Haiti work continues

HAITI, 22 April – MapAction has been continually deployed in Haiti for more than three months since the earthquake in January.

Following on from MapAction’s vital role in the intensive search-and-rescue and relief assessment phases, the charity’s services have remained in demand from partner organisations including the United Nations and International Red Cross during the delivery of ongoing relief assistance to more than one million people left homeless by the earthquake.

Two MapAction team members Emese Csete and Helen Wood are currently (April 2010) working with the Emergency Shelter and Camp Coordination and Management Clusters in Port-au-Prince. Their work still includes mapping but also involves wider aspects of information management, in an effort to maintain a shared picture of needs and response plans so that hundreds of aid organisations can coordinate their actions.

Volunteer Chris Phillips has just returned from a second stint in Haiti, this time for five weeks. He has been instrumental in securing facilities for the Haitian national mapping agency CNIGS to integrate its efforts with international humanitarian agencies, to be ready for continuing natural disaster risks.

Chris Phillips said: “Although there’s some early planning for recovery, we have to stay aware that hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in temporary camps are highly vulnerable as the rainy season approaches, and worse still the risk of tropical storms. There are only a few weeks to make sure that preparedness for another disaster shock is as good as it can be. And that includes preparedness of mapping data and GIS resources.”

Chris also facilitated a visit to Haiti by two members of OpenStreetMap (OSM) who trained Haitian and international staff in how to collect and work with OSM data. The map data of Haiti produced rapidly by the OSM community worldwide, within days of the earthquake, were used by MapAction as vital base mapping from the first stages of the crisis and remain an important resource.

Funding for MapAction’s work in Haiti was granted by European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). Chris Phillips was made available for the mission by his employer Ordnance Survey, the UK national mapping agency, which also provides sponsorship funding to MapAction.