Project description

The project was developed under Data Journalism Summer Institute 2017 which took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, run by United Nations Development Program and hosted by the American University of Central Asia. It was the first data-driven story for a student, presented as a graduation project. Originally in English, the story was afterwards translated into Russian and Kyrgyz languages, enriched with human stories and expert interviews and finalized for the local Kyrgyz media. As a result, it is published in three languages: in English on the website of the ‘Open Data in Europe and Central Asia’, a project of UNDP, in Russian at and in Kyrgyz on the website Yntymak TV company, the latter two being popular Russian- and Kyrgyz-language local media in Kyrgyzstan. This was done to ensure reaching out broader general audience, as well as reaching diverse audiences of these media. In addition, this was a contribution to building a coherence between Russian-language and Kyrgyz-language media. Usually in Kyrgyzstan those are divided and do not follow the news of each other. The topic addresses one of the biggest concerns in Kyrgyzstan – high numbers of maternal mortality rates which are not decreasing for several years. The idea was to develop a data hypothesis, investigate the problem with the data available, and tell the story from the data perspective, which is still unusual for the local society. The goal of the project was to produce a piece of solution journalism and find the best applicable and cheapest solution to affect Kyrgyz mother’s deaths, which could serve as a recommendation for policy makers and ordinary citizens alike. The audience of the project is therefore varying from decision making people in the government and international donors to nongovernmental organisatios and civil society.

What makes this project innovative?

Most publications in the Kyrgyz media address the problem of high rates of maternal mortality by showing the rates and comparing numbers of deaths in post Soviet countries at best. Some just tell the story of yet another tragedy. No media has investigated the whole spectrum of the problem and thus were not able to propose a solution. Our project was different in a way that we analyzed all the indicators linked with maternal mortality: number of gynaecologists, number of medical personnel, number of medical centres in regions of the country, main causes of death, antenatal care indicators and others. Moreover, we reviewed more than 10 analytical overviews of the situation in Kyrgyzstan by WHO, UNICEF, World Bank, UNDP and other research papers to understand the problem and find the solution.This is an example of how data journalism can look into the root causes of the problem, reveal structural inequalities through data and find the gaps that need to be closed. We believe, in developing countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, data journalism offers an objective yet powerful tool to offer alternative solutions for the long standing problems.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The publication was published in three languages: Kyrgyz, Russian and English. In total it received about 3000 views. Authors received a lot of comments from civil society and international organizations, who raise awareness among public. The project will continue with the support of donors who were interested in analytical journalistic materials. Meaning more and more people in society demand data-driven decision making from policy makers. With an updated information and data, project team will continue to reveal progress on this issue in Kyrgyzstan.Moreover, with the support of international organization journalists will participate in workshops on health statistics.

Source and methodology

The project followed the methodology of producing data driven stories developed by Eva Constantaras, data journalism advisor for Internews. It requires gathering background information, developing a solid data journalism hypothesis and refining it on the go. The process then follows the data pipeline which starts from getting the data and analysing it to communicating it in the best possible format.The initial hypothesis was: “Barriers in the healthcare system including lack of gynaecologists are the main factors affecting most common reasons of maternal mortality in Kyrgyz Republic which are all preventable”.Having analyzed all the data available on the topic in the spreadsheet software, the hypothesis transformed into: “Although all births in Kyrgyzstan are attended by skilled person, both high maternal mortality rates and anemia, one of the main risk factors for maternal death, persist in Kyrgyzstan, which is not addressed properly at the antenatal care phase".The methodology of the project is documented in the spreadsheet below: data researched comes from the World Health Organisation, World Bank, UNICEF and Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee. All the data was verified and interviewed in the spreadsheet software. This is how we found out the incoherences in official data, too. Maternal mortality rates given by the Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee and World Bank are different. The number of deaths per 100 000 livebirths by the World Bank statistics is almost two times bigger.But the data took us further than simply comparing the numbers. Combining various statistics, we could look beyong the reasons of the causes of maternal deaths, investigate current ways of prevention and find the gaps in public health policy.

Technologies Used

Technologies used: Excel, Google spreadsheets, Datawrapper visualization tool, Tableau software About 15 data-sets reviewed and analyzed

Project members

Eva ConstantarasAnastasia Valeeva


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