MapAction wins Lloyd’s Market Charity Award

MapAction has been awarded £25,000 by the Lloyd’s Market Charity Awards in recognition of our disaster response and preparedness work. 

The award will be used to enhance MapAction’s operational capability to help different regional and national emergency management bodies prepare for future humanitarian emergencies, and to help with responses to shocks and emergencies when they occur. 

We were selected to receive this generous donation thanks to the efforts of MapAction volunteer and Trustee, Chris Ewing. He applied for the award on our behalf in his role as Head of Client Management at Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe model development centre of Aon Reinsurance Solutions. It’s one of a handful of awards that the Lloyd’s Market hand out every year in response to individual efforts of those who work across the Lloyd’s Corporation and market.

Over the past 12 months Chris has helped produce drought indicator maps for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), as part of a larger UN project using satellite imagery and machine learning to quickly identify areas for pre-emptive funding. He also volunteered through MapAction on a COVID-19 dashboard project with UNICEF and the Mexican Government Ministry of Education. 

Chris said: “This award is really fantastic, quite unexpected and we’re really very very grateful for it. I know how crucial every penny is for MapAction and this will help our efforts to mitigate and to respond to crises.”

Deepening the impact and effectiveness of humanitarian information

MapAction has begun an important and exciting programme of work funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID BHA)USAID logo

The new grant, aimed at strengthening the sector, runs from 2021-2024. It will see MapAction working with local, regional and international organisations to ensure that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and information management processes are at the heart of humanitarian operations, including preparedness, anticipatory action and emergency response activities. 

This work builds on the achievements of a previous BHA-funded programme that took place from 2017-2021, which helped improve the use of GIS and spatial analysis across the humanitarian response sector through preparedness work and training with key partners.

Specifically, the new fund will help us to address the key data and information management gaps at regional and national levels, as well as working with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and urban authorities at the local level. This will enable us to build on localisation initiatives and establish context-appropriate surge capacity.

It will also allow us to continue our work to develop best practice for managing information in humanitarian contexts and enhancing the policy environment. 

It will be implemented by MapAction’s team of experienced and highly skilled staff and volunteers who will work closely with partner organisations to build on the relationships and foundations we have already established and develop new relationships with regional and national partners.

Our experience, skills and expertise, including in data science, means that we are uniquely placed to build on and share what works well in humanitarian information management, combined with the latest thinking in key areas related to data quality and preparedness.

By applying the best geospatial technologies to humanitarian problems, partner organisations can gain critical insights, enabling them to multiply their effectiveness.

Ultimately, this fund will mean that decision makers are better informed so they can more effectively anticipate, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Volunteer intake boosts skills and capacity

2021 volunteer intake - four new volunteers with Mapction T-shirts smile at the camera in an office with a map behind them.
From left: Chris Tilt, Cate Seale, Piet Gerrits and Yolanda Vazquez

MapAction’s work is built around the skills and dedication of its volunteers. They work in numerous different fields in their day jobs and join us to undertake emergency and planned assignments both around the world and remotely. 

This year, after a careful selection process, we are delighted to welcome two data scientists, a data engineer and a GIS expert onboard. They will help us to broaden and diversify our skill base and increase our analytical capacity. 

We are now beginning the process of equipping the new intake with additional knowledge and competences they’ll need to function effectively in humanitarian contexts.

Chris Tilt (Data engineer)

My background is software development, primarily with .NET.  I find building software fun when it helps people or when it solves an interesting problem. 

Having not worked in this sector previously, for me the learning curve may be steep to begin with.  However, joining MapAction is an opportunity that’s hard to find.  There are many interesting people here and the work speaks for itself, so I’m looking forward to getting involved!

Outside of work or my interest in tech, I’m an avid runner, and enjoy learning new things, civilised arguments about politics and Scandinavian crime thrillers. 

Cate Seale (Data scientist)

I was always torn between the academic and creative. Mapping and data science allows me to do both. I like thinking about the art of the possible, and figuring out and implementing algorithms. But also making design decisions on how to communicate that information in graphs and maps.

