Halidou Beidou Rachidatou rose early on a steamy May morning in Niamey, Niger’s capital, to prepare for the journey ahead.

Equipped with a GPS tracker and her motorcycle, Rachidatou joined teams of data collectors on an important assignment: to map Niger’s unmapped roads on behalf of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a U.S. government initiative launched in 2005 to control and eliminate malaria.

Rachidatou and her colleagues were working to determine how long it takes for more than 300 health facilities to receive shipments of malaria medicine and other supplies. They also collected information on 130 supply chain performance areas, such as storage conditions and internet connectivity.

When asked about the most challenging aspect of her job, Rachidatou answers without hesitation: “The state of the roads! The place you’re going may not be far, but it takes forever to get there.”

This makes delivering health supplies to remote communities one of the most difficult aspects of the public health supply chain in Niger. For the supply chains that serve them, these challenges are compounded by maps that lack accurate information on the location of health facilities.

This lack of information became evident after Niger became a PMI focus country in 2018. It was then the United States Agency for International Development, on behalf of PMI, started working with the government of Niger on plans to distribute malaria supplies to communities as part of a USAID supply chain project.

Men standing outside looking at tablets (USAID)
Data collectors Djibo Boureima, Ibrahim Salifou Maman Sani, and Abdoulaye Ali take GPS coordinates outside a health center in Niger. (USAID)

“Google Maps had some roads, but not all,” said Eric Coulibaly, USAID’s PMI resident adviser. “Some facilities looked like they were islands in the middle of a desert.”

So using the data collected by Rachidatou and her colleagues, USAID mapped roads and geographic coordinates for all sites. Then they entered the information into OpenStreetMap, an open-source and editable world map.

Team members also worked with senior government officials to demonstrate how the data can identify more efficient models for getting supplies all the way to their destination. The data collected and the modeling sessions are a first step in identifying efficiencies and solutions for warehousing and distribution that can be used to inform Niger’s national supply chain strategy.

A longer version of this article is available from USAID.