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Volunteers assisting the International Rescue Committee in DRC

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) requested the assistance of GISCorps volunteers for digitizing the boundaries of health zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Two volunteers from California were recruited for this project. They were: Barry Gauthier and Dimo Diakov who both work for the City of Beverly Hills, CA. They prepared the following report:

By: Barry Gauthier & Dimo Diakov

A Beginning for the Health Zones for International Rescue Committee

Project Summary

The International Rescue Committee is an organization that responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people survive and rebuild their lives.  They work in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities to restore safety, dignity and hope; the IRC leads the way from harm to home. This non-profit organization requested the assistance of GISCorps volunteers to develop a layer illustrating the boundaries of Health Zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Once again the IRC is working in a country that faces a number of health and welfare challenges. Some of the facts – according to  – are that “Fewer than a quarter of people have proper sanitation facilities and fewer than half access to clean water.” Essentially what this translates to is that the water-borne maladies such as cholera, diarrhea, and bilharzia are common. Cholera is commonplace and many who contract the disease simply do not have the health facilities, or resources to receive treatment.  The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “In less than five years, more than 3 million people have died – most from preventable and treatable diseases.” All of this has to be, in part, because of the lack of hospitals and facilities. There is a constant risk of epidemic, and so an international effort is needed to create an infrastructure that will provide the necessary services.

To apply GIS technology to assist in this effort through the creation of a National Health Zone GIS layer is extremely beneficial. The layer can be used to do such things as help to track the flow of badly needed funds into the area to which it belongs. By providing updated Zones, spatial joins with tabular data enable the assignment of specific areas to a region.  The IRC can provide electronic boundaries to select data from custom point sets generated by Zone from national point layers. Boundaries can also be provided to staff in the field to utilize at any sites that are set up, assisting in uniform use of this GIS layer.

Layers Used:

 Process & Progress

Although the amount of work was substantial, essentially the process was very straight forward. To facilitate the work, the raster of the original map was georeferenced at the beginning. The project was then divided in half to allow for a balanced project load. Once the polygon work was completed, the QA/QC began to fit the boundaries as closely as possible to the original raster.  Next it was decided that we would move ahead on the installation of the district numbering from the original source files.

Going forward

There were additional columns to be added to the database and the district naming convention still requires additional work.


Website – A  prototype web map was developed in ArcGIS Online to track the project progress, and can be used going forward to assist the IRC if needed in any number of ways:

Figure 1. Shows the Basemap overview of Provinces at 1:100 k

Figure 2. Shows the Health Zones.

Prototype Web map location (ArcGIS Online Map)

Wall Map – The International Rescue Committee can further be assisted by a large wall map for easy reference to any particular area of concern within the DRC.  This map could be distributed to any who may require an understandng of a particular Health Zone.

Figure 3: Shows the Health Districts.

Geodatabase – The IRC will be receiving a complete geodatabase of all project layers, and the project MXD featuring the wall map above. Additionally the IRC will be receiving an electronic version of the wall map in pdf format for their use. Currently the Web map is in prototyping stage, but it is expected to become available soon.

Other Possible Deliverables – Any number of demographic layers can be generated using the Health District and Health Zones layers.

Lessons Learned – GIS is an exciting set of technologies that can be brought to bear on the many issues facing the Democratic Republic of Congo. This project emphasized to us the need to put GIS to use in the field. With a concerted effort progress can be made to apply this technology to help address different problems ranging from tracking infectious disease to following any of the health related social issues.

Going Forward – It is possible that efforts can be made in cooperation with the DRC authorities to boost the use of GIS technology.  These efforts can be very fruitful, and will ensure the resources go where they will do the most good – to the people affected. It’s important to reach out and assist those in need to make a difference. And especially so with organizations like the International Rescue Committee and GISCorps. Our many thanks to you both for your tireless efforts to make a better world by making a difference in peoples’ lives!

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