean up quickly and immediately after completion of daily spraying.

When operations are complete in the local area, the MSP and associated equipment are removed, and the hole where the soak pit was installed is refilled. The site is restored to its original condition, leaving a barely noticeable environmental footprint.

“Being named winner of USAID’s Grand Prize for Innovation to Action Award is a tremendous honor for Peter and the PMI AIRS Project,” said Dr. Diana R. Silimperi, Division Vice President for International Health. “Abt is focused on bringing innovative thinking that’s grounded in evidence to all our work to improve impact and value.”

Chandonait investigated and optimized the MSP design in a home laboratory and pilot-tested the concept in Madagascar in 2013 and 2014. Findings from lab tests of the MSP conducted by Abt were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Management. MSPs are now being used in 10 of the 12 PMI AIRS countries, and in 2016, AIRS employed more than 240 MSPs. In addition, Abt has provided technical assistance to several county governments to enable them to adopt the use of the MSP within their own IRS programs. (See how to build an MSP from simple materials.)

An awards ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., September 28 during Global Innovation Week. PMI Health Science Specialist Allison Belemvire, Abt Senior Associate Eugene Kiti, Abt Project Assistant Officer Tahini Masihelison, and retired Abt Ecologist David Mitchell will also be recognized for their support of the development and implementation of mobile soak pits.

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is an engine for social impact, harnessing the power of data and grounded insight to bring people from vulnerability to security worldwide. We provide research and technical assistance services globally, working in the areas of health, environmental and social policy, technology and international development. http://www.abtassociates.com

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Caroline Broder

Mary F. Maguire