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By Om G | 13 Jan, 2010 Last edited by Robert Szypko on 01 Aug 2011

The recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti/DR seems like an opportunity for the Health IT community to shine.

With a major relief effort underway I'm curious about what I/We can contribute to maximize the efficiency of delivery and improve the long term outcome of this highly visible situation.

Generating interest in viable solutions will surely be a benefit to all.



Hamish Fraser, MBChB, MRCP, MSc Moderator Emeritus Replied at 7:34 PM, 13 Jan 2010

Although it is early at present and we are learning new information all the time, some things stand out for me about the situation in Haiti.

People quickly become dependent on communication systems particularly cell phones. Because PIH started working in Haiti more than a decade ago we have always had our own communication systems, currently satellite internet links. These are independent of the terrestrial communication infrastructure and we have independent power systems such as generators to support them. So the last 24 hours we have had a constant stream of communications by email and sometimes Skype which has been enormously important in locating people and starting a massive relief effort. We are currently supplementing this with some of our satellite phones for people on the road or in Port au Prince.

The second issue is the need for very effective logistics and supply chain management. We currently handle drugs for more than 2.5 million patient visits a year - 33 container loads in 2008. We use a web based pharmacy tracking system to monitor the stocks, stock movements and consumption. This system includes all of our surgical supplies which are crucially important just now. We now need to get tons of surgical supplies to our sites and Port au Prince as fast as possible and are planning that over email.

There is a need for a rapidly setup inventory system in emergencies that could be linked to a patient registry especially for surgery. This will be very helpful in tracking what is being used and speed restocking. A collaborator at MSF in Haiti has been using OpenMRS to manage their surgical cases for the last few months. He would like a cell phone or PDA based patient and stock management capability also. We are currently creating a new version of our pharmacy system that is easier to set up in new sites with limited infrastructure and communications.


John MIHIGO Replied at 9:54 AM, 14 Jan 2010

Je suis de coeur avec le peuple haitien, le coup est tres grave.

Je suis libre d'apporter mon aide la-bas comme expert ICT, avec dix ans d'experience sur reseaux locaux et internet, telephonie fixe et GSM, PABX, Database admin...Si besoin/possibilite est, n'hesitez pas de me contacter. Je parle couramment et ecris tres bien le Francais, l'Anglais, le Lingala et le Swahili.


Tel: +250 788511917
+250 255100798 (Habitation)

Sophie Beauvais Replied at 2:54 PM, 14 Jan 2010

Merci John pour cet offre – je l’ai transmise à nos amis et collègues a Zanmi Lasante.

Il semble que le réseau Internet fonctionne toujours : http://news.blog.lemonde.fr/2010/01/14/ce-nest-pas-internet-qui-ne-fonctionne... (Le Monde)

En plus du twitter feed de Partners In Health-Zanmi Lasante avec des annonces sur les besoins immédiats (http://twitter.com/pih_org - PIH est une des organisations fondatrices de GHD et GHDonline), il y a aussi celui-ci: http://twitter.com/InternetHaiti

Un autre article interessant en anglais cette fois sur les efforts de Wyclef Jean et les dons par SMS/Interesting article on Wyclef Jean and his efforts to get donations via sms :
Donating by Text: Haiti Fundraising Goes Viral

Solidarité et courage pour tous en Haïti.

Hamish Fraser, MBChB, MRCP, MSc Moderator Emeritus Replied at 1:01 PM, 15 Jan 2010

There is an article on the BBC web site (with video) on the role of satellite internet and voice systems in disasters. They have descriptions of how one major provider Inmarsat is responding and the huge rise in bandwidth use in Haiti. This very much bears our our experience at PIH.


