Right to Care assists South Africa in limiting the spread of Covid-19 by using GIS

Information from Right to Care

Right to Care is supporting the South African Department of Health with its coronavirus response by providing training and technical assistance including coordination, dedicated disaster management, geographic information system (GIS) mapping, enhanced surveillance, case identification and contact tracing, enhancing capacity for screening, testing, case management and communication.

Dr Dorman Chimhamhiwa, GIS and planning department head at healthcare NPO Right to Care, says GIS is helpful in managing the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa’s densely populated communities. “We have been able look at social vulnerability geo mapping and that allows us to provide insights on how vulnerable our communities are to Covid-19. When you have that information, you can then build the right package of responses around that community.”

Right to Care has previously used GIS during the West Africa Ebola epidemic and for the HIV/Aids epidemic in South Africa and other African countries. Since the current coronavirus outbreak began, the organisation has been collaborating with the Department of Health and has been providing GIS mapping and spatial analytics support.

Chimhamhiwa and his team have been assisting provinces in the country in mapping cases and their contacts, areas where screening is being conducted, detailed mapping of socially vulnerable communities and hotspots and overall support to Covid-19 monitoring and evaluation.

For example, in Mpumalanga province, Right to Care is working with the government to track the virus in Covid-19 hotspots. Using GIS, contact tracing teams have traced all contacts, and those diagnosed with Covid-19 have been provided with hospital care and support.

Chimhamhiwa says mapping cases as they happen also provides valuable and instant information that helps understand why there are hotspots in certain areas.

In some instances, it could be that people are not abiding by lockdown rules, cannot self-isolate because their living conditions do not allow or are exposed to Covid-19 when they make use of public transport. With this information, decision makers can decide how and where to prioritise healthcare and other interventions to limit the spread.

“Through spatial modelling, GIS plays a very key role in terms of when and where are we likely to run out of hospital beds and what interventions should we put in place now, like increasing capacity, ICU beds capacity, bringing in more ventilators or the best location for a temporary healthcare facility if needed,” Chimhamhiwa says.

In addition to providing GIS support in Mpumalanga, Right to Care is also an implementing partner in the Free State, has begun assisting the Eastern Cape and is also working with the Zambian government where cases have increased.

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