MapEx2024: MapAction completes disaster simulation with 100 personnel and partners

From June 7th to 9th, MapAction conducted its largest ever disaster simulation event with approximately 100 staff, volunteers, partners and observers taking part. The 48-hour simulation, held in the Peak DIstrict National Park, included – for the first time this year – elements on anticipatory action. Volunteers are split into teams and forced to process and visualise incoming data requests from various agencies. The resulting ‘map walls’ give decision-makers a clearer insight into affected communities and the impact of the disaster.

MapEx is designed to strengthen coordination among partners and volunteers and ensures MapAction’s teams, especially new volunteers, are fully immersed into the demands of managing and visualising information for decision-makers during a humanitarian crisis or while building an anticipatory action risk model. Watch the video to find out more.

This work is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

MapAction team of mappers in Belize to support country’s response to wildfires and drought

MapAction team members are supporting the Belize national disaster management agency NEMO to get a clearer understanding of the extent and impact of wildfires that continue to spread through southern and western Belize, causing damage to infrastructure, crops, land and livelihoods.

MapAction’s Edith Lendak works with Director of Toledo District Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Gustavo Requena (right) and NEMO GIS Officer Luwin Tzib (left) to confirm the location of local community settlements in fire-impacted districts. Photo: MapAction

Drought and a lack of rainfall have caused severe ongoing wildfires in the Central American country of Belize. As of May 28th, 10,000 hectares of land and 200 homes had been destroyed, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Damages as of end of May 2024 totalled more than $8 million. 

The response to the wildfires is being coordinated by Belize’s national disaster response agency, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), one of 19 CDEMA members. CDEMA, a long-time MapAction partner, requested MapAction’s support to assist local authorities in getting a clearer understanding as to the extent of the crisis. 

MapAction volunteer members Sam Gandhi, a GIS specialist, and Edith Lendak – who works for green energy company Orsted – are in Belize assisting the Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and disaster assessment teams out of the National Emergency Management Organisation’s (NEMO) various country offices. MapAction volunteer member Indigo Brownhall, a researcher with the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory (SGNL) at University College London (UCL), is providing remote support. 

MaAction volunteer member Sam Gandhi.

The team’s focus will be on the worst affected areas: the southern region of Toledo, before moving north to focus on Cayo District, where the country’s capital, Belmopan, is situated. 

“This shows the effectiveness of our partnership with CDEMA,” says Darren Dovey, head of emergency response for MapAction. “We were able to quickly understand their needs and advise that sending a MapAction team to Belize would be the most effective way to support them, working with their own GIS teams and supported by the wider MapAction membership remotely,” adds Dovey. 

Head of Emergency Response Darren Dovey.

The maps produced so far cover a range of key data points: the baseline population in each district, disaggregated by age, sex and gender; key ecosystems of Belize, as well as landcover per area. More maps will be created for decision-makers in the next few days and weeks. 

MapAction helps decision-makers get an overview of an emergency by mapping the key data about the extent and impact on communities, land and infrastructure. This helps emergency responders act faster, more efficiently and provide support to at-risk communities.

Each map is created to help decision-makers act faster and more accurately. Some maps are key to search-and-rescue operations – knowing where to send rescue personnel, which areas have been searched and which have not. Other maps might help plot a path for emergency aid to those who need it most, using the fastest and most accessible routes. Another map might outline where people are moving; how a wildfire is spreading or where the largest human need is. 

LISTEN ALSO: Podcast: Towards disaster resilience with CDEMA in the Caribbean

This work is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

How MapAction is using data to reduce human suffering in Madagascar

For more than a decade, MapAction has provided support to Madagascar’s national disaster management agency, managing and visualising key data to support decision-makers, during tropical storms and cyclones. Now the focus is on strengthening the island’s preparedness for any future disasters. This includes a nationwide review of overall information management capacity and gaps, training of stakeholders, tools to automate processes and a data-driven anticipatory action plan to reduce future suffering.

MapAction’s Head of Data science, Daniel Soares, at a workshop in 2024 in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

“Those who have good preparedness will be safe from danger.” So reads the maxim of Madagascar’s national disaster management agency (Bureau National de Gestion des Risques et des Catastrophes – BNGRC), whose job is to develop and implement contingency plans for natural disasters. 

No easy feat. Madagascar is one of the 10 poorest countries in Africa, meaning resources for this kind of work are stretched. Chronic malnutrition affects nearly 40 percent of children, according to data from the World Food Programme (WFP). More than 90 percent of the 28 million people who live in Africa’s largest island subsist on less than $3.10 p/day, according to the same source. Regular natural disasters add to the chronic food insecurity.

“The south of Madagascar is affected by a recurrent drought and the southeast is prone to recurrent cyclones and flooding,” states a report by WFP. “In these regions, up to 1.31 million people face high levels of acute food insecurity.” 

The BNGRC and partner agencies have a huge challenge to maximise resources for at risk-communities. 

MapAction has been working in Madagascar since 2012, providing maps and information management services for emergency respondents during four natural disasters: Tropical Cyclone Freddy (February 2023), Batsirai (February 2022), Enawo (March 2017) and Tropical Storm Irina (March 2012). These efforts were a combination of in-person responses with UN agencies and partners, as well as remote support. 

MapAction: Intro animation video 2023 from MapAction on Vimeo.

Fighting the climate emergency

In recent years, with natural disasters on the rise due to the climate emergency, humanitarian data use is changing. With the right understanding of risk and data-backed mitigation scenarios, disaster managers and partners in countries on the frontlines of the climate emergency, like Madagascar, can reduce future suffering. Anticipatory actions help save lives by ensuring local disaster managers have the data, tools and capacity they need to mitigate the worst effects of FUTURE disasters. A fire extinguisher puts out fires; an alarm helps prevent the worst flames. 

Data v. future disasters

For several years MapAction has been helping local disaster agencies to adopt the specialist and complex data standards that are required to use anticipatory action tools. This helps them access vital early funding based on pre-agreed ‘triggers’ signalled by data. These tools combine local knowledge of risks with things like climate data, enabling money and resources to be used to protect at-risk communities shortly before a disaster strikes.

In 2023 MapAction created a dedicated Anticipatory Action team and started contributing to the European Union designed INFORM Subnational Risk models, initially in Eswatini and most recently in Madagascar. MapAction’s Daniel Soares and Piet Gerrits co-led a consultation workshop with more than 40 stakeholders from UN agencies, government, academic institutions and civil society organisations in Madagascar in early 2024, in a process co-led by BNGRC, UNDP and UNICEF. 

The main outcome was the agreement on the so-called Madagascar INFORM Framework and the initial data collection. In total, 195 indicators – which cover hazards and exposure, vulnerability and coping capacity – were identified, with 88 flagged as very relevant.  These are all standard indicators for disaster scenarios. UNICEF also facilitated the inclusion of indicators designed to identify at-risk children. 

The data modelling work was preceded by extensive mapping of the disaster response landscape, as well as professional development events for stakeholders in Madagascar, to strengthen the country’s overall capacity to use geospatial and information management tools.

In 2022, MapAction decided to increase its focus on Madagascar, resulting in a spate of new programmes. That same year, MapAction joined Start Network, a network of 90 local and international organisations whose “mission is to create a new era of humanitarian action that will save even more lives.” 

