GIS Workshop Held in Uganda

A MEASURE Evaluation-led workshop in Uganda taught participants how they can provide health care and other services to at-risk, remote populations. Attendees learned how to use geographic information systems (GIS) and maps to determine where isolated populations may be located and what barriers might keep these populations from accessing services.

GIS Workshop in Uganda Photo
Jen Curran, MEASURE Evaluation

A MEASURE Evaluation-led training session in Uganda taught participants how they can provide health services to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and other at-risk, remote populations through geographic information systems (GIS). Held Nov. 27-30, 2012, the training advised attendees on using GIS and geo-spatial data, such as maps, to improve OVC programs’ organization and monitoring and evaluation efforts, identify program recipients, and expand program reporting. Following the workshop, participants are using their newfound GIS knowledge to determine where isolated populations are located and overcome geographic barriers, such as high mountains or wide rivers, to bring care and health services to them. Training sessions also focused on these topics.

Godfrey Prince Wandera, a management information systems officer with the Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative in Uganda, attended the training and says his organization is using skills learned during training to identify areas where most-at-risk individuals for HIV and AIDS, such as truck drivers, are located in and around Kampala. Using a mobile clinic, the project’s staff members then visit these groups and provide HIV counseling, testing, and antiretroviral therapy medication. Wandera said the clinic makes trips about every three days to assist vulnerable populations.

“You can find their location, the obstacle, and then you can plan how to reach them,” says Wandera. “That’s the knowledge we took (from training) and we used it.”

He and the 20 other participants who took part in training are monitoring and evaluation and OVC technical officers working with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Uganda.

GIS helps users to visualize “hot spots,” or areas where something is concentrated, such as HIV and AIDS or another illness when working in health. Users can then map out these areas and determine if they are far from infrastructures, such as health centers and schools. Individuals who are far from these resources often lack access to care, safe water, and education. But if individuals are identified through GIS or mapping, services can come to them and recommendations for placing resources near them can be made. Additionally, mapping can help in referring these clients to close, accessible service providers.

The Uganda training primarily focused on using GIS and mapping to aid OVC. Training included exercises and group work, as well as practice with data participants brought with them that involved their own projects. Quantam GIS (QGIS) and Google Earth were the main tools taught in the workshop, which was held at the Permanent Centre for Education in Kampala.

Wandera said while his organization currently faces budgetary constraints that prevent it from obtaining and using all of the software and GPS devices taught in the training, the ability to put into place the ideas they learned is valuable to current and future work.

It “helps us in planning,” he said. “Clients are always shifting, so it’s important to follow them as they shift.”