Mapping the Disease: Using GIS for Improving Malaria Interventions in Nigeria

Malaria GIS Day project

25th of April was World Malaria Day, an international observance commemorated every year. This year, the main theme is “End Malaria For Good”, building on the progress made in the last 15 years, with malaria mortality rates decreased by 60%. Despite the successes made in defeating malaria, there is still a lot to work on – over the last century, there have been dozens of resurgences of malaria in countries around the world. Many of this cases are directly linked to decreases in funding to fight the disease.

We did an interview with Ayodele Adeyemo, a geogeek looking for ways to leverage geospatial technologies to provide solutions for human, social and environmental challenges. Ayademo and his team – Ojumu Tijesu, a full-stack web developer Eyo O Eyo and Ogunbanwo Olumide, specialized in electronics, won the 1st prize in GIS Day Contest, awarding project ideas focused on doing valuable work in local communities with the help of geospatial technologies.

With their Malaria Risk Map project, Adeyemo, Ojumu, Eyo and Ogunbanwo want to contribute the global initiative in defeating Malaria using their expertises. Knowing that 35% of malaria deaths occur in just two countries – Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the potential impact of their efforts can be a valuable part of the worldwide fight in ending malaria for good. Find out more about their project using GIS in solving global health problems and what they are planning to do next.

 

You won the 1st prize in GIS Day contest. Can you tell us more about your project? How did you get an idea to create Malaria Risk Map?

Yes, our project is “Geospatial Modelling of Malaria Risk and Vulnerability (Severity) using Environmental, Climatic and Socio-economic factors”.

This initiative was drawn from a number of project ideas that arose in collaboration between myself and my geogeek partner Tijesu, during our internship at the National Space Agency, Nigeria. Tijesu continued to work on the idea for his final year project and this helped us to understand the dynamics of GIS in the public health. Looking at the concrete problem – Malaria, we can say that it is a big challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa based on the percentage of people that have fallen victim as well as the number of lives that are being claimed by malaria across African communities. We were also looking into finding out the number of intervention programmes focused on malaria as well as the amount of grants that have been pushed into the system. On our side, we have now made a plan to help people across communities to find out about their risk of contracting malaria (through the internet and SMS for people without internet connection) as well as a dashboard that will help the intervention programmes know where, when and how much of intervention is needed.

 

What’s the current status of your project –  in which phase are you now?

The project has been coming up slowly but at a steady pace. We have been working on different models for integration while looking for sustainable partnerships that would help us to make the project a success. We are intending to do a call for volunteers in order to gather the datasets that we need. It is worth noting that we had to scale down the project to a small geographic area at this point, so that we could have a pilot done with limited resources, to prove the concept. At the moment, we are talking with a few prospective partners who could help us with the funding for a pilot project. We hope to start with the full implementation of the pilot by the June 2016.

 

What are the main challenges you are facing with in doing this kind of a large-scale project?

The main challenges we have faced are related to data acquisition and finding funds to provide incentives for the volunteers involved in the programme as well as covering a part of our operational costs. Our partnership with GIS Cloud has alleviated over 60% of our software licenses costs. Basically, our main challenge is getting enough funds to bootstrap the project.

 

How do you think your project will impact local communities in Nigeria?

If individuals across communities can have access to real time information on their risk for contracting malaria, then they can protect themselves more efficiently from malaria by knowing what is the best time to use the antimalaria drugs. Our platform will also help intervention teams by knowing what are the best places to focus their aid per time, based on the risk indices of the communities. This could go a long way in increasing the accuracy of interventions per time.

 

April 25th is world Malaria day. What is the current situation with the spread of Malaria in population of Nigeria and what can be done to make it diminish it in the future?

Nigeria still has a long way to go as a developing country. Malaria is still endemic in this part of the world, especially in the rural communities due to a number of factors ranging from socioeconomic situation to climate etc. There are a number of NGOs, civil societies and health communities that are focused on providing aid for areas prone to malaria. Nevertheless, most of the interventions are not data driven, these organizations have a schedule of operations and they mostly focus on distributing treated mosquito nets to individuals across communities. On the other hand, there are a number of organizations that support operations with interventions using a data driven approach like Ehealth Africa. So, i think if organizations will start looking into data driven approach for solving health problems and partnering with tech startups with solutions focused on the social processes, then we can have a more efficient and effective public health system around the world.

 

What is the role of GIS in solving global health problems and helping to reduce the impact of Malaria in particular?

The relevance of GIS for public health can not be over emphasized because it provides us with the ability to conceptualize and visualize public health data while having a tool for us to understand the spatial trends and patterns of diseases and epidemics.

For instance, GIS was used by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International during  the Ebola case in Africa in 2014.  Also, with tools from GIS Cloud health officers can now gather field data in a professional and efficient manner. In the malaria case, GIS provides us a platform that enable combining different thematic layers and also creating visualizations together with running predictive model algorithms that will help to create an informed health community.

 

You are looking for local partnership to help you with the project. Can you tell us more about your plans for creating strategic partnerships?

Yes, on the local partnerships, we are working closely with Tech4Dev and Hacey Health Initiative and we currently talking about a partnership. We are also looking forward to partnering with the National Youth Corps Service programme if we can leverage their national presence for data collection using corps members as volunteers. We will also consider partnering with other health organizations within and outside Nigeria.

Follow Malaria Risk Map project on Facebook.

To support the cause, you can contact the project team via e-mail.