28 Oct 2022

Training in GIS and data analysis for the Somali Red Crescent Society

The Somali Red Crescent Society, with support from the German Red Cross, recently partnered with the Heidelberg Institute of Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT) to support its staff in the use of technical data for humanitarian purposes. This culminated in a four-day training workshop on geographic information systems (GIS) and data analysis, held from 10-14 October in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

The training, organized as part of the forecast-based financing project ‘Closing the gap between disaster preparedness and emergency relief’, aimed to enhance the participants’ skills in data preparedness and readiness. Such training is a core element of the project’s efforts to develop an early action protocol to guide anticipatory actions ahead of drought in Somaliland. Forecast-based financing initiatives rely on a well-functioning and robust system for data collection and risk monitoring, and the workshop in Hargeisa provided hands-on guidance and training in how to achieve this.

The Somali Red Crescent Society is a leading humanitarian entity in both Somalia and Somaliland, and its many staff and volunteers are responsible for collecting a wide range of data related to humanitarian needs, such as people’s vulnerability and coping capacities. However, it has some inherent gaps, which inhibit its ability to implement a coherent and unified data-collection system. These include the need to improve data analysis skills, paper-based data collection approaches, and data collection being done in silos with the findings not always being shared across the organization.

Hands-on training

30 participants from the Somali Red Crescent Society, from Somaliland and Somalia, attended the workshop, which was divided into theoretical and practical parts. This setup ensured that participants not only gained an improved understanding of geodata and its related tools and analyses, but also learned how to apply and work with geodata, using examples from their own work.

Topics covered included: (open) geo data sources; data handling, cleaning and analyses; and map-making and (geo)data collection. Participants were also able to expand their knowledge around Excel and its functionalities, as well as its visualization potential. Another focus area was the basics of QGIS, routing and accessibility analyses, as well as local (geo)data collection and related applications in the context of forecast-based financing in Somaliland and Somalia.

These skills will help the participants to better plan and conduct (geo)data collection in the field, to analyse (geo)data in a strategic manner, and to visualize it accordingly. This in turn will lead activities being better planned and implemented, and help to guarantee high-quality reporting, for example to their head offices.

“It was great to see how much participants learned in just these couple of days, and we want to thank all the motivated participants for their contributions and valuable inputs,” said Anne Schauss and Alec Schulze-Eckel (HeiGIT). “And this was only the first training event; we are already looking forward to building on this basis for the next one.”

The Somali Red Crescent Society intends to use the knowledge its staff and volunteers gained to:

  • adopt open-source tools for (geo)data analysis and GIS
  • improve data analysis and representation of findings (e.g., using pivot tables, graphs and maps)
  • adopt digital tools for certain activities (e.g., the Sketch Map tool when conducting enhanced vulnerability and capacity assessments)
  • conduct mapathons to collect geodata about their areas of interest
  • spatially represent disaster/incidence occurrences through mapping (e.g., locust invasions, cholera incidences, flooded sites).

This article was written by Anne Schauss, Alec Schulze-Eckel, Melanie Eckle-Elze (HeiGIT) and Richard Muchena (German Red Cross).