Sophie Beauvais Replied at 3:49 PM, 15 Jan 2010

Thanks for sharing - also:
Haiti Earthquake Update: AIDG's Catherine Lainé, live from Haiti (BB Video)

An interview via Skype video from Cap-Haïtien with Haitian-American blogger and sustainable tech development activist Catherine Lainé (she was in Haiti when the catastrophic earthquake struck)
“Among the observations she shares: aid groups are running out of body bags, and corpses are piling up so fast that the morgues have no space. The internet is a vital form of communication, and she is seeing people in Haiti using social networking services as a means to try and locate missing loved ones in Haiti. The environment is so chaotic and roads so badly damaged that even in-country, social networking services like Facebook are playing a vital role in the reconnection process. Don't assume that because Haiti is so poor, nobody's using the internet. She says cell service has been spotty, with certain carriers performing better than others. She connected to us using WIMAX: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WiMAX) and the degree to which that service has performed during the disaster makes her a real believer in the promise of that particular wireless technology.


Om G Replied at 1:59 AM, 16 Jan 2010


not sure what kind of logistical tracking PIH is using here or in Haiti but I can help put relevant data into handheld devices once internet connectivity comes back up.

What I mean is users in the field making updates with images and annotations using their GPS enabled phones, all feeding to a central map+database.

Possibly useful here to coordinate relief scheduling but much more important there to systematically manage treatment.


Aaron Beals Replied at 5:16 PM, 19 Jan 2010

Today, the mapping company DeLorme announced that they are providing detailed GPS-accurate data for Haiti -- free of charge to those working in Haiti:


Om G Replied at 1:22 AM, 20 Jan 2010

Thanks Aaron, that's good news.

I was describing a self contained system that allows field workers to
update the overall situation map from web enabled phones and add
photo/video/voice comments.

All users are tracked in realtime and the compiled data can be used in
the collaborative environment pretty much any way needed.

Not much use until the net is working again, but hopefully that will be


Aaron Beals Replied at 1:46 AM, 21 Jan 2010

Om, I like the idea of such a system -- when you say "self-contained", do you mean that the devices could be used even when traditional infrastructure (i.e. Internet connectivity) is broken? Thinking perhaps using ad-hoc networks for communication...

Also, there was a post on the NPR blog today about the efforts of tech folks to help Haiti: http://www.npr.org/blogs/inside/2010/01/tech_community_steps_up_for_ha.html?s...

Very much along the lines of our discussion here -- if any of you are free this Saturday and are in one of the CrisisCamp cities, it sounds like an excellent way to help out.

Om G Replied at 7:39 AM, 26 Jan 2010


Crisis Camp was awesome. What a great happening and all the folks were really motivated. Some good stuff is still to come from that.

What I meant by self contained was that the company has developed an online environment that is javascript based. It integrates GIS tile server with typical collaborative tools and database interaction. Being 'inside' their workspace allows things like multiple windows to be open simultaneously showing different data overlays and scrolling one map would move the rest (or not) and you could have a screen with speadsheet interface that is directly linked to the image server. The way they have done this, enough of the processing load is placed on the local machine so having a lot of views open on all of the clients won't impact the 'main' server terribly. The whole thing is served through a browser window, so no desktop app is required and the workspace will remember 'your' setup wherever you connect from.

Image modification happens on the server, which is then fed out to whichever device requests that tile. It is fairly close to realtime and can integrate a wide variety of imagery. The database functionality likewise can integrate any number of data types, so what you end up with is robust two way situational awareness and tracking with GPS + Wifi triangulation on mobile phones and any Windows CE device.

If there existing ad-hoc networks this could work but it is not part of their solution specifically. I'm not sure that a mini notebook PC hooked up to HF Radio using Packet protocol wouldn't work as well. Although for updates in an austere environment I'd imagine you'd just want to send rather than waste bandwidth on downloading tiles to the updating machine.

One really nice feature of the 'system' is the ability to update using mobile phone to provide geolocated voice and video annotations.

The reason I brought this up in the first place is because folks are reproducing many of these functionalities and this was a ready made solution.

Although, as time wears on, the patchwork of other options is materializing so a proprietary solution may not be desired... but it is a little frustrating to watch.

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