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The Third World Foundation (TWF) was based on the belief that sharing information is the key to improving resource management and encouraged those in developing nations to identify problems and make recommendations suitable to their countries' unique conditions. The TWF also helped these countries' scientists to obtain needed technical information and resources from their peers to enhance the outcome of their research. Through its library of technical papers, electronic forum, and events, TWF brought together government officials, professionals from the developed, and developing nations who shared their expertise, promoted new techniques, and collaborated on pilot projects.
Under the auspices of the TWF and a grant from NASA's Office of Life & Microgravity Sciences & Applications Life Science Division, an international symposium on vector-borne diseases was held in November 1995 in Baltimore, Maryland. The symposium, hosted by NASA and the TWF, was attended by national health representatives from Brazil, Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe. The purpose of the symposium was to develop RS/GIS-based health-related research proposals from developing countries. CHAART staff presented tutorials on RS and GIS, as well as led panel discussions to define country-specific issues. The goal was to inform scientists and health officials from various countries of NASA's scientific and technologic capabilities for detecting and monitoring environmental parameters that influence disease patterns. The symposium also included presentations on the ecology of disease and the economics of disease surveillance and control. The TWF subsequently solicited proposals from scientists in developing nations who wished to apply RS/GIS technologies to ongoing studies of infectious disease. Training in the use of these technologies was provided through CHAART at Ames Research Center.
In 1997-98, ten investigators were selected for training in the use or remote sensing technologies. These include scientists from Mexico (malaria and insecticide resistance), Nigeria (diarrheal diseases), Peru (malaria, leishmaniasis, and El Nino), Venezuela (encephalitis, malaria, dengue), Brazil (malaria and deforestation), Mali (malaria), Kenya (malaria), Guatemala (leishmaniasis), Cameroon (malaria), and Malawi (malaria and schistosomiasis).
TWF investigators spent up to two months working with the CHAART staff to apply remote sensing technologies to their specific topics. The majority of the TWF investigators arrived at Ames with little or no experience in image processing or geographic information system software. For some, basic remote sensing and GIS concepts also had to be learned. Working with imagery and field data of their study area or example datasets, CHAART visitors were trained in the use of ERDAS Imagine image processing software and ESRI Arc/Info geographic information system software. Other software packages were also taught, depending on the systems available at the trainee's home institution.
Through CHAART, NASA is also providing ongoing technical support to several of the TWF investigators. This involves consultation on proposal development, data acquisition, participation in on-site education and training, and development and support of within-country RS/GIS capabilities.