I love the idea of people with different skills all coming together to work towards common goals of rights, respect and dignity.

In my spare time, I am addicted to podcasts! My current favourites are Heavyweight and 99% Invisible.

Yolanda Vazquez (GIS)

I am currently working as a Geospatial Consultant at the Satellite Applications Catapult where I am part of a team focused on International Development and Humanitarian work. I wanted to join MapAction because the humanitarian character of the organisation aligns with my personal and professional values, and because I know it is full of passionate map geeks like me who want to use their skills to help people affected by humanitarian emergencies.

What inspires me about the humanitarian sector are its principles and the work that humanitarians do to support people in need with respect and dignity, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and social status.

In my free time, I love travelling and all things music related; playing, dancing, gigs and festivals.

Piet Gerrits (Data Scientist)

I am currently a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow and work as a GIS technician at the University of Cambridge. I’m passionate about long-term human-environment interaction and so studied landscape archaeology. After being introduced to GIS and Remote Sensing, I made a career change to Geospatial Data Science and have worked on several research and capacity building projects in Turkey and Iraq that bring together historical data such as maps, censuses and (historical) satellite information. 

Joining Mapaction provides the opportunity to be part of a team that brings together spatial data with the purpose of making people’s lives better.

In my free time, I enjoy learning new things, travelling  and often go kayaking on the river Cam and elsewhere in the UK.

MapAction signs an MoU with the Asian Disaster Risk Reduction Network

MapAction has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Asian Disaster Risk Reduction Network (ADRRN) with a view to stimulate further cooperation between the two organisations and to leverage our collective knowledge in order to better anticipate and prepare for future emergencies.

This agreement demonstrates our commitment and desire to work with in-country Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to increase their readiness, capacity and visibility within the international humanitarian sector. 

ADRRN is a network of 46 NGOs operating in 20 countries right across the Asia Pacific region. Known as the civil society voice of Asia, it collaborates with national-level networks, global networks, regional multilateral stakeholders and UN agencies.

Together, our overall aim is to solve problems collaboratively and ensure the network has the most up-to-date knowledge and expertise in order to provide on the ground support and guidance. 

MapAction has extensive experience in Information Management in emergency situations so is already working with the network to develop and maintain a knowledge-sharing platform. This will allow members to share and access critical information, tools and tips in a secure environment, whilst boosting their efficacy and aligning their activities.

We also plan to work with members to increase data gathering, improve disaster responses and investigate how members can support anticipatory action. And to help facilitate ADRRN to attain an overview of CSO members, programmes and activities.

Longer term, we want to look into how surge capacity from international agencies and governments can integrate more seamlessly with local capacity. Along with creating an environment in which a range of tools for data collection, analysis and information sharing can support decision making for CSO’s disaster risk reduction, anticipatory action and response operations.

USAID logo
This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs as part of a programme to improve cooperation in the humanitarian sector.

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

COVID-19 has been tough for all of us but the development of COVID-19 vaccines should offer a lifeline to the whole world. However, for many, especially those in the world’s poorer countries, it’s yet to make an impact. 

As part of the drive to provide equitable access to vaccines, international agencies involved in COVAX need to ensure that countries are ready to accept delivery and coordinate the roll-out.

With this in mind, MapAction, with funding from the Calleva Foundation, partnered with  expert geospatial colleagues from CartONG, OpenMap Development Tanzania, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Afrimapr/LSTHM, Mapbox and Esri, to create a novel concept called the Integrated Humanitarian Data Package (IHDP). This aims to give quick and easy access to key geographic data that underpins the planning and delivery of vaccination programmes. 

The single package contains not only selected data sets, but also information explaining the data (‘metadata’), together with a set of GIS (geographic information system) and coding tools to easily develop situation-specific items such as maps and other graphics, depending on user-need. This will give organisations managing vaccine delivery in vulnerable countries a running start, once vaccines become available. 

