Building resilience in Palestine

West Bank, 17 Apr – MapAction has recently concluded a mission to the occupied Palestinian territory in partnership with the United Nations. The mission aimed to strengthen national and international planning for disasters or other crises in the territory.

The complex geopolitical situation in the region makes local communities particularly vulnerable to consequences of natural disasters, such as the severe flooding experienced last year.

MapAction’s volunteer spent two weeks working with the UN team in the West Bank and Gaza to research recommendations for contingency planning and long term institutional strengthening for disaster response. Their findings were presented to the Palestinian Authority and humanitarian agencies in the region at the end of the mission.

RideLondon 100 bike ride for MapAction

UK, 5 Feb – Be part of something amazing this August. You can test your cycling prowess with the best of them on the 100-mile route made famous by the London 2012 Olympic road race.

Lucy took part in the event last year: “The atmosphere on the day was electric. It was such an inspiring experience and wonderful to know I was raising money for such an important cause.”

Date: 10 August 2014

Location: The event starts in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and then follows a 100-mile route on closed roads through London and into the spectacular Surrey countryside

Registration fee: £50. This contributes to the cost of your place and your MapAction cycling top.

Minimum sponsorship: £500, but don’t worry – we will support you with fundraising help and advice.

Difficulty level: People of all abilities are welcome, but please be aware that the route involves some challenging hill climbs. Participants are expected to complete the 100-mile route within 9 hours.

What do you get for your money?

  • A branded MapAction cycling top
  • A dedicated point of contact to support you with your fundraising
  • A support team to help you on the day
  • Well-earned refreshments and a massage to welcome you at the end
  • The knowledge that your fundraising efforts will help deliver our emergency mapping service to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

Please Note: All spaces have been filled.

MapAction deploys to South Sudan

Juba, 24 Jan – MapAction has deployed two mapping experts to South Sudan at the request of the United Nations.

Wide-spreading fighting has extended across the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of civilians.  The crisis is exacerbating what was already a challenging humanitarian situation, with 4.4 million people requiring humanitarian assistance prior to recent violence.

According to United Nations’ statistics, an estimated 413,000 people have been internally displaced as a result and over 74,000 more have fled to neighbouring countries (as of 14 January). Aid agencies believe that the number of internally displaced people could be much higher, as insecurity and logistical constraints have prevented relief workers from travelling outside towns.

New pockets of displacement are being reported daily, making it a very difficult environment for aid agencies to plan and implement their response.

MapAction’s mapping experts will be working in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other humanitarian responders to help assess the humanitarian impact of the violence and aid priorities. In particular, they will create a common operational picture of the locations and needs of displaced people.

South Sudan Map Catalogue

Sign here for South Sudan map alerts

The SNAP team explains the aim of the project

UK, 23 Jan – Since December 2012, MapAction has been partnering with ACAPS (Assessment Capabilities Project) to assess the needs of affected communities and develop possible future scenarios, based on what we currently know.

The aim of this collaboration is to equip humanitarian responders and donors with accurate, timely information, so their response can be as targeted and effective as possible. Our collaborative effort is known as the Syria Needs Assessment Project or “SNAP”. You can find out more about this activity by watching this short video prepared by ACAPS.

{loadposition snap_video}

All the SNAP products can be found here – Syria Resources

OBE for former CEO

UK, 6 Jan – Nigel Woof has received an OBE in the New Years Honours List for Humanitarian Services as Chief Executive of MapAction.  Nigel joined MapAction, the Buckinghamshire based charity, as a volunteer in April 2003 and quickly showed special talents during early deployments to Sri Lanka for the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. He became the Operations Director in 2007 and then Chief Executive in 2009.

Nigel has shown an exceptional understanding of relief needs in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the initiative and ability to devise and produce a variety of maps to provide a “common operational picture” which plays a major part in coordinating the many UN and international organisations involved in the response.  His leadership and organisation has been a significant factor in the service delivered by the MapAction team.

Although he handed over his role as Chief Executive in January 2013 he remains a very active MapAction volunteer and has just returned from the Philippines where he, along with other MapAction volunteers, prepared information maps to assist the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team in the aftermath of one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the Philippines.

