Three lit­tle words cre­at­ing a safer com­mu­nity

Vuk'uzenzele - - Youhtehalftohcus - Su­laiman Philip

us­iNG aN iN­No­va­Tive global map­ping sys­tem, a lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion is help­ing to bring health­care to some of South Africa’s most dif­fi­cult-to-find places.

KwaN­dengezi, out­side Dur­ban, is a com­mu­nity of 54 000. It is a col­lec­tion of brick build­ings and self-built homes of zinc sheet­ing, re­cy­cled bricks and wood. Roads do not have names and un­less you live in the sprawl­ing 14km² town­ship, it is easy to get lost.

As Them­binkosi Les­ley Dladla, an Emer­gency Man­age­ment Res­cue Ser­vices (EMRS) shift su­per­vi­sor, ex­plains: “As an EMRS [of­fi­cer], my work doesn’t have any bound­aries – we work the whole of Dur­ban. It’s very dif­fi­cult in the town­ships, be­cause they don’t have road names writ­ten, and they also don’t have house num­bers.” Am­bu­lances can take hours to reach pa­tients. Of­ten a whole day will pass be­fore an am­bu­lance can find pa­tients. They, as well as com­mu­nity health work­ers, have to rely on res­i­dents to give them di­rec­tions. For the com­mu­nity, de­scrip­tive di­rec­tions are the eas­i­est ways to nav­i­gate the chaotic streets of the town­ship.

Mak­ing use of global map­ping

A lo­cal health NGO, Gate­way Health In­sti­tute, is pi­lot­ing a project in KwaN­dengezi that will map the en­tire town­ship. For the first time res­i­dents will have an ad­dress they can use when call­ing for med­i­cal help.

The NGO is us­ing what3­words, a global on­line map­ping sys­tem, to cre­ate unique ad­dresses for the town­ship. The sys­tem breaks the globe into a grid of 57 tril­lion 3m x 3m squares. Each has a pre-as­signed and fixed three-word ad­dress.

Gate­way’s field­work­ers helped res­i­dents iden­tify their lo­ca­tions on a satel­lite map and then printed their three-word ad­dresses on plas­tic signs that were at­tached to their homes. The ad­dresses are reg­is­tered in a data­base, and the NGO is able to iden­tify what med­i­cal ser­vices are needed where.

The map­ping service has helped to in­crease the num­ber of preg­nant women re­ceiv­ing home visit an­te­na­tal care. When med­i­cal help is needed it can be dis­patched to a mapped lo­ca­tion and am­bu­lance crews know where to go to pro­vide life-sav­ing as­sis­tance.

Be­yond pro­vid­ing ad­dresses to homes in KwaN­dengezi, Gate­way is also work­ing with the Kwazulu-Natal Depart­ment of Health map­ping com­mu­nity as­sets such as lo­cal gov­ern­ment cen­tres, clin­ics and pumps that pro­vide clean drink­ing wa­ter. The aim is to build a de­tailed map for the res­i­dents that can be used by busi­nesses and the gov­ern­ment to im­prove the lives of the com­mu­nity.

The project was be­gun by Dr Coe­nie Louw, founder and di­rec­tor of Gate­way.

Ad­dress­ing a prob­lem

Gate­way runs com­mu­nity health ser­vices in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. The most im­por­tant med­i­cal ser­vices it of­fers are de­liv­ery of medicines and emer­gency trans­port for women in labour: 50 per cent of births in KwaN­dengezi take place at home. Be­fore the project be­gan an am­bu­lance could take up to four hours to reach a woman in dis­tress.

At first, Louw tried us­ing phone masts to tri­an­gu­late lo­ca­tions. “I spent two years try­ing to find a way to ac­tu­ally pin­point the lo­ca­tion of a preg­nant woman in dis­tress.”

The project is also be­ing used to al­le­vi­ate un­em­ploy­ment in the town­ship — 11 pre­vi­ously un­em­ployed young­sters were trained as field­work­ers to help res­i­dents iden­tify their ad­dresses and to help load lo­ca­tion and health in­for­ma­tion on Gate­way’s data­base.

The map­ping service has helped med­i­cal ser­vices reach re­mote ar­eas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.