Geospatial data informs routine vaccination strategies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Routine vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is informed by a planning process referred to as “microplanning”. In the microplanning process, information about the number, age, distribution of the population, and the names of settlements are collected by local health workers and community volunteers. Collecting and compiling this information needed for vaccine delivery, however, has been time-consuming and challenging in the DRC. Often, decisions about the quantity and distribution of resources rely on population data that were collected in 1984. These challenges—coupled with hard-to-reach and highly mobile populations, stockouts, and imprecise service area boundaries—contribute to poor vaccination rates. Poor vaccination coverage causes 1.5 million deaths globally from vaccine-preventable illnesses annually, many of which are children under five years old.
In an effort to understand the true extent of vaccine-preventable deaths, the GRID3 Mapping for Health (M4H) team in close coordination with DRC’s Ministry of Health utilised a participatory mapping approach to map settlements and health facilities and delineate health area boundaries. This information is crucial to developing vaccination strategies and assembling the appropriate resources required for targeted interventions.
Developing the maps
GRID3’s participatory mapping approach involved training local health workers to collect information on settlements, health facilities, and health area boundaries. This information was combined with GRID3 population estimates to produce maps that can be used to support vaccination efforts in the DRC.
In January 2020, the GRID3 M4H team organised a Kwilu Province Digital Microplanning Workshop in Kinshasa, DRC to pilot integration of the maps within the current microplanning process. Stakeholders from various levels of DRC’s health system were in attendance including: Ministry of Health, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (Programme Elargi de Vaccination) (PEV), National Health Information System Division (Division du Système National d’Informations Sanitaires (DSNIS), and Central Bureau of Census (BCR).
While reviewing the maps, stakeholders calculated distances, estimated travel times, designated vaccination outreach sites, and identified populations routinely overlooked. Workshop participants also compared health area sketches to maps of the same area and discussed advantages and disadvantages of both. Some of the feedback included the following:
“Atelier de grande importance pour nous permettre d’ameliorer les couvertures dans le service de vaccination.”
Translated: “The workshop was of great importance to allow us to improve coverage of the vaccination service.”
“Atelier super interessant, le digital au service de la microplanification, INNOVATION sans contest. BRAVO. C’est une suggestion qui consiste au renforcement des capacités à tous les niveaux.”
Translated: “Super interesting workshop, digital at the service of microplanning, INNOVATION beyond compare. WELL DONE. This is a suggestion which consists of capacity building at all levels.”
“Nous sommes émerveillés du contenu qui va nous permettre à changer nos décisions en fonction des données géo-spatiales.”
Translated: “We are amazed at how the content will allow us to change our decisions based on geospatial data.”
As a next step, the GRID3 M4H team will use feedback from the workshop to update existing maps by September 2020 (when microplanning will begin in the DRC).