The application of geographic information systems and global positioning systems in humanitarian emergencies: Lessons learned, programme implications and future research

Reinhard Kaiser, Paul B. Spiegel, Alden K. Henderson, Michael L. Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems and remote sensing have been increasingly used in public health settings since the 1990s, but application of these methods in humanitarian emergencies has been less documented. Recent areas of application of GIS methods in humanitarian emergencies include hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessments; rapid assessment and survey methods; disease distribution and outbreak investigations; planning and implementation of health information systems; data and programme integration: and programme monitoring and evaluation. The main use of GIS in these areas is to provide maps for decision-making and advocacy, which allow overlaying types of information that may not normally be linked. GIS is also used to improve data collection in the field (for example, for rapid health assessments or mortality surveys). Development of GIS methods requires further research. Although GIS methods may save resources and reduce error, initial investment in equipment and capacity building may be substantial. Especially in humanitarian emergencies, equipment and methodologies must be practical and appropriate for field use. Add-on software to process GIS data needs to be developed and modified. As equipment becomes more user-friendly and costs decrease, GIS will become more of a routine tool for humanitarian aid organisations in humanitarian emergencies, and new and innovative uses will evolve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-140
Number of pages14
JournalDisasters
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Geographic information
  • Global positioning systems
  • Humanitarian emergencies
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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