READ ALSO: MapAction supports the Start Network to improve early action in humanitarian response | Start Network

Mapping training & food security

In 2023, MapAction conducted a training programme for staff from Start Network member organisations in Madagascar: team members from our organisation provided hazard data analysis and mapping training for tech representatives from civil society organisations within Start Network. 

READ ALSO: MapAction continues to strengthen global disaster preparedness in summer of 2023

Tool to automate maps in disasters

Since then, longtime MapAction team member Ant Scott has supported Start Network in developing processes to allow the Vulnerability Assessment Tool (video demo) to be shared and published online. The tool was developed in Madagascar, designed for GIS (Geospatial Information Systems, or mapping/spatial analysis tools) professionals at civil society organisations and local disaster managers. It’s a predictive model to understand which districts are most at risk in a cyclone, storm or hurricane. 

A screenshot from the Vulnerability Assessment Tool.

This vital information helps decision-makers to get an overview of a crisis: the places and communities most affected or exposed; the threats to health, wellbeing and security. The work MapAction has been supporting, using the Felt mapping platform, allows the results of the tool to swiftly be disseminated online and combined with other data in a way that gives easy access to everyone involved. 

READ ALSO: MapAction Data Science Lab, the story so far

Research: gaps & opportunities 

Other work has focused on identifying strengths and weaknesses in the country’s overall information management and geospatial sector. MapAction’s Anticipatory Action Analyst, Orla Desmond, met with dozens of stakeholders from government, NGOs and the academic sector in early 2024 in the Madagascar capital Antananarivo, part of a comprehensive ‘mapping’ of the disaster stakeholder landscape. The emphasis was on GIS strengths and weaknesses and anticipatory action. Discussions were held about GIS data sources, the quality and accessibility of data, and the types of data required by organisations carrying out anticipatory actions. Opportunities for improvements were then shared with Start Network in Madagascar as part of a 27-page comprehensive report. 

MapAction’s Orla Desmond at a meeting with stakeholders and partners in Madagascar.

Next steps

Our team also conducted training in parallel on developing baseline maps in a crisis – Who, What, Where maps (known in the industry as the ‘3Ws’) – a fundamental trio for any decision-maker in an emergency. 

Yet our work in Madagascar is far from finished. GIS consultant Ant Scott and data scientist Carola Martens are returning to the island in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 17th June 2024 to conduct further training and hands-on workshops in GIS and data management skills. These will be for key personnel identified during the research and other local staff involved in disaster management and anticipatory action planning. The impact will be to strengthen the country’s overall response and planning capacity for disasters. 

Stay tuned for more risk models

Meanwhile, MapAction’s work building INFORM RISK Subnational models – data sets to mitigate hazards and disasters and protect at risk-communities – continues worldwide. 

“The partnership between INFORM and MapAction greatly increases our capacity to support countries to develop INFORM Subnational risk models,” says Andrew Thow, Programme Manager at the UN, an INFORM partner. “These models help countries understand their risks and inform planning and programming to better prevent and prepare for crises and disasters,” adds Thow. 

READ ALSO: Strengthening disaster preparedness country-by-country with the INFORM Risk index

THIS WORK IS FUNDED BY THE GERMAN FEDERAL FOREIGN OFFICE

The work is also supported by the Insurance Development Forum.

For partnerships

(EN) MapAction works with disaster management authorities and networks worldwide to strengthen data quality and humanitarian information management preparedness. If you would like to discuss a potential partnership, please contact our Head of Programmes and Partnerships Marina Kobzeva: mkobzeva@mapaction.org    

(FR) MapAction travaille avec les autorités et les réseaux de gestion des catastrophes dans différentes parties du monde pour renforcer la qualité des données et la préparation à la GI humanitaire. Si vous souhaitez discuter d’un partenariat potentiel, veuillez contacter notre responsable des programmes et des partenariats Marina Kobzeva: mkobzeva@mapaction.org    

(PT) A MapAction trabalha com autoridades e redes de gestão de desastres em diferentes partes do mundo para fortalecer a qualidade dos dados e a preparação para a gestão da informação humanitária. Para discutir uma possível parceria, entre em contato com nossa Chefe de Programas e Parcerias, Marina Kobzeva: mkobzeva@mapaction.org    

What next for MapAction? CEO Colin Rogers speaks to the Trumanitarian podcast

Colin Rogers speaks to the Trumanitarian podcast host Lars Peter Nissen about the opportunities for GIS to strengthen disaster mitigation and humanitarian operations in the future.

MapAction’s work in geospatial is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), UNICEF, Calleva Foundation and other foundations, private individuals and companies. Learn more here.

Meet Gemma and Charlotte on International Girls in ICT Day

Left: Head of Geospatial Services Gemma Davies. Right: Geospatial Coordinator Charlotte Moss. Image: MapAction.

International Girls in ICT Day, celebrated every April, aims to celebrate female leadership in ICT. “Women are nearly absent from software development, engineering, technology research, academia as well as at the highest levels of policy making. They also tend to leave science and technology jobs at higher rates than men,” states the commemorative day’s UN website. MapAction is nevertheless home to dozens of women staff and volunteers who are software developers, academics, data scientists or geospatial engineers to mention but a few specialisations. We spoke with two: Head of Geospatial Services Gemma Davies and Geospatial Coordinator Charlotte Moss about their passion for geospatial technology and maps.

GEMMA DAVIES, HEAD OF GEOSPATIAL SERVICES

Q: What made you want to get into working with geospatial information systems? 

Gemma: I’ve always loved logical problem solving and when I was first introduced to GIS at university I realised GIS was the perfect way to apply my logical analytical skills to the geography I was interested in.

Q: What is your official job title at MapAction?

Gemma: Head of Geospatial Services.

Q: What have you been working on recently?

Gemma: Most recently I have been working on improvements to our GIS training offer that will help equip people working in organisations like national disaster management agencies to make use of GIS in their work.

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

Gemma: In addition to training development, next on the horizon includes working with our innovation and technology team to automate consistent sourcing and processing of the datasets we most frequently use for emergency response.

Q: What do you like most about your job? 

Gemma: The job is really varied and you get to apply GIS very practically in a way that may positively impact people’s lives.

GIS is a powerful tool that aids understanding of the world around us and enhances decision-making.  Channelling this power in a way that uses the tools to benefit potentially at-risk populations is so important. 

Q: Why does GIS4Good matter?

Gemma: GIS is a powerful tool that aids understanding of the world around us and enhances decision making.  Channelling this power in a way that uses the tools to benefit potentially at-risk populations is so important. 

Three things you love about maps.

Gemma: They provide a virtual insight into places you are yet to explore; they bring information to life in new ways and they can help inform important decision-making.

READ ALSO: She survived a volcanic eruption and helped rebuild her island afterwards. Meet Lavern Ryan, a MapAction volunteer and GIS aficionado.

CHARLOTTE MOSS: GEOSPATIAL COORDINATOR

As a child I used to spend hours drawing treasure maps. Now I get to solve actual geospatial problems using GIS software rather than pencils!

READ ALSO: Putting children on the map in West and Central Africa through geo-spatial analysis

LEARN MORE: What is MapAction (video)?

Putting children on the map in West and Central Africa through geo-spatial analysis

UNICEF, CartONG and MapAction are announcing a new partnership in six countries: Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Nigeria. The ‘Reach the Unreached’ initiative aims to use analysis of geographic information (GIS) to find families that may be overlooked by those providing services such as birth registration and vaccination. 

Opening workshop in Senegal.

When traditional ways of identifying and registering people’s existence fail, such as government census and birth registration, children risk missing out on vital services like vaccination and receiving birth certificates. Africa is home to 91 million children under the age of 5 without a birth certificate, according to UNICEF data. In 2022 in West and Central Africa, 4.4 million children did not receive a single dose of vaccine, out of about 20 million children. Children lacking a legal identity risk not being included in planning for service provision. 

To address the problem, UNICEF is working with partners MapAction and CartONG, humanitarian GIS specialists, to help health ministries and their supporting national partners, make data-informed decisions to vaccinate children and ensure the necessary lifelong health assistance. 

READ ALSO: Ode to a geospatial humanitarian partnership and shared values

LIRE AUSSI: Partenariat Humanitaire Géospatial Et Valeurs Partagées : Un Hymne À L’action

UNICEF aims to provide the six countries with spatial data and GIS tools, namely maps and dashboards. This will help local authorities and stakeholders locate unreached children that do not access basic services. The data can then assist in decision-making for improving health planning, immunisation and birth registration.

Beyond mapping unreached children, the project will focus on different activities in each country. These will include spatial data collection and assessment, with a focus on health catchment areas, as well as the production of maps and data visualisation tools. The methodology will be documented throughout, alongside extensive capacity building, to enhance sustainability of the tools and methodologies developed.

A meeting of stakeholders in Cameroon. Photo: CartONG.

“We are thrilled to embark on this transformative journey, supporting efforts to light the way for the unseen and ensuring every child’s right to health and identity in West Africa through GIS innovation,” says Naomi Morris, Health Programme Manager for MapAction. 

“After several years of fruitful collaboration with UNICEF and MapAction, we are delighted to embark on this new project, which shows once again the transformative role GIS solutions can have in facilitating decision-making, especially in hard-to-reach areas,” adds Marie Beeckman, Project Lead from CartONG.

Once information is available, UNICEF works with local authorities to help the identified unregistered members of those communities to access birth registration certificates, life-saving vaccination and other services. 

So far the work has taken in scoping trips and landscape mapping of stakeholders in Cameroon. The next focus countries will be Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. Later in 2024, MapAction and CartONG will start similar activities in Chad, Guinea and Nigeria.

What is MapAction? Video

Cet article est également disponible en français grâce à notre partenaire CartONG.

Mettre les enfants sur la carte en Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre grâce à l’analyse géospatiale

This work is supported by UNICEF.

Video: Mapping impact in The Gambia

In 2022, MapAction, at the request of longtime partner UN OCHA, provided GIS and data support and training to The Gambian National Disaster Management Agency. Watch the video below to find out why the mission mattered and what the impact was.

This work is made possible with funds from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

MapAction’s largest ever intake of new volunteers is latest commitment to building resilience

This weekend a total of sixteen new specialist data volunteers will be welcomed into MapAction’s volunteer cohort. It is the largest ever single intake by the expanding UK-based humanitarian mapping and information-troubleshooting charity.

MapAction staff and volunteers at an induction course for new volunteers this weekend. Photo: MapAction.

The new volunteers come from a panoply of sectors: healthcare, energy and higher education, to mention but a few. They will support MapAction’s work in emergency response, anticipatory action and health programmes, as well as developing data tools for training and innovation. 

“Our volunteers are not just skilled professionals; they are also compassionate and selfless people who generously commit their time, expertise, and energy to supporting disaster-affected communities around the world,” says Marina Kobzeva, director of programmes and partnerships at MapAction. “Their expertise in mapping and data analysis plays a crucial role in informing humanitarian response efforts during emergencies, enabling aid agencies to deliver assistance more effectively and efficiently. Their impact however extends far beyond the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Our volunteers are also deeply committed to building resilience and empowering communities to better prepare for future crises,” adds Marina. 

MapAction volunteers are often data specialists who want to make the crossover to humanitarian work. 

“I wanted to join MapAction because I wanted to actively be part of humanitarian solutions to disasters,” says software developer Elena Jung, who works for Octopus Energy. 

Elena is one of six women who joins in this recruitment window, together with Monika Patel, who works with Ordnance Survey. 

“Throughout my career, I’ve successfully worked with and led many teams internationally and nationally delivering operational goals and products; gaining invaluable experience in data analysis, disaster/incident response, GIS and much more,” says Monika, who now brings this experience to support MapAction’s work. 

READ ALSO: MapAction conducts simulated volcanic eruption response exercise on Isle of Cumbrae

Data scientist Harry Matchette-Downes works in healthcare but has also worked as “a freelance cartographer and geospatial data scientist, using skills learnt during my physics degree and seismology PhD. I’ve always enjoyed field mapping, and I want to do good, so that’s why I joined MapAction,” says Harry. Land surveyor and GIS professor at University College London (UCL) Pippa Cowles says she was inspired to join by two of her students who are currently also MapAction volunteers. 

New volunteers talk with MapAction staff on Friday March 15th, 2024. Photo: MapAction

The MapAction Induction Course, spread over a March weekend each year, is the beginning of a six-month training programme that culminates in November: it prepares new volunteers to be deployable to the sites of major disasters or as support GIS or data officers in humanitarian contexts. The training covers tech and humanitarian protocols and includes several simulation exercises. 

WATCH ALSO: What is MapAction?

MapAction’s internal and external capacity building programmes are funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

Meet a MapAction pioneer on International Women’s Day

She survived a volcanic eruption and helped rebuild her island afterwards. Meet Lavern Ryan, a MapAction volunteer and GIS aficionado.

Lavern Ryan in Cottesmore, UK, for HEAT training. Photo: Lavern Ryan

‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’ is a quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi but on International Women’s Day 2024, MapAction volunteer Lavern Ryan says it captures her thoughts. “I would like to encourage women and girls worldwide to do just the same. Whatever one sets their mind to, it can be accomplished with strength, determination and prayer,” she adds. 

Lavern is the living proof of her own words; her story reads like a triumph of willpower over circumstances. In 1995, Lavern was displaced from her home island of Montserrat due to a volcanic eruption.

Displaced by volcano

“I remember it like it was yesterday although it was 28 years ago,” Lavern recalled recently in a podcast with GeoMob. Lavern went on to recollect how many people on the Caribbean island of Montserrat tried to head north amidst the “chaos and panic” to get away from the erupting Soufriere Hills volcano. The current population of Montserrat is approximately 5000 people.

HEAR MORE: Podcast: Towards disaster resilience with CDEMA in the Caribbean

Lavern first moved to Antigua, the closest island to Montserrat, but found misfortune to have travelled with her. In September 1995, the Category 4 Hurricane Luis struck Antigua, meaning Lavern had now experienced two major natural disasters within three months. Lavern was 13 at the time.  She went on to complete her secondary school education in Antigua and then a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science in Trinidad and Tobago. She later also studied at Edinburgh University and the University of Dundee in Scotland.

GIS to the rescue

When Lavern did return to Montserrat a few years later, the southern part of the island – still inaccessible today – was covered in pyroclastic flows. Her newfound skills in GIS and remote sensing were serendipitous however, “to identify where the best places were to occupy the northern part of the island.” Timely work as the volcano has continued to erupt since 1995, making half of the island uninhabitable. 

Since 2002, Lavern has been the GIS Manager for the Government of Montserrat. She works closely with the Island’s disaster management authorities and cares for a broad portfolio: from leading hydrographic surveys and conducting aerial drone mapping to training the next generation of enthusiastic humanitarian mappers on the island.

“I really admire Lavern’s attitude to her life and work,” says MapAction’s Alan Mills, who has worked with Lavern for many years. “She not only juggles all her government duties on Montserrat with her priorities  to her family and friends, she still has time to advocate across her community, kids and adults alike, of  the importance of maps and geoinformation in everyone’s lives and apply all those skills with energy to spare.”

Lavern is interviewed by BBC Scotland at a MapAction simulation exercise in May 2023. Photo: MapAction.

So what has Lavern’s work entailed most recently? “The capturing and processing of drone aerial images in Montserrat was an important aspect which helped with the successful implementation of enumeration for the 2024 Montserrat population and housing census,” Lavern told the MapAction communications team. 

VIDEO: What is MapAction?

Never stop learning 

Despite having more than 20 years GIS experience under her belt, Lavern continues to refresh and broaden her skillset. During a recent visit to the UK, Lavern attended courses, training and talks at key institutes. 

At the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton, Lavern had the opportunity to meet with other UK Overseas Territory delegates and engaged in discussions on hydrographic action plans, governance and marine spatial planning. There was also a focus on the need to upskill her use of software to conduct hydrographic surveys as part of Montserrat’s commitment to the International Convention on Safety of Lives At Sea (SOLAS). “This helps us to fulfil our international safety obligations,” says Lavern, the technical lead for conducting hydrographic surveys on the island of Montserrat.

READ ALSO: Gender in Maps, a MapAction report (2023)

“I also visited the Joint Nature Conservation Committee  (JNCC) offices in Peterborough,” adds Lavern. “My focus there was to wrap up a project we were working on with respect to storm surge modelling.”

Lavern also managed to squeeze in a refresher security course, a prerequisite for all MapAction volunteers who deploy. Lavern began to volunteer with MapAction in 2019 and has been involved in several remote responses to natural disasters in the Caribbean since 2020. She expects to be involved in more this year, often together with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). After all, the Caribbean has its own season, she told GeoMob: “Hurricane Season,” from June to November each year. Her skillset will forever be needed.

READ ALSO: “We see real outcomes.” MapAction impact in Central Asia in partnership with CESDRR

MapAction’s internal and external capacity building programmes are funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

“We see real outcomes.” MapAction impact in Central Asia in partnership with CESDRR

MapAction has delivered 15 workshops to disaster managers in Central Asia in the last five years in partnership with the Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR). Widespread use of GIS and humanitarian information management tools means local disaster managers are evermore prepared for present and future hazards.

Disaster managers attend a training event with CESDRR and MapAction in June 2023. Photos: A Wilkie.

When a fire broke out in a “large” warehouse last year in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest urban center, Dusyembaev Bagdat, the officer on duty at the time in the Department of Emergency Situations for the city, didn’t panic. 

“I drew a map of the scene using QGIS, indicating the distance from the nearest fire station to the place of the fire,” says Bagdat, 34, recalling how he was able to deploy the mapping skills he had acquired during MapAction co-led workshops with the regional Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR). Maps like these help decision-makers fast track solutions in crises situations; those decisions can then dramatically reduce human suffering, economic losses and environmental or social risks. 

READ ALSO : How maps can save lives when disasters strike 

Bagdat had previously attended two MapAction workshops on mapping for emergencies: one in the Kazakh capital Astana in 2022 and another in the former capital Almaty in 2023. These professional development seminars were part of more than half a decade of cooperation between MapAction and CESDRR. 

In 2016, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan established the Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR), headquartered in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The organisation’s objective is to “ensure effective mechanisms to decrease the risk of emergencies, to mitigate the consequences, to organise a joint response.”  In order to further strengthen regional cooperation, CESDRR established the Central Asian regional high-level dialogue platform for DRR — the Regional Forum-Meeting of the Heads of Emergency Authorities of Central Asian countries, adding Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to the framework. In 2018, MapAction and CESDRR signed an agreement to work together.

The agreement envisaged, among other clauses, an “exchange of technical information, including samples and standards,” as well as “technical assistance,” and support in “professional development” for representatives from member states. 

READ ALSO: MapAction Data Science Lab: the story so far

Since then, MapAction has continued to provide support “in GIS and mapping in emergencies.” Nearly six years and more than a dozen key encounters later, the impact is multifold. 

MapAction volunteer Lukasz Gorowiec with Central Asian disaster managers at a CESDRR/MapAction training event in June 2023 in Almaty.

“Real outcomes of our work

“Today we see real outcomes of our work” says Bakhtiyar Ospanov, a senior expert with CESDRR. “We have been cooperating with MapAction since 2018 and during this period of time we have conducted 15 training courses, trained 320 officers of emergency authorities of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan,” Ospanov told MapAction. Nearly a dozen MapAction staff members and volunteers have been involved in organising seminars on humanitarian information management and mapping for/in emergencies during the 60-month+ engagement. 

The impact is mushrooming. Many of the disaster managers seconded by their organisations in the past to learn GIS tools and practices for humanitarian response have since become trainers in their own right, passing on what they learned to colleagues. This domino effect has created a cohort of GIS-savvy disaster managers in the region. 

They face no shortage of challenges. “Central Asia is an extremely disaster-prone region, suffering annually from the consequences of natural disasters. In addition to earthquakes, the region is constantly threatened by landslides, floods, mudflows, droughts, avalanches and extreme air temperatures,” noted Minister of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic Major General Azhikeev Boobek at a regional summit in late 2023. In Kazakhstan alone, on average “3,000-4,000 emergency situations happen annually with 3,000-5,000 thousand victims” states UNICEF in a recent report on disaster resilience. Fires continue to be a major hazard in the Kazakh Steppe, a large area of natural grassland.

Fighting fires with GIS

Mapping solutions is key. “There is a group of officers who improved their skills and knowledge at MapAction’s last training in Almaty (June 2023) and who are about to become national trainers,” CESDRR’s Bakhtiyar Ospanov, who works alongside six other staff members at CESDRR’s HQ, told MapAction by email. 

PODCAST: Towards disaster resilience with CDEMA in the Caribbean

Bagdat, who helped map a solution to extinguish the fire at the warehouse in Almaty, is one of them. He now trains other members of his team of 10 who all work in the disaster management department for Kazakhstan’s largest city, and former capital, Almaty. Some of the maps created support search and rescue operations. Others can help identify a solution in a dangerous situation. 

Bakhtiyar from CESDRR shared with MapAction three sample maps, made to strengthen disaster preparedness, created by reps from member states who attended MapAction’s humanitarian mapping seminars in recent years.

A map produced during a workshop in Almaty in 2023.

One envisages key scenarios in the event of an earthquake striking Almaty; another shows the location of the rescue helicopters of the Kazakhstan Air Rescue Service, by province/oblast. Yet another envisages a potential situation in the area around the Kapchagay Reservoir – just north of Almaty – should its dam be damaged/broken. 

Maps for such emergencies – even if only simulated – always seek to mitigate risks. 

Domino GIS effect

“What is very important is that after the training our specialists are able to share their knowledge and teach new employees,” Zaginaev Vitalii, 36, a former division head in the hazard monitoring and forecasting department at the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, tells MapAction. “I shared the knowledge gained (ed: from MapAction workshops) with my colleagues. Now they also know how to work on this program (Ed: QGIS – free mapping software). We use this program in the case of large fires or emergencies where there are victims or casualties. Also, during various search and rescue or emergency rescue operations, we use the QGIS program for a visual concept of the location of an emergency or incident,” Vitalii, who is now applying his experience in the academic sector, told MapAction. 

READ ALSO: OFFICERS OF THE MES OF REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN AND THE MES OF KYRGYZ REPUBLIC IMPROVED THEIR CAPACITY IN THE USE OF GIS TECHNOLOGIES AND MAPPING IN EMERGENCIES

Less than a decade old, CESDRR still has big plans. While the intergovernmental organisation does not do emergency response per se and essentially “is a bridge between Central Asian national disaster agencies and the international community,” as per Bakhtiyar, the team is equipped with drones and operators as well as UAVs “and can be involved in transboundary or resonant disaster rescue.” 

Looking ahead, Bakhtiyar from CESDRR says a shared digital atlas of hazards is on the horizon for CESDRR members, inviting MapAction to take a key partner role for that future initiative. Long may the partnership live.

“We look forward to continuing to build the strong relationship we have with CESDRR to further strengthen disaster preparedness in the Central Asian region through the provision of more GIS and humanitarian IM support,” says MapAction’s CEO Colin Rogers.

READ ALSO: MapAction excited to announce Colin Rogers as new Chief Executive

Central Asian risk atlas

There is work to be done still. “In Central Asia, there is no unified geographic information system that includes a digital atlas of natural and man-made transboundary hazards and reflects basic data on existing risks,” says Ospanov. 

READ ALSO: Strengthening disaster resilience and accelerating implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in Central Asia 2019-2023 – Final Report

“The development of a unified geographic information system reflecting interactive maps of the Central Asian countries and applying information on existing risks in the form of blocks (layers) on them will make it possible to provide the subjects of emergency situations with reliable information about potential sources of emergency situations and the causes of their occurrence, ensuring control over the state of sources of emergency situations, early forecasting of possible emergency situations and their management,” says Ospanov. 

Bakhtiyar’s comments point to an increasing emphasis on anticipatory action. A fire extinguisher puts out fires; a fire alarm helps prevent them. Preparedness is key. 

All of MapAction’s work in supporting CESDRR has been funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

WATCH MORE: Animated video about what we do at MapAction

 

Strengthening disaster preparedness country-by-country with the INFORM Risk index

MapAction is supporting national and local disaster management authorities to reduce and address the multiple risks faced, provide better early warning systems and facilitate risk-informed development. We kickstarted our work in Eswatini

MapAction team members Daniel Soares and Anne-Marie Frankland, left, in blue t-shirts, together with representatives from UNDP, NDMA and other Eswatini agencies and ministries during the INFORM handover workshop in December 2023.

For nearly 20 years, in 140+ emergencies, MapAction has supported countries in mitigating disasters. Since July 2023, in partnership with the European Commission’s INFORM Risk Index, MapAction is working to support national and subnational disaster managers to update or rebuild their disaster forecasts, mitigating tools and risk atlases.

INFORM subnational risk models are an important source of information for anticipatory action, development and preparedness projects. Making sure that the models are high quality, with the best available data – and readily maintained, is essential.

In October 2023, MapAction began working with disaster authorities and international partners to build a risk and disaster model for Eswatini, a country in southern Africa with a population of just over one million. Building the risk model involves four technical processes: data collection, data processing, data calibration and data validation. All contribute to data quality control and the ‘authority’ of the model. 

MapAction’s Head of Data Science Daniel Soares meets disaster management authorities and stakeholders in Eswatini, southern Africa. Photos: MapAction.

“We are really pleased to currently work with four regional disaster management agencies across Asia and Africa, as well as working with many national disaster management authorities,” says MapAction’s CEO Colin Rogers. “Working with regional and national structures is core to our approach in strengthening global humanitarian geospatial capability,” adds Rogers. 

Fire extinguishers put out fires: fire alarms help prevent them. This risk assessment work is in partnership with various national and international partners, including: the Eswatini National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), UNDP and German technical development agency GIZ and will serve as a basis for the future SADC regional model also developed by UNDP, GIZ and SADC country members.

“Address multiple risks”
“UNDP Eswatini is committed to working… to reduce and address multiple risks we are facing, provide better early warning systems and facilitate risk-informed development to progress towards aspirations and goals set in the National Development Plan,” said UNDP’s Eswatini Deputy Resident Representative Nessie Golakai, outlining the UN agency’s goals on anticipatory action, in December 2023.

Eswatini: risk overview

An INFORM Subnational risk index shows a detailed picture of risk and its components within a single region or country. It covers not only hazards exposure (e.g. earthquakes, floods and conflicts) but also a country’s vulnerabilities, such as diseases prevalence and poverty, as well as its coping capacity. Of particular interest for Eswatini are droughts and associated food insecurity issues. In 2023, 238,000 in Eswatini faced “acute food insecurity,” according to an IPC study reported on ReliefWeb. Eswatini also has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

READ ALSO: Eswatini, Climate Change Knowledge Portal

Four key data processes

For the first phase of strengthening Eswatini’s risk model, a consultation workshop took place in August 2023 bringing together national partners, SADC representatives, GIZ and UNDP. During the workshop, the model framework was defined, covering which indicators are most relevant for Eswatini and other SADC countries. A total of 87 indicators from 49 data sources were identified, including data from public international agencies such as the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank, as well as national ministries, agencies and databases. 

Then comes the data processing. Data comes in different formats such as spreadsheets, pdf reports and geospatial vectors and rasters. The processing can be as easy as finding a given value for the adult literacy per region on a report or as complicated as manipulating several geospatial rasters and administrative boundaries to compute exposed population to flooding per sub-region.

Making data comprehensible 

The data then needs to be calibrated. Values have different ranges and units, such as number of casualties, corruption index, immunisation rate or health facilities density. To be able to aggregate these values on a single index, a normalisation is needed, such as dividing all values by the maximum within a country or region. Once indicators are expressed in a common format (a value between 0 and 10) we can aggregate them to have one index per dimension (Hazards, Vulnerability and Capacity) and finally a single index per subnational zone.

READ ALSO: MapAction Data Science Lab: the story so far

These three steps all produce margins of error; in the final phase the data is reviewed and validated. In this phase, indicators are verified and where necessary, corrected. Partners from Eswatini made vital contributions to validate the overall results and methodologies and suggest improvements.

Handover and sustainability 

The work was presented to partners at a two-day handover workshop in Eswatini in December 2023 by MapAction’s Head of Data Science Daniel Soares, Senior Meal Advisor Samuel Asimi and Volunteer Anne-Marie Frankland. This handover workshop was intended for NDMA staff to take ownership of the model, while also validating it to identify improvements. The two-day event also incorporated professional development components pegged to the INFORM methodology with a practical focus on data collection, processing and calibration. 

On a practical note, three ways also emerged from the event as to how the model would be used going forward. 

  1. To support decision making on disaster preparedness, early action, disaster response and recovery.
  2. To determine the level of exposure and vulnerability of localities for improved policy recommendation and more effective DRR measures
  3. To coordinate data collection, storage and sharing in order to strengthen reporting and decision making based on scientific evidence. The data will be updated according to the agency’s needs, although MapAction’s recommendation is a complete update every 24 to 36 months. 
MapAction’s Head of Data Science Daniel Soares presenting with local partners in Eswatini.

