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Web Mapping as a Humanitarian Knowledge Platform

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Obstetric fistula is a condition for which there is a significant gap in information on prevalence, incidence, outcomes, and service provision. These gaps impair treatment and response by limiting understanding on the part of donor agencies, advocates, NGOs, and health providers of the areas in greatest need of investment and support. To address some of these issues, in 2010 Direct Relief, The Fistula Foundation, and UNFPA formed a partnership to locate facilities at which services are provided, enhance coordination of resources, and improve advocacy efforts.

The Global Fistula Map is a worldwide map of treatment services for obstetric fistula. The map addresses specific knowledge gaps in service availability and provision by displaying precise locations of surgical facilities and numbers of surgeries conducted, as well as capacity information detailing frequency of services, and other relevant facility information. In addition, contextual demographic information and research articles located to facilities and geographic areas are available for display.

To best address where treatment services for obstetric fistula are available Direct Relief, The Fistula Foundation, and UNFPA used their contacts, along with seeking help from other organizations such as EngenderHealth and WAHA International, to perform online, in person, and email surveys to collect information about facilities on services provided, patients served, and location. GIS was used to plot the facilities worldwide and display associated service information. A reference layer is also available to visualize alongside the facilities, adding a novel way in which to disseminate research findings related to obstetric fistula repair and rehabilitation.

The map contains service data for over 200 facilities which provided roughly 15,000 fistula surgeries annually in 43 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In addition, over 80 research and journal articles related to incidence and prevalence can be searched and displayed.

For the Global Fistula Map to be successful it was imperative for multiple organizations to join together and pool resources, contacts, and time. Without the joint effort and participation of various organizations working in the field the full breadth of information would not have been able to be collected. Through this map access to care points and the women they treat are finally seen, aiding in a more global allocation of resources (medical materials, funds, etc.) as well as giving voice to an underserved population. The map is an evolving project updated through surveys and 'informed crowdsourcing'. The Global Fistula Map is an example of how partnerships can enable collection of knowledge from various individuals and sources to provide a fuller picture of a condition and thus build a public tool for discovering and addressing needs.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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