GPS data failing USAID hospitals in Afghanistan

A trio of rRecent bombings of Doctors Without Borders hospitals in the Middle East underscore a serious problem for the U.S. military and its coalition forces: The geospatial coordinates for a number of Afghanistan medical clinics are incorrect in data shared between the U.S. and allies in the region.

In a report published earlier this month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), some 10 of the 32 medical clinics set up by the U.S Agency for International Development in the Kabul region have incorrect GPS coordinates, according to a Motherboard article.

USAID since 2008 has spent nearly $260 million on medical facilities that too often are not in accurate positions on the map. The SIGAR report said six facilities were more than 10 kilometers away from the coordinates USAID provided to the military, with one of the hospital's coordinates placing the facility in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

"A key component of the [USAID's Partnership for Contracts in Health] program in Kabul was the use of detailed geospatial location information – in the form of global positioning system (GPS) coordinates – to ensure health facilities were in the appropriate locations and providing the local population with needed health services," SIGAR John Sopko wrote in the Jan. 5 report. "In recent months, we have issued multiple letters calling into question the accuracy of USAID and Afghan government-maintained geospatial coordinates of [PCH-supported] health facilities throughout Afghanistan. … We believe that accurate location-specific information, including geospatial coordinates, is critical to effective oversight."

An October 2015 SIGAR report stated that 23 of 63 healthcare facilities run supported by USAID in Afghanistan’s western Herat province also had incorrect GPS data assigned to them.

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