Mapping training at College of Medicine, Blantyre

06 May 2019

A one week Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) course was hosted at the College of Medicine, Blantyre Malawi in May 2019. The course was delivered with the support of two LSTM projects, PIIVeC (Partnership for Increasing the Impact of Vector Control) and GIVeS (Geographical Information for Vector Surveillance) and involved 25 participants from a range of Malawian organisations. These included the National Malaria Control Programme, Malaria Alert Centre (MAC), Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme (MLW), College of Medicine among others. The training was conducted by Michelle Stanton from Lancaster University, Tiago Canelas from LSTM and supported by James Chirombo from MLW.

The training was delivered over five days. The first four days focused on theory and instructor-led practical examples, whereas on the final data the participants were encouraged to work on data relating to their own projects. We delivered the training using the open source software QGIS to produce maps and Open Data Kit (ODK) to create digital surveys. Topics addressed were: Introduction to GIS and QGIS; Finding, generating and creating spatial data; Collecting spatial data using ODK; A brief introduction to raster data; Contributing to Open Street Maps (OSM).

By the end of the training the participants were able to display their spatial data into a map, add information from external sources and create a proper map with all the cartographic elements to explain a public health problem. Others participants chose to use the final day of the training to create digital questionnaires that could be used for their own project, whereas some decided to spend their time updating the spatial information in OSM to improve the maps of areas of interest such as those associated with their own studies The training culminated with each participant giving a two minute presentation on their work, which included a broad range of topics including maps of typhoid vaccine trials, malaria prevalence, entomological surveys, location of health clinics and among other public health topics.

The participants engaged actively in the training and the feedback was very positive. Some of the future applications of this training will be:

“I will use the ODK skills to upload questionnaires for my work; I will use OSM to map and label areas in my study sites. Hopefully this will help other people who are interested in working in those areas”

“I will train the students I teach in QGIS, I will use it in producing maps for my publications, in the future I plan to use it in monitoring success of interventions in pest control”

“Assist the government in mapping agricultural sites for technical activities. Help in mapping areas in time of natural disasters e.g. floods, cyclones”


For further information on the GIVeS project visit