Nigel’s immediate reaction:

“It’s exciting of course, but also humbling to be singled out. Really the award should be for the whole MapAction team, most of them volunteers and all amazing people, to recognise their joint endeavour in so many disasters over the past decade. I’ll also be raising a New Year’s glass to all the unsung heroes in humanitarian aid agencies we’ve worked with across the world, whose collective commitment never stops.”

MapAction concludes its mission to the Philippines

Philippines, 18 Dec – MapAction has concluded its final rotation of people to the Philippines to provide mapping support to the humanitarian response after six weeks and nearly two hundred mission days. Fifteen of MapAction’s volunteers generously gave their time to assist based initially in Manila and then in Tacloban, one of the worst affected areas. Unusually for MapAction, each team consisted of four to five people for the majority of the mission demonstrating the extent of need for mapped analysis.  MapAction provided detailed information to Region VIII (in which Tacloban is located) and in parallel, provided overview information to the humanitarian community.

Initially producing reference maps and situational analysis maps, and working on sharing data with other information management providers, MapAction introduced an automated three W mapping series building on the manual system previously used. These maps describe Who, What, Where of the humanitarian response for each sector in every district (seventeen districts and eleven sectors in total).  This series, the first of its kind for MapAction was updated twice a week generating several hundred maps a week. In addition maps for cash programming  (including the distribution of market assessments) and the demographics of the affected population have been produced indicating the move from the life saving and immediate relief distribution activities of the earliest stages of an emergency to the recovery and vulnerability targeting activities of the next stage of the response.  

MapAction is currently completing its monitoring and evaluation process and will undertake an internal lessons learned exercise with its team in January.  A report will be available on the website in February.

MapAction thanks the employers who willingly released their staff at very short notice to form the team of professional volunteers MapAction deployed to the Philippines humanitarian response.

There are benefits potentially both ways.  As one employer said,

“This has been probably the most motivating thing for my team all year. Just knowing that in a small way we were helping to get Darren there we felt part of it too. This year, we specifically worked at getting the work he does for Argyll manageable so that he could be deployed at short notice, plus Landmark HR really came through with offering time off.”

Jez Nicholson, Argyll Environmental

Without this support MapAction could not do what it does. We are grateful to: Argyll Environmental, Calesurvey, Environment Agency, EPA (Environmental Protection AgencyESRI UK, Exprodat, Harrow Council,  Landmark Information Group, Sinclair Knight Merz, Sustain, UwArc (Underwater Archaeology).

Reflections on Haiyan

Philippines, 16 Dec – An update from MapAction Operations Director, Jonny Douch who deployed early in the emergency.

On 7 November MapAction deployed to the Philippines, the day before Typhoon Haiyan struck. Although we all knew it was likely to affect vulnerable communities, none of us could have predicted the scale of the devastation that followed.

Photo right: Survivors of the storm arrive in Manila on a US military C130. Every plane out of Tacloban was full of people leaving the city

It soon emerged that the area that had borne the brunt of the typhoon was around Tacloban City. I headed there amongst the cargo in a US military plane to assess how and where MapAction could help most. I arrived in the dark.

Photo left: Jonny, Operations Director flying amongst the cargo in the first available flight to Tacloban

The scene that greeted me was like something out of a disaster movie. The terminal building had been smashed by a massive wave that had carried off everyone who was trying to get a flight out. All was dark confusion. The noise from the planes made it all but impossible to hear and phone calls virtually impossible.

As we headed into the city, the car headlights lit up a shattered landscape where the storm surge had swept through. Everything was still now. It was an eerie scene, with just a few lonely soldiers at the road blocks to wave us past. It was impossible to see how anybody could have survived here. Bodies were still being recovered from the debris; body bags lined the side of the road awaiting collection.

My first task in Tacloban was to set up MapAction’s base within the United Nations’ coordination centre, where responders would come for the latest information to coordinate relief efforts. It was particularly poignant to reflect on the fact that most of the