As the Moroccan Ministry of Health, we realized that we had a unique set of considerations, as we were the only group situated in Morocco and were already familiar with the culture, customs and policies of the country. As the process of drafting a disaster response continued, we came to understand more about our specific role but initially could have a stronger sense of what it meant to be the Ministry of Health. Many of our assumptions and questions in the beginning phases of the class could have been answered if we understood the role of a ministry of health to a fuller extent, and that was something we should have taken into consideration sooner than we did.
Initially, our group assumed that we would direct the entire relief effort in Morocco. As an official government agency, we planned that all entering NGO’s and organizations would report to us and we would delegate responsibilities and resources as we saw fit. This plan, while it showed understanding that the Moroccan government needed to approve international groups before they entered Morocco, was not actually feasible to create an efficient and quick disaster relief plan. We soon realized that we had to incorporate these different groups as independent factions, and that it was our job to facilitate effective cooperation between them.
While this was mentioned this in our hypothetical plan of action, we could have gone further and enacted this network of relationships within our class. We did not communicate with the other groups outside of class time or exchange any kind of information. In hindsight, setting up a Google Document or Skype Chat with a representative from each of the groups would have been beneficial to understanding what each group was trying to accomplish and how we could all work together to achieve an ultimate goal of providing relief to the Moroccan people. We would consider intergroup collaboration (or lack thereof) to be the major flaw of our program design and execution.
For example, the Moroccan Red Crescent was one of the other groups situated in Morocco, though not necessarily affiliated with the Moroccan government. We could have easily found common ground to reach out to each other; they served our interests because they had the tangible supplies we were lacking, while we had valuable knowledge due to having a better understanding of the different areas affected by the earthquake. Even a meeting between single representatives from each group would have been helpful in facilitating an effective response plan. In a real situation, this kind of cooperative work would make sure all needs of the population were being met and prevent groups from responding to the same populations or problems.
While our overall plan remained sound, a number of unforeseen concerns related to information sharing, the program design itself, and logistical details developed as we explored different platforms. These different problems could be easily corrected by altering our initial program design. First, by defining our program in terms of short term care and long term health care we created false expectations of maintaining a standing medical structure far beyond our resources, rather than more feasible health monitoring and periodic check ups. We quickly realized that additional logistical needs, specfically security and water needs, would have to be worked into the structure of the plan. To bolster our abilities to meet these needs, we also realized that our plan required a greater information-sharing plan, both with other groups and the international community (particularly donors). Moreover, the quality and type of this information would have to be substantially different, a process that we would need to integrate into our plan from the get-go.
New technologies like Frontline SMS, Open Street Map, Ushahidi, and Google Earth directly serve our purpose as the Moroccan Ministry of Health. Using these resources would represent the first advanced recording of a disaster situation in Morocco. The rapid-response capabilities of Frontline SMS would be utilized to help those in need, and the map-drawing features of OSM, Ushahidi and Google Earth would be used to establish the locations of disaster areas and previously-unmapped slums. But these technologies also serve a longer-range purpose for the Ministry of Health, in that the data captured can be preserved on detailed maps to be studied in the future by those interested in both disaster relief and those who are working to fulfill our second action plan goal of follow-up health care.
After learning about all the different technologies that are utilized in the crisis mapping field, we would consider the incorporation of Google Earth, Frontline SMS and Ushahidi into our immediate response program for different purposes. For Frontline SMS, we would set up a system in which people can text their location and specified need for us to determine how and where to distribute our resources. This system, however, would require an automatic response mechanism in order to ensure that the people understand that their messages are being received and processed appropriately. We would then incorporate the information received onto Ushahidi Crowdmap in order to observe the trends concerning different needs and available resources. This tool would be geared more towards volunteers in the field, as well as information analysts such as crisis mappers. We would also utilize Google Earth to map information for potential donors and archiving information for future crisis response situations. We chose to use Google Earth to attract donors as we found it to be visually appealing and easy to quickly comprehend.
However, our reliance on this kind of technology for data collection and storage necessitates the inclusion of someone on our team with extensive experience with each of the platforms, and who would know how to fix them when they inevitably crash during the process of crisis mapping. We would most likely reach out to other organizations to assist us with initially setting up the platforms, such as the United Nations or the crisis mapping community. Ideally, using this technology will help facilitate cooperation with the other groups who are also on the ground, such as the Moroccan Red Crescent and the World Food Programme. These programs will give us the ability to share information as it becomes available, making our combined response more efficient.
As both the Ministry of Health and a group of university students, we were proud of our overall design and ability to adapt as the class progressed. We attribute much of our success to both our productive and creative group dynamic and a solid initial response plan and timeline.