A Shortage of psychiatrists is a problem in Africa

The stories

I just returned from a week long trip in Tanzania where I have been researching about dementia. Without pre-emptying my story I found that there is a shortage of mental health workers. But I didn’t want this to be anecdotal so I went to the World Health Organization website for statistics and compiled the graphs below.

Psychiatry has the lowest median of health workers for the whole of Africa at 0.06.

But what are the country statistics? The map below the numbers of mental health workers in 50 African states. Click this link to see the interactive data

 

Africa compares poorly with other regions such as the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development whose median number of psychiatrists in its 34 member states is 20.

Sebastiana Nkomo from the World Health Organization, attributes the shortage of mental health workers to stigma.

“Mental health has been regarded as a non- priority area of health compared to other health areas. Health professionals themselves  in the past( 10-12 years ago) considered mental health as a non-lucrative area of work compared to other health areas,” Nkomo says.

The result is that patients cannot access the required medical care.

“Access to mental health services is limited due to the shortage of professionals who are mostly concentrated in big cities thus leaving the population in the peripheral or remote areas without access to services,” Nkomo says.

Malaria hot spots

The stories

25 April is World Malaria Day, held every year to recognise the efforts being made to control the deadly disease. This year’s theme is ‘Invest in the future: defeat malaria.’ Let’s see where investments made in Africa would need to focus to make the greatest impact

Where malaria is endemic

The map below shows the countries where malaria is endemic. A link to this map is also provided here  which shows actual figures for each country.

 

Sheet 2

 

The graph below is of countries with the highest number of estimated cases of malaria

This graph shows the countries which have the least numbers of malaria cases in Africa

 

 

What is big data?

The stories

Big data has become a buzz word in the development lingo. Its origin is the United Nations high-level panel’s report on the post-2015 objectives.  The report details some priorities that the post Millennium Development Goals agenda should be focusing on from 2016 to enable countries to reduce poverty.

Its premise is that if governments and development organisations provide big data on various projects they are implementing, citizens may be able to assess their performance and hold them accountable. But what is big data?

Robert Hanna, the coordinator for Sanitation Water and People, explains:

Lending a helping hand to data journalists

Community, The stories

Organisation spearheads collaboration between programmers and journalists to help the latter acquire data journalism skills.

Data journalism is increasingly becoming a popular form of journalism. Its potential in helping scribes tell a compelling story has seen an exponential growth in projects that involve data journalism across the world. But in South Africa, this form of journalism is lagging behind due to a lack of skills. A group of geeks, has however, developed a project that seeks to train journalists to work with data.

Photo credit: Rob Enslin. Project to build data journalism teams in South African newsrooms

Adi Eyal who leads Code for South Africa, the organisation that is leading the project, speaks about this new venture they will embark on this month.

Tell us about Code for South Africa

We are an organisation that is pushing for open data in South Africa. We don’t have a culture of questioning, engaging and using information and we want to change that. Our role is to promote the use of data.

We are focused on finding answers to questions like how do we start to get people using the data that already exists? How can people use available information to make decisions about where they live or where they should send their child to school? We are focused on making people to use the information available to make informed decisions.

Where does the journalism project fit in and why the media initiative?

Journalists come to us and say they need skills. This is in response to that.

What will the media initiative involve?

This is a project that will run for six months. We will work to build data journalism teams in selected newsrooms. There are people already working as designers, software developers and journalists within newsrooms. We will create teams out of these and teach them how to work with data, where they can get it, how to clean it and what to use it for. The teams members’ different skill set should complement each other and help their publications use data to tell compelling stories. We are trying to create rock star teams out of the people that newsrooms have.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee. Data is a tool for telling a story

What data skills do newsrooms need?

Being able to access data and visualise data is important. Journalists must also have a maturity about data. This sounds touchy feely but data journalism is about understanding how to take a project from concept and what you require to turn it to a final product, which can be  cumbersome.

Data journalism has a project managerial component. One needs to see the process from start to finish.

There is need to understand and interpret it. Journalists must also verify the data because it can’t be trusted by itself.

All those skills are important.

Where can journalists find data? Where do you find yours?

There is a lot of information that is already available from various websites. It comes from the different places, such as municipality and government websites. We put it together in one place and turn it to a product that is easy to use.

Can you give us an example of one such product that you have developed?

We have developed a medical price database. Medicine prices are regulated in South Africa meaning there is a maximum amount customers should pay but people don’t know that.

We have built a mobile app that allows people to punch in the name of a medicine and it will tell them what the regulated price is and see if the pharmacy is charging that.

How easy is it to find data?

It’s not easy. There is no official open data policy. There is data that is available but no process through which data is made accessible. The Promotion of Access to Information Act insists that data must be made available rather than government proactively release it.