MapAction’s work in Eswatini is part of a larger project supported by the German Federal Foreign Office to strengthen global anticipatory action frameworks at local level. MapAction will work with several countries on new subnational models for disaster preparedness in the course of the next 18 months. 

Work has already begun on developing a new subnational risk model for Saint Kitts and Nevis. We are also currently scoping new collaborations for early 2024 in Madagascar, Vanuatu, Fiji and Lebanon.

Sustainability

A key part of the work MapAction does is to ensure the sustainability of various interventions we carry out across the globe. We do this through identifying and unblocking barriers in a collaborative way with our partners. The aim of this is to encourage the building of sustainable systems to outlive MapAction’s support to these partners who may be state or non-state actors.

In addition to the above, within MapAction’s Anticipatory Action programme, we seek to ensure longevity and sustainability by establishing effective evaluation frameworks and sharing lessons learned with the wider community.

During the 2023 December Workshop, one session on Sustainability was hosted by Samuel Asimi, who highlighted the sustainability components for the INFORM Eswatini Risk model.

He noted that the handover workshop was the first of three components of the sustainability plan. The other two which will follow are the planned sustainability landscape mapping and the co-creation of an action plan. This initiative will be led by the NDMA and supported by MapAction.

This work was kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Insurance Development Forum (IDF)

Podcast: Towards disaster resilience with CDEMA in the Caribbean

Renee Babb, GIS specialist with the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) – a longterm MapAction partner – and Lavern Ryan, a GIS specialist with the government of Montserrat and also a MapAction volunteer, talk with MapAction’s Alan Mills MBE on the GeoMob podcast about CDEMA and MapAction’s decade-long relationship.

Find out why they say there is a fifth season in the Caribbean: “Hurricane Season.”

READ ALSO: MapAction renews partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency

A longer version of this podcast was originally broadcast by GeoMob here.

This work was supported with funds from USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.

MapAction Data Science Lab: the story so far

Since its inception MapAction has worked on leveraging technical expertise and geospatial technologies to transform humanitarian decision-making. In 2022, the ‘Data Science Lab’ became an even more integral part of MapAction’s work, adding new staff, resources and projects. 

By Daniel Soares, Head of Data Science, MapAction

The first tentative steps to establish a data science unit at MapAction began in 2020 with one staff data scientist and another volunteer working in partnership with OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data. The team continued to grow and on a summer night in 2022, the Data Science Lab was officially born. Eighteen months later the team has grown: we now have two staff members and six data science volunteers. Four more are set to join in 2024. This is, of course, without counting our many GIS volunteers with advanced data skills working as data scientists or similar roles in their prestigious day jobs.

READ MORE: A year of collaboration with the Centre for Humanitarian Data

Carola Martens, data science volunteer, taking part in an earthquake simulation to test her deployment capabilities together with geospatial volunteers Fiona Hardie and Claudia Offner. Photo: Daniel Soares

Data projects supporting disaster response 

“At the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (World Bank), I specialise in developing tools for assessing the impacts of natural disasters in various settings. Having joined MapAction I’ve found that it complements this work as it offers me the opportunity to apply my expertise in a different context, where I can contribute both to long-term planning and to direct emergency response.”

Nadia Leonova, MapAction data science volunteer

In the last 18 months our volunteers have done some impressive work, not only on tool development, but on missions leading workshops, as well as supporting our GIS team with disaster response. Below are some examples of tools and projects we’ve been working on.

Rapid flood mapping

The goal of our rapid flood mapping from satellite imagery is to create a tool that is able to estimate flood extents during emergencies using radar satellite imagery. The tool was created by two of our data science volunteers, with Cate Seale developing a Python package that contains all the necessary methods whilst Piet Gerrits worked on equipping the tool with a simple graphical interface. The approach is based on a UN SPIDER tutorial, built using Google Earth Engine. The entire code is naturally open-source and available on GitHUB (GitHub – mapaction/flood-mapping-tool).

Former volunteer and current MapAction Head of Data Science Daniel Soares (left) during the MapAction response to the 2022 Kinshasa floods (DRC) together with an UNDAC team member and a local expert. Photo: MapAction.

READ MORE: MapAction team deploys to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to support UN response to floods 

In 2021, MapAction engaged in a collaboration with HeiGIT (Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology): the final goal of this work is to produce tools and workflows that can constitute a resource for MapAction’s deployed or remote team members during emergency response. Our first joint project focused on assessing OpenStreetMap data quality. We’re now working to integrate these quality checks into our internal data pipeline.

READ ALSO: MapAction and HeiGIT partner to further geoinformation innovation

Proximity Tool

As part of the same collaboration with HeiGIT, we’re currently developing a Proximity Tool in order to automate road network analysis and identify remote communities and those potentially cut off during an emergency. This tool can also be used for health accessibility analysis (assessing populations not covered by health facilities within a given road distance).

First prototype of the MapAction Proximity Tool developed in collaboration with HeiGIT’s open route service.

Anticipatory action

MapAction substantially increased its anticipatory action focus in 2023. Our new anticipatory action programme kicked-off in July with GFFO funding new work on several projects geared at enhancing geospatial information management for anticipatory action decision makers. This programme will mainly focus on three areas: enabling adoption by partners through stakeholder landscaping and information management projects (ongoing work with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation); implementation of subnational risk models and working around building sustainability and localisation with partners.

READ ALSO: Updates: The Anticipation Hub, The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action

The Data Science Lab is actively mainstreaming anticipatory action into its pipeline for the future. We have already started working on building an INFORM Subnational Risk Index for the Kingdom of Eswatini while scoping support for other countries. Our target is to work on four new INFORM subnational models, while updating eight more, over the next two years. We are also currently scoping and planning new projects in partnership with the UN’s Centre for Humanitarian Data around data solutions for anticipatory action. Stay tuned for more details in 2024.

Data science member Piet Gerrits and MapAction Data Visualiser Rob Baker attend an INFORM Subnational Risk training in Italy together with MapAction geospatial volunteer Leon Baruah in September 2023 ( all MapAction members are in blue t-shirts).

Want to be part of the team?

Our 2023 volunteer recruitment process is now closed but a new one will open in 2024 with opportunities for data scientists, data visualisers, data engineers, software developers and geospatial specialists.

Join our MapAction Humanitarian Data Volunteers group on LinkedIn to receive the latest updates re: recruitment or follow MapAction on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

READ MORE: MapAction looking for volunteers to unlock information management barriers in humanitarian sector

MapAction’s work in geospatial is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), UNICEF, Calleva Foundation and other foundations, private individuals and companies. Learn more here.

Ode to a geospatial humanitarian partnership and shared values

From Mexico to South Sudan, Malawi and worldwide, MapAction and CartONG have worked together for nearly a decade to bring geospatial solutions to the humanitarian aid and international development sector. Our underlying core shared values help us support NGOs and aid actors for more impactful assistance.

Image: CartONG.

What happens if information barriers aren’t broken down for humanitarian agencies in emergencies? Food gets sent to the wrong people, search and rescue teams are misinformed, temporary settlements are set up in misguided places. Lives are lost or ruined because the right data was missing.

Breaking down information barriers

At MapAction and CartONG we embrace and live by the same values embedded in a single idea: the application of geospatial technology to improve the quality and impact of humanitarian assistance and development projects. Every map, mapathon, training event, data analysis tool or geospatial element of disaster preparedness we co-strive to create can be the key to getting aid to a stricken community or to understanding and preparing for the worst effects of a drought, flood or health emergency. These shared core values and resources have led to a beautiful cross-channel partnership between UK-based MapAction and France-based CartONG. A partnership that aims to improve the impact of aid actions by providing decision-makers and vulnerable communities with the right data to understand and mitigate any crisis.

Decade-long partnership

Our partnership has already lasted nearly a decade. As part of the Covid-19 response, MapAction seconded staff to help CartONG with the surge of activities in its partnership with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Having already worked together for several years on various projects, including as part of the H2H Network, a peer-to-peer humanitarian network, MapAction and CartONG signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work more closely together in 2020.

READ ALSO: MapAction strengthens partnership with CartONG

READ MORE: CartONG strengthens collaboration with MapAction via the signing of a MoU

CartONG and MapAction have since worked together on a number of different projects. In Mexico, together with UNICEF and the Mexican government, MapAction and CartONG supported the creation of a dashboard aiming to display and monitor real-time information on key education indicators on elementary schools at the national level in order to map COVID-19 affectations before the start of the new school year in 2020. It was created to display and monitor real-time information on key education indicators for all elementary schools. This relied on over 200,000 individual schools uploading their data on a daily basis, and was the first time that this information would be collected and displayed at a national level.

Screenshot from a dashboard on the Mexico project. Image: Screenshot/UNICEF.

READ ALSO: Developing an analytic dashboard for back to school follow-up in Mexico with MapAction

READ MORE: Post-COVID Progress: Helping Mexican schools reopen

In South Sudan, MapAction and CartONG, together with other partners, worked to  identify the data challenges that might slow down ‘final mile’ vaccine delivery in a challenging data environment. One outcome of this work was the Integrated Humanitarian Data Package, that aimed to give quick and easy access to key geographic data that underpins the planning and delivery of vaccination programmes. This pilot health project highlighted the vital role that geospatial technology can play in creating effective healthcare solutions. High quality mapping and data analysis is key to understanding how many people need vaccinating, where they are, and how and where the vaccines can be safely stored and delivered.

READ ALSO: South Sudan data package to support effective and equitable Covid vaccine delivery

In 2023, CartONG and MapAction again used the IHDP to map the outbreak of cholera in Malawi. We are also both partners on the ‘UNICEF Geospatial Hotline’, where interested UN departments can request specific geospatial services from our organisations.

As we look ahead, we know the crises we try to mitigate will become evermore complex and challenging; the funding landscape evermore volatile. That is why our partnership continues to grow and why the alliances we are building with organisations like H2H, UNICEF and Start Network are so vital. We will soon also be announcing a new and exciting joint-project linked to health in West Africa. More on that soon.

We both remain committed to continue to deliver capacity building events and projects worldwide to strengthen disaster preparedness and improve the impact of humanitarian assistance.

Souhaitez-vous lire cet article en français ? Cliquez ici!

MapAction’s work in geospatial is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), UNICEF, Calleva Foundation and other foundations, private individuals and companies. Learn more here.

Updates: The Anticipation Hub, The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action

Welcome to the first post in a new blog series on anticipatory action. The series will explore MapAction’s work to strengthen readiness and preparedness worldwide. We’ll kick off with a few facts and definitions, as well as a review of some of the key sessions and agenda points from the The Anticipation Hub: The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action, which is currently underway in Germany’s capital Berlin. This blog is part of an anticipatory action programme by MapAction kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Insurance Development Forum.

What does this blog cover?

  • Summaries, notes, images, cartoons and observations from the The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action
  • Anticipatory action: definition, components, facts and overview
  • Examples of MapAction’s work in anticipatory action

The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action is currently live from Berlin! Register here to watch it. Listen in as disaster management experts from across the world discuss the latest vanguard thinking on how to mitigate climate change and weather-related hazards.

October 12th. 09:10 UTC

Delegates share their learnings while taking hits at a piñata!

October 12th. 07:50 UTC

Guten Morgen. Here are some highlights to look forward to today, the final day of the The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action taking place in Berlin.

October 12th. 07:30 UTC

The Berlin Festival of Lights, which sees important landmarks in the German capital illuminated in technicolour, is also underway in Germany’s capital.

October 11th. 15:05 UTC

Heading into the final Day Two sessions now. With that, we’ll be wrapping up our Anticipation Hub blog today. We will add brief summaries and the odd pic tomorrow.

We’ll leave you with the excellent selection of anticipatory action cartoons to wind down with. Bis Morgen!

October 11th. 13:25 UTC

The Data Guardian Game for anticipatory action: a workshop on availability of data in anticipatory action.

“A useful tool to help participants grasp the significance of data in the decision-making process.”

Luke Caley from IFRC outlines the organisation’s database “with 100 years of disasters to learn from”.

“Global data needs to be verified on the ground”. Now the game begins.

Participants are divided into four groups, assuming the roles of government decision-makers. Each group is tasked with investing in various governmental agencies to enhance their data collection and analysis capabilities.

In the second stage of the game, a flood scenario is introduced, prompting participants to gather information exclusively from the agencies in which they had initially invested; they are only permitted to access data and information from these specific agencies. Armed with this information, the groups then proceeded to make crucial judgments regarding the activation of an early action protocol.

MapAction and anticipatory action

MapAction’s work in anticipatory action is kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Insurance Development Forum, as well as other individual and institutional donors. Our work in anticipatory action takes on different shapes and forms from territory to territory and is correlated to disaster risk reduction initiatives worldwide. The list below is non-exhaustive and is designed to give a brief overview of MapAction anticipatory humanitarian action work.

In Kenya we work with Oxfam and the Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) Humanitarian Network to forecast and map the potential impacts of drought on northern counties. “The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), in Kenya cover close to 80% of the land and are home to approximately 36% of the country’s population, 70% of the national livestock and 90% of the wildlife,” states ASAL’s website. “The residents of the ASALs earn their living through a mix of pastoralism and agriculture. However, pastoralism is the main source of livelihood contributing to 13% to the GDP of Kenya and further plays a vital role in both the economic and socio-cultural development of the resident communities.” Recent droughts over the last five years have left CSOs and the communities they work with in the northern Kenyan counties of Isiolo, Kwale, Marsabit, Nyeri, Kitui and Taita Taveta more vulnerable. MapAction’s aim with this work is to increase the visibility of the work CSOs are doing in humanitarian action and to help them leverage their forecasts to release early funding and create resilience against future hazards for local residents. MapAction’s support focused on mapping at county and even ward-level, a more localised administrative unit, ensuring CSOs can integrate GIS and IM into their disaster management tools .

Start Network is another key partner for MapAction. In the last few months alone, MapAction volunteers have delivered resilience-building seminars and events for local disaster managers in Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Senegal and Madagascar.

READ ALSO: MapAction continues to strengthen global disaster preparedness in summer of 2023

Some of the most important work MapAction does under the umbrella of anticipatory action is through the INFORM network, the “multi-stakeholder forum for developing shared, quantitative analysis relevant to humanitarian crises and disasters.” MapAction works with several national and subnational disaster management agencies worldwide through this framework, including ongoing projects to build or upgrade national disaster models in Eswatini and Niger.

October 11th. 13:10 UTC/15:10 CEST: MapAction Chair of Trustees Nick Moody is talking next on a panel in his role as coordinator of the Global Risk Modelling Alliance (GRMA). Nick shared his thoughts briefly on MapAction’s role through the prism of anticipatory action when we caught up with him in Berlin.

“There is evidence here of real momentum towards managing risk, instead of constantly being wrong-footed by extreme events when they happen. Baseline risk assessment – necessary for pre-arranging crisis finance – is constantly improving, and forecasting is good enough to make operational decisions ahead of the impact of an imminent flood, cyclone or drought. MapAction is helping to drive this momentum, particularly in working side by side with local CSOs and NGOs in developing these critical new capabilities.”

Chair of Trustees at MapAction Nick Moody

The Global Shield and its relevance to anticipatory action

The Global Shield against Climate Risk is a new initiative to avert, minimize and address climate-related losses and damages by scaling up climate and disaster-risk financing instruments, coupled with social protection mechanisms and early warning systems. The initiative was launched at last year’s UN Climate Conference, building on a joint effort by the G7 and the Vulnerable 20 Group (V20). 

This workshop will introduce the aims and structure of the Global Shield, including how the Global Shield Solutions Platform and the Global Shield Financing Facility can both provide support for climate- and disaster-risk financing instruments, including anticipatory action approaches; it will also explore the role of the anticipatory action community. 

Register for or watch the workshop here. Starts at: 13.15 UTC/15:15 CEST.

Moderators

  • Jonathan Auer, Junior Advisor, Global Shield Secretariat
  • Lea Sarah Kulick, Advisor, Secretariat of the Global Shield against Climate Risks

Speaker

  • Lorraine Njue, Head of Actuarial, ARC Ltd
  • Nick Moody, Cooordinator, Global Risk Modelling Alliance (GRMA)
  • Kaavya Ashok Krishna, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank / Global Shield Financing Facility
  • Annette Detken , Head of the Global Shield Solution Platform , Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
  • Kip Koskei , Director of Strategic Partnerships , Insurance Development Forum
  • Emily Montier, Consultant, World Bank

New countries can apply for support from the Global Shield at CoP28.

Register here to join virtually.

October 11th. 11:00 UTC

Break in plenary session at the #GlobalDP. Back this afternoon. Here are some other things to think about during the break. We’ll be back to wrap things up this afternoon.

  1. Volunteer with MapAction to work on anticipatory action projects!

A lot of the work MapAction does in anticipatory action (with the Start Network and INFORM) involves our volunteer cohort of 70+ GIS and IM specialists. We are currently recruiting for six new exciting volunteer positions. Read on here to find out more about volunteering with MapAction.

Find out more about the volunteer community of practice at MapAction here.

  • 2. Check out this UN video on role of data in AI in building resilience

INTERESTING RESOURCE (from the UN): Reimagining Tomorrow: Breakthrough in Data and AI for a More Resilient World

“Step into the future with the UN-hosted Complex Risk Analytics Fund, the Early Warnings for All initiative and Gzero Media at the 78th United Nations (UN) General Assembly. As we navigate an era of multifaceted global crises – amplified by climate change – recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), technologies, and data ecosystems create transformative opportunities to tackle these challenges. Together with global leaders and change-makers, we envisage a world where global partners unlock the potential of data, analytics, and AI to better anticipate crises and pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.”

October 10th. 15:30 UTC

A cartoon to wrap things up for today. More updates tomorrow.

“And if there’s ever a question of whose responsibility something is, simply CC everyone.”

Day 1 wraps up with lightning talks, in which a CSO leader and an academic explore how El Niño is affecting lives, health, food security, violence and displacement of children and adolescents.

With:

  • Wendy Emilia Vera García, Leader, Movimiento Por Ser Niña (‘Because I am a Girl’ movement) 
  • Liz Stephens, Science Lead / Professor of Climate Risks and Resilience, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and University of Reading

Anticipatory action (AA) is a humanitarian term. We will use the Red Cross definition below:

“A set of actions taken to prevent or mitigate potential disaster impacts before a shock or before acute impacts are felt. The actions are carried out in anticipation of a hazard impact and based on a prediction of how the event will unfold. Anticipatory actions should not be a substitute for longer-term investment in risk reduction and should aim to strengthen people’s capacity to manage risks.”

World Disaster Report 2020, IFRC

The language of AA

The following are not synonymous with anticipatory action but are closely interconnected terms: early action, early warning, disaster risk reduction, future preparedness, disaster resilience, forecast-based action, forecast-based finance.

Why is anticipatory action necessary?

  • In the last 10 years… 410,000 people have been killed by extreme weather and climate-related events, most by heatwaves and storms. (World Disaster Report 2020)
  • In the last 10 years… 83% of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events
  • There has been a 35% increase in climate and weather-related hazards since 1990
  • The East Asia and Pacific region alone includes 13 of the 30 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to the World Bank. “Without concerted action, the region could see an additional 7.5 million people fall into poverty due to climate impacts by 2030,” warns the international financial institution. 
What can we learn from acrobats in anticipatory action? Trust, practice, learning from mistakes. Photo: MapAction.

Anticipatory action networks

MapAction volunteers attended training with INFORM in Italy in September 2023. MapAction will be working with several national disaster management agencies to build new disaster models or to update their current ones within the INFORM framework. Goal? Greater resilience. Photo: Leon Baruah.

MapAction is part of the following anticipatory action frameworks and networks:

  • INFORM: INFORM is a multi-stakeholder forum for developing shared, quantitative analysis relevant to humanitarian crises and disasters. INFORM includes organisations from across the multilateral system, including the humanitarian and development sector, donors, and technical partners. The Joint Research Center of European Commission is the scientific lead for INFORM. INFORM is developing a suite of quantitative, analytical products to support decision-making on humanitarian crises and disasters. These help make decisions at different stages of the disaster management cycle, specifically climate adaptation and disaster prevention, preparedness and response.

“The partnership between INFORM and MapAction greatly increases our capacity to support countries to develop INFORM Subnational risk models. These models help countries understand their risks and inform planning and programming to better prevent and prepare for crises and disasters.”

Andrew Thow, INFORM Programme Manager
  • Start Network: Start Network is made up of more than 80 non-governmental organisations across five continents, ranging from large international organisations to local and national NGOs. Our programmes allow members to deliver humanitarian action around the world.

Anticipatory action allows communities exposed to hazards, as well as disaster managers, to be more prepared and forecast future hazards. It is a framework for disaster risk reduction and for triggering early release of funds to mitigate the effects of hazards.

These four phases are regularly used components within an anticipatory action plan.

  1. TRIGGERS: Defines when and where early action will be implemented.
  2. EARLY ACTIONS: Defines what early actions will be taken to reduce the impact
  3. FINANCING MECHANISM: a pre-agreed financing mechanism
  4. DELIVERY: Capacity to implement actions as planned

Images from the Anticipation Hub in Berlin, where a team of MapAction anticipatory action specialists – project managers, data scientists, software engineers – are in attendance. Photo: MapAction.

There are also three agreed parameters for anticipatory action:

What? The action is taken to reduce or prevent the crisis impact

When? The action is taken ahead of the hazard impact or before the impacts of the shock fully unfold (not to be confused with early response) 

How? The decision to act is taken on a forecast or a collaborative analysis