WHO on the Libya Deployment: Where We Are & Where We Are Going

[Guest blog post from Robert Colombo, GIS specialist – Vulnerability and Risk Analysis & Mapping (VRAM), Mediterranean Center for Health Risk Reduction (WMC) – based in Tunisia]

For the last 4 weeks, the World Health Organization Mediterranean Centre for Risk Reduction (WMC) has been following and interacting with great interest in the Libya Deployment started in December 2011 by SBTF with the added combined forces of Humanitarian Open Street Maps (HOT) and GISCorps.

Thank you all for this great job done during these last weeks.

Each one’s contribution to the project has been outstanding, of great importance and of real merit. From the volunteers that gave 1 hour to the one that gave several nights. Thank you all for the hard job.

Through this project WHO has taken good note of the potential of the volunteer community and the new crowdsourcing force surrounding the humanitarian community and has learned the potential that skilled volunteer organizations have first hand.

It has been the first time that the 3 volunteer organizations (SBTF, HOT and GISCorps) teamed on one single call, working together, combining forces and using each one’s most important strength for a WHO project. This is another point to consider. You helped set a path for volunteer inter-collaboration! We learned coordination methods between the teams focusing in what was important: the objective of creating an updated Heath Facility Registry for Libya.

It has been the first time for WHO-WMC to make a call asking for online volunteer support in one of their missions. This project has proved to be useful and will set an example for future WHO deployments. Please keep on collaborating! Our field staff based in Libya is already cheering up with the current results.

Personally I was surprised to see that there where people responding on the Skype chat just minutes after the deployment was launched by the SBTF via email .  It was like magic to see so many good will volunteers getting attention to a country such as Libya and to a call of a specialized UN Agency. I was also surprised to see the rapid acceptance of the assignment by GISCorps and the HOT team that in the following hours communicated their engagement.

As a WHO GIS specialist I have been involved in several data update campaigns, including lately, the one for Libya. I know how difficult is to get new valid clean data, the translation problems and the lack of certainty, plus the stress to get new data and not duplicates.

When  the final collected data is analyzed and compared with the available initial data before the SBTF/HOT/GIS Corps deployment started, the conclusion we obtain is that an extremely selective and arduous task of internet data-mining has been completed, giving the certainty that all or nearly 100% the information publicly available online, has been looked, searched and added.

As a volunteer community, you have helped us gather more data in 4 weeks than a single person could have done alone in 3 months working 20 hours per day!

The ‘magic’ is that volunteers were working from nearly all the continents and many time zones of the planet: that was truly a global volunteer project.

And all this was done during the 2011 end year period, with holidays breaking the regular schedules (and shopping to do)! Your effort has been of great help! What a great way to start 2012!

Let’s have a quick overview of key elements for this deployment.

How will WHO use this data?

All the collected and compiled information will be used by the Libyan Government with WHO support, to help rebuild and set in place the Health system in Libya in the near future. This data will become part of the Ministry of Health baseline information for their reconstruction efforts. It will be a key element for future emergencies, system analysis and maintenance. It will be used, for example on the following fields:

● Manage the health system complete restart

● Manage and plan rebuilding projects

● Increase efficiency on distribution of medical supplies & health logistic plans

● Assessment and evaluation of health needs

● Analysis of vulnerable populations and infrastructures

Who is the final beneficiary of the developed task?

It will definitely benefit the complete Libya population without distinction. Health is one of the most crucial and sensitive element on peoples quality of life. The collected data will help improve the standards and identify priority action areas.

Where are we now? How many elements have been identified?

370 points have been validated form a total of around 1400 that were existing in 2007.

So there is a lot more to be done! Look at the map showing located HF and population density and you will see the missing gaps and empty areas. Not bad what we did, but there are areas where we do not have any data!

Will the internet provide more data?

I’m sure that we have crushed, surfed climbed and logged in all the possible websites available to get new information regarding health infrastructures. So I think that we covered the virtual pubic world at least in English. Maybe some data research in Arabic could bring some light. We welcome anyone with this language skill willing to help us in this research

So what’s next?

Now it’s time for Libyan citizens and local groups to help us get data from the field. HOT is developing a Web Map Server that will allow users to add directly online, the locations of new health facilities. Presuming that everyone can report about it’s own neighbourhood or village health facilities, we want the locals to get engage and share the information they know. Those new added points, combined with the already available data will help complete the Health facility registry. This is a big task as not everyone is computer literate, has internet access and is aware of our project. We will need help on spreading our word!

What happened during last week’s halt?

● The colleagues from GISCorps did an excellent work by analyzing, cleaning and correcting the geo-coding for the collected data using GIS technique and software. They added comments for each record on the Googledocs spreadsheet (Column G) to highlight if something was missing or it was not correct.

So what are we doing next?

● Look for GIScorps comments and try to solve the issues they detected (missing names, bad translations…etc)

● Validate the newly collected data. There are still some Health Facilities on the GoogleDocs spreadsheet that have a name and do not have a lat/long location, as there might be repeated points on the available GoogleDocs spreadsheets that need to be checked

●  Advocate and network! We are trying hard to make contacts with the Libyan community using all ours (and your) abilities, media knowledge and social network capacities.

●  If possible …get fresh data but without duplication.

We value the time and energy that the SBTF, HOT and GISCorps volunteers put on this project and wish to thank and congratulate  the all volunteer community for its coordinated efforts.

The SBTF will finish this deployment formally on January 14th, but we welcome all volunteers that want to continue working with us, or that want to join us, to remain active in the skype chat and to continue supporting the project as HOT and GISCorps will do.

Robert  Colombo Llimona

GIS Analyst

Vulnerability and Risk Analysis & Mapping (VRAM)

WHO Mediterranean Center for Health Risk Reduction (WMC)


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