‘Burundi anti-malaria campaign: Covering the gap’ - A Year of Blogs - January 2020

29 January 2020

More than two thirds of Burundi’s 11-million population reportedly suffered from malaria since January 2019. Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has contained the disease from spreading in eastern Burundi with an indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaign to protect some 300,000 inhabitants for months to come from the malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Apart from treating active cases, what can you do to fight a malaria outbreak? Reach every home in highly affected regions, aiming at the best coverage possible. The country’s health authorities requested MSF to help. As large parts of the area were not mapped, Missing Maps volunteers stepped in and traced nearly 90 000 buildings in the rural region of Ruyigi near the border with Tanzania. Over the following month, 64 teams on the ground managed to spray 97% of those households in the health district of Kinyinya.

The challenge of covering a large territory with settlements far apart could be tackled thanks to a meticulous preparation and organization with the help of geographic information systems (GIS). Traoré B. Housséini, MSF Water and Sanitation Manager explains: “It helps us plan all aspects of the IRS activity: the size of the teams, the number of days required and the associated financial aspects.”

Till October 9, MSF teams dispatched mainly on foot, bikes or motorbikes visiting nearly 60 000 houses. Two mobile connectivity kits ensured connectivity of more than 200 devices equipped with GIS applications (OsmAnd) and a data collection tool (KoboToolbox). The teams marked on an interactive map whether each home was sprayed, found empty, residents refused spraying or other. Every evening, the fresh data from the house-by-house monitoring was compiled, giving a real-time picture of the IRS campaign’s progress.

This set-up contributed to the quality and availability of the data, supported data analysis and aided in decision-making. This project shows the value of adapting the way the humanitarian operations are carried out to use advanced GIS technologies, in particular in MSF community-based activities like vaccination, distribution and follow-up. Besides the know-how and motivation, if powered by the right technology, they deliver results more effectively.

by Jana Bauerová