This is not an effective way of getting information. The process requires you to contact an information officer of the respective department from which you are seeking information. Sometimes their email bounces or they do not respond to emails. Requests can also be ignored or rejected on baseless grounds. You can appeal but that is a time consuming and expensive process. It doesn’t make it the best way of extracting data.

Any advice for data journalists?

Photo: Esther Vargas. Journalists need to be proactive in learning data skills

Journalists in South Africa can join their local hackshackers, which provides a platform for journalists and data programmers to get together to talk about data journalism projects.

Meet up with other people from your profession and from a completely different world.

It is wrong to think that just because you are not a software developer you can’t be involved.

There also needs to be more data stories. Build skills to help you dig below surface and use tools that can help ordinary readers understand the information you are relating.

Data journalists to use skills to resolve conflict in the Congo Basin

The stories

Journalists in Central Africa hope to use data to aid in efforts to resolve conflict and illegal timber trading in the region.

Project will map extent of degradation

Project will map extent of degradation

Illegal timber trading is decimating the forest reserves in the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rain forest. Much of the trading is fuelled by government troops and rebels to pay for war related expenses in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The impact of the decimation on communities hasn’t been documented but journalists in Central Africa are hoping to change that. Ten publications from Cameroon, the DRC, and the Republic of Congo are joining forces to collect data that would help map the extent of environmental degradation in the Congo Basin.

Five-year project

The publications will work together in a five-year collaborative project that is being coordinated by Earth Journalism Network (EJN), says EJN senior project coordinator, William Shubert.

“We will collect information from satellites,” Shubert says.

For EJN, using the data from satellites is also a solution to the challenges of the unavailability and inaccessibility to data that many African countries face.

He says for journalists working in countries that have strict controls on data, using existing data sets may help them leverage national governments to make data available.

Shubert, who uses the term geojournalism to describe the work that the journalists will do, says they will use satellite data to map the extent of the degradation in the rain forest.

People’s stories will provide context

They will not stop at that. The journalists are hoping to speak to local communities whose lives have been impacted by the degradation so their stories can provide meaning to the data.

“A data journalist must be able to translate knowledge to their communities. We will use data as evidence and use people’s stories to provide context of what the data means,” he says.

It also helps to make the stories easier to read and palatable for the general public, he adds.

Data to transform lives

Data to change lives

Data to change lives

Shubert believes in the potential of data journalism to transform the lives of communities that journalists work in. He says journalists will need to acquire a diversity of skills to be able to fulfil this role.

This is a lesson the organisation learnt from InfoAmazonia, a project that they developed to map logging and deforestation in the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. EJN also developed Ekuatorial.

His organisation will provide training to journalists involved in the Congo Basin project to enable them to analyse, visualise and contextualise the data that they collect. The first meeting will be held in September.

“Building such a network will help to get the stories to readers in various countries and in the international community,” he says.

The meeting will also teach the journalists how to access data.

“To know where to get data and how it can be useful is an important skill for a data journalist,” Shubert says.

Picture credit: Flickr/David Holt and See-ming Lee

More South African research chairs awarded to natural sciences

The stories

ON 3 March, the South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, announced new chairs for an initiative meant to attract world class researchers into its universities.

The government has invested R1.1billion (US$104.7 m) into the South African Research Initiatives (SARChi) since it began in 2005.

A total of 150 chairs have also been awarded to date. Lets look at how the chairs have been distributed.

18 out of a total of 23 public universities have been awarded chairs. Here is the list of the 18 universities

SARChi

UCT has the highest number of chairs at 32. UCT continues to maintain its position of Africa’s best performing university in rankings such as the QS World University Rankings.

 

The gender of only 54 of the research chairs was stated. Seventy-two percent of these are male.

A bulk of these chairs have been awarded to natural sciences

Number of chairs by discipline

Disciplines

https://infogr.am/number-of-chairs-in-disciplines?src=web

Race is an emotive and topical  issue in South Africa so I had to analyse the distribution of research chairs for 54 research chairs whose race was mentioned. Only 10 of the chairs were awarded to the previously disadvantaged races (during the apartheid era), which are black, coloured and Indian

https://infogr.am/research-chairs-by-race?src=web

Live blog of Making it Count, a conference on big data

The stories

Four international organisations held meeting on big data today. The meeting, which took place in London, sought to find solutions to overcoming challenges facing big data. Among these are the need to ensure that the public “engages” research data.

SciDev.Net, an online science publication; the  International Development Research Centre, a Canadian funder; the British Council and UKCDS, a group of UK government departments and funders involved in international development, organised the meeting.

I liveblogged the event. Click slide show in tweet below for more details: