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GISCorps volunteer develops Vulnerability Indices Web Map - Nepal

By: Brian Baldwin

In the aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake, getting access to information relevant to humanitarian programming has been a big problem. Baseline data are key to humanitarian response both as a way to highlight potentially vulnerable populations, and also as a way to guide the response in its aim to assist the affected community to rebuild their homes and livelihoods as soon as possible. With devastation having occurred over vast expanses of the entire region, assessing the range of destruction in rural regions was a problem.

One organization working on the ground in Nepal to assist with the recovery is the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS).  ACAPS is a consortium of NGOís that was created in 2009 with the aim of supporting the humanitarian community with needs assessments.
To assist with the visualization of Nepalese vulnerability indicators and assist with project planning, ACAPS reached out to GISCorps.  The ability to visualize this data (e.g. 2011 census data, 2014 MICS) using the standardized geographic units being used by responders is key. A number of resources were available on The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) website, but trying to make sense of all of this information and take action based on it was difficult.

One of the most important data sets were indicators from a Nepalese survey taken before the earthquake that could be used as broad vulnerability indicators.  This data existed in a tabular format, but it was difficult to share with donors or other agencies and let people get a clear understanding of what was happening on the ground.

An earlier effort by GISCorps and SWB resulted in cleansing the datasets and making them available both for this phase and this application as well as on HDX website. 

Brian James Baldwin has been a volunteer with GISCorps since 2009 and currently works for Esri as a Technical Specialist.  To make the data accessible, the tabular data was joined to regional data.

Caption: The mapping application provides a quick visualization of the Nepalese Vulnerability indices.

Using the ArcGIS Online platform, GISCorps created a Nepal Vulnerability Indices mapping application that lets users see all administrative levels of Nepal.  Most importantly, the tool lets users query on all of the vulnerability indices to select out regions that exceed user defined thresholds.  Rather than simply visualizing where the highest levels of poverty exist, users can select thresholds for upwards of ten different indices at one time, to find districts that match the criteria (e.g. malnutrition rates can be overlaid with access to water).

The entire application was a configuration and required no coding or development.  After the data was cleaned up and matched to the geography, it was hosted on ArcGIS Online and the map and application were created in a few hours.

In just two weeks, the data was created, the map and application were tested and deployed, and the map was being used live in the field and was embedded into the UNís Nepal Information Platform website.

ACAPS, the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) and the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) are also currently working on a project to improve coordination of data gathering and use in the early phases of disaster response, and as baseline data are so important to this, they are planning to use the work done here as an example of how baseline data should be visualized in future emergencies.

Caption: Users can select ranges of values from all of the vulnerability indices, to select regions that meet specific criteria.

To see the application, please visit: Nepal Vulnerability Indices