Nick McWilliam, IHDP project lead at MapAction said, “High quality mapping and data analysis are key to understanding how many people need vaccinating, where they are, and how and where the vaccines can be safely stored and delivered. We know that access to good data is a major issue in many countries. Even where data exists, it’s frequently patchy and not in a format that is usable by most people, as well as lacking crucial information about the local context. The IHDP concept is intended to remove barriers to good information that are otherwise likely to hinder vaccine delivery.”  

The pilot project focused on creating an IHDP for South Sudan, however, the lessons learned are applicable across many other countries where population information is often too poor for effective logistics.  

The IHDP is designed to be used by non-GIS experts with coordination and management responsibilities and ensures that they can easily use good quality data in a readily usable format. It’s also designed to reduce the time and effort needed, removing barriers for responders so they can quickly understand and respond to often complex situations. 

The data produced will be freely accessible via MapAction’s Map and Data repository and also published on The Africa GeoPortal

“The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented demand for data in the humanitarian sector, but persistent data gaps remain. With every country in the world affected by COVID-19, the disparity in data availability in countries experiencing humanitarian crises became more clear.”

The State of Open Humanitarian Data, 2021: Assessing Data Availability Across Humanitarian Crises. OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data and Humanitarian Data Exchange

We are also sharing this information amongst the humanitarian community and international agencies involved in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

See a video interview with Nick McWilliam, IHDP Project Lead.

Contributing to excellence in emergency response

We are working with our colleagues in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to share valuable insights and experience, and to learn about how AHA is adapting and developing the expertise of its team.

The centre recently ran a series of virtual sessions which provided the opportunity for graduate members of ASEAN’s Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) the chance to hone their technical skills and consult with experts. The programme also refreshed members’ memories and enhanced their technical competencies.

MapAction ran a session on response mapping which included guided tutorials and self-paced learning on how to make use of Excel and Google Earth in an emergency. Participants learned how to use the tools and techniques quickly and efficiently in the early stages of a response and how they might also support decision makers in the response teams. These techniques were built on during the other sessions led by AHA staff on data collection and analysis, data visualisation and developing information management dashboards. The sessions were tested during a four hour online simulation exercise.

The online course was composed of eight people from across the ASEAN region including Brunei, Laos, the Philippines and Indonesia who had graduated from previous courses. 

USAID logo
This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of a programme to improve the use of geospatial analysis and services across the entire humanitarian response sector.

MapAction and the AHA Centre have signed a Memorandum of Intent with each other which formalises our joint efforts to help build mapping and information management capacity among humanitarian actors in the ASEAN region, as well as helping them prepare for disasters by putting in place essential geospatial information and resources. This training forms part of this ongoing activity.

Mapping COVID crises with GIMAC

So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly caused 214 million illnesses and killed nearly four and a half million people worldwide (Google statistics). The impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people is immense, especially where populations are already facing several humanitarian crises. 

Maps and charts showing a breakdown of the number displaced individuals in private accomodation, camps, critical shelters or unknown in Iraq as at 30 August 2020

MapAction has been working with GIMAC (the Global Information Management, Assessment & Analysis Cell) which was set up by several UN agencies and other international bodies to coordinate, collate, manage and analyse COVID-19 related information. The organisation also established a ‘field support’ mechanism, available to 25 countries currently implementing a Humanitarian Response Plan. On the ground, this meant providing technical support to a number of countries already facing significant ongoing humanitarian problems and keen to update their plans in light of Covid-19.

MapAction’s role was initially funded by the H2H network, and saw us assimilating the rapid data collection to provide GIS mapping and spatial analysis to support good decision-making. To do this, one of our team was seconded to the programme for two days a week. 

As well as helping to gather initial data, we also used our GIS skills to provide mapping and other visualisations to countries on an open source basis. 

Our work on the programme is now coming to a close but throughout our time on the programme, we provided extensive geospatial analysis and data visualisation support. Overall we produced and provided around 60 maps and graphics on the impacts of the virus and any secondary shocks, alongside the ongoing humanitarian crises. These included baseline populations, food security levels, public security and educational accessibility.

Fawad Hussain, GIMAC Coordinator, OCHA, said, “MapAction has provided exceptional support to GIMAC and the country teams and it has been a pleasure to work with Matt and other MapAction colleagues.” 

Map showing the variety in the number of commodities being sold in market places in Ethiopia January 2019 to April 2020.

MapAction supports response to deadly earthquake in Haiti

Over a thousand people have died and many more have been injured in a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit on 14th August which has brought devastation to the Caribbean nation whose population is already highly vulnerable due to political and civil unrest.

The epicentre of the earthquake was near the Northern coast of the Southern peninsula where it has caused significant damage to infrastructure such as hospitals, ports and roads in areas such as Jérémie and Les Cayes. 

Initial estimates show that the earthquake has caused over 700 buildings to collapse and damaged nearly 4,000 homes, resulting in many seeking refuge in shelters and many more that have been displaced. Search and rescue teams have been deployed to find any people still trapped under the rubble.

Along with partners, including ACAPS, REACH and UNOSAT, MapAction is supporting the United Nations Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) with a small team who will collect data and provide remote mapping and other visualisations of the situation to its Assessment and Analysis Cell. UN OCHA will be relying on it’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) to coordinate its on the ground response. 

Haiti is due to be hit by Tropical Storm Grace on 17 August which will make it more difficult to reach those affected by the earthquake with shelter, food and water.

See our maps once they’re prepared.

German Federal Foreign Office logo
We’re grateful to the German Federal Foreign Office for funding this work.

Raising vital funds through the London Marathon

Five heroic individuals are gearing up to run the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon for MapAction.

Our runners (and their fundraising pages) are:


Aaron Berdanier – running virtually

Tim Davis

Ian Davis

Paul Rogers

Ed Wallington

Ian Davis, who is Director of Fundraising and Communications at MapAction, is running this year and says:

“2021 is going to be MapAction’s most challenging year due to the funding landscape.”

“Hopefully by pledging to complete my first marathon at 56 and not being naturally suited to running, I can raise extra funds by showing just how much I believe in MapAction’s vital work.”

“Struggling through the training this summer I’m more appreciative than ever of the efforts of Aaron, Ed, Paul and Timothy. Every penny they raise is vital and I thank them.” 

The event, which will help raise vital funds for MapAction, is scheduled to go ahead on 3rd October this year due to COVID-19, but as normal, the 26 mile course will start at Greenwich and finish at Buckingham Palace. 

This year will be a record breaker, as along with 50,000 people doing the race in person, 37,000 are signed up to do a virtual race, meaning that they can take part wherever they are.


Read Ian’s blog about his training and why he’s doing it.

MapAction supports Suriname and Guyana flood responses

Thousands of people are at risk of deadly floods in Suriname and Guyana so MapAction is responding to a request to provide rapid mapping support led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

Both countries have seen months of extreme rainfall, leading to flooding of up to 14 feet in some areas which is making some of the roads impassable and areas inaccessible. The resulting flooding is only likely to increase during the rest of the rainy season which continues until the end of July.

The area is low lying and much of the countries’ land is only a few meters above sea level, making them two of the world’s most vulnerable countries to flooding. They also have much of their industry, including mining, close to the coast, meaning that jobs, livelihoods and accessible drinking water is being put at risk. Inadequate drainage is also exacerbating the problem in the more densely populated urban areas. 

We are supporting CDEMA with a three-person team of geospatial experts working remotely to provide maps and visualisations. We are also helping the United Nations’ Disaster Assessment and Coordination body (UNDAC) which is undertaking damage assessments and environmental management in both countries. 

MapAction’s maps and other information products relating to this emergency will be available for Suriname and Guyana as the response develops. 

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We’re grateful to The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for funding this work.