You may recall that my last post was a slightly dazed jumble of happiness and trepidation- I’d landed my dream job with my favourite charity, who had turned around and told me that I am needed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Well, it’s been several months since then and I have been busy. No, really, I have… I won’t deny that a lot of Netflix has been watched and I have very much enjoyed putting on all the weight I lost in Burkina (plus some). But I have also been to Germany and London to be trained in all things MSF, meet some of the people I’ll be working with, and get a few more details on my project.
Firstly let me tell you that I’m very happy with my decision to work with MSF. Everyone I have met has been grounded, passionate and a lot of fun (not to mention hardcore af) and I have really felt at home in the organisation from the moment I walked into my interview. It remains to be seen what I will be like working for them in ‘the field’ but we’re off to a good start.
My project will be managing (read: observing, learning from, reporting on and mildly tweaking) MSF maternity services in a region called Kimbi in South Kivu. MSF have worked in this area for a number of years, so I’m excited to meet the midwives practising there and hear their stories. The women accessing our services there are from a wide range of backgrounds; some are from local villages and towns, some are from communities displaced by conflict, and some have migrated to be near the mineral mines that make up the main economy in the region. This displacement presents a number of challenges in providing healthcare, not least because we don’t yet have accurate maps of the region we’re working in.
This is where you come in: I’m appealing to all of my friends, family and other interested parties, who have been so monumentally supportive in the past (I’m referring in part to the time we raised £800 in a few days, completely flooring the fundraising officer at International Service). With your help, we can remotely map the area using satellite imagery, so that we have a good record of the layout of the region. Mapping buildings also gives us a rough population estimate, which can be very useful in planning services. Then staff in the region (including me and a small army of healthcare workers) can add the detail using mobile phones- things like the names of villages, population, existing health facilities, sources of water. It’s only a month now until I leave, so this is something of priority on my to-do list!
Why is this important?
This information is mostly for tracking the spread of disease- good maps make epidemiologists very happy. It means that if someone comes to our clinics with an infectious disease (let’s say cholera) and says they’re from a particular village, we know exactly where they have come from. We also know how close it is to other villages, where everybody gets their drinking water, and therefore how likely it is that the disease will spread. Good information means effective planning, and using our resources in the most efficient way. We also share the maps with local health authorities to make them better able to do their work.
There’s a short video here explaining exactly why mapping South Kivu is a priority.
What do you want me to do?
Well, the good thing is that remote mapping can be done from your own home- the part with the jungle and the bitey insects and the heat is all my job. There is a longstanding project called Missing Maps, which MSF run along with a number of other organisations. Simply follow this link to the Missing Maps page and follow the instructions to set up an account. Mapping might look a little bit complicated to start with but it’s actually really not- and it’s extremely addictive (don’t say I didn’t warn you).
Once you’re all set up and looking for a “project” to map, you can find my area by searching for “South Kivu”. You can also find all MSF projects by setting the Organisation to “Médecins Sans Frontières”.
Here are some screenshots to help:
Hannah, this looks complicated…
I promise it’s not! It takes maybe 10-15 minutes to read through the information and set up an account, after that it’s plain sailing. But, if you get stuck, don’t worry- I’m always here to help.
What if I just have five minutes, or I’m on the bus?
Excellent question, I’m glad you asked. There’s an app called MapSwipe, which asks volunteers to look through satellite images and tap on villages. This narrows down the search so that villages can be mapped easily through Missing Maps as above. Currently MSF are mapping Mali with Mapswipe… though this should come with a disclaimer that it really is very addictive!
I hope lots of you get involved in the project, and find it as interesting as I have. It’s actually rather fun, very worthwhile, and will make my life (and the lives of all the other healthcare workers in South Kivu) a heck of a lot easier. If you have any questions, please ask!
Disclaimer: this is a personal blog and all views expressed are my own, not those of MSF.