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Together with Africa
January 18, 2011

For the past three months Together with Africa has reminded us on a weekly basis to pray for a peaceful referendum in Sudan. Now we will return to our bi-weekly schedule, continuing periodic coverage of Sudan, but also offering information and analysis, prayer and signs of hope from other parts of the African continent. We begin with what we hope is a sign of hope in Nairobi.

Kenya: Mapping Kibera to improve living conditions

The following article appeared on IRIN’s website.

Kibera is one of the most densely populated districts of Kenya’s capital and one of the most researched urban areas in Africa. Hundreds, if not thousands, of NGOs work there, serving a community estimated to number anywhere between 100,000 and a million. Yet, until recently, the sprawling slum of Kibera barely featured on any detailed maps.

As a result, basic information, such as the location and number of schools, churches, health centers, water points and other amenities was simply not available except to people living or working in their immediate vicinity.

According to IRIN (1/6/11), the Map Kibera project, launched just over a year ago, has filled in many of these gaps.

Nine Kibera residents were trained to use hand-held global positioning system (GPS) devices and to collect geographic information in the dozen “villages” that make up the slum. The information they collected is now freely available on Open StreetMap, a map of the entire world that anyone can edit.

“We wanted to make people know more about their own community, for example, where - and which - are the best hospitals. For this to happen, we are in dialogue with the community, we hear about their needs before mapping,” said Hassan, one of the Kibera residents involved in the process.

The Map Kibera project is now in a second phase, which involves more detailed mapping of four categories: health, security, education and water/sanitation, and includes information such as a health center’s opening hours and services offered.

“When we mapped education, for instance, we checked on the number of schools, where they are and how many children are attending each one - and found out that Kibera has only three public schools and hundreds of private ones,” explained senior mapper Jaine Bisanju.

There are three more goals on the list: to start mapping Mathare, another slum in Nairobi; obtain names for Kibera’s streets, and print the maps to distribute to the local population. “We are planning on printing the maps to distribute them in schools and public places and also paint them on Kibera’s walls to reach the community,” she added.

According to the project’s organizers, as well as helping Kibera’s residents, the data gathered has been used by groups working in health, gender-based violence, sanitation, new mobile-phone services, farm-to-market supply chains, large-scale conflict mapping, and peace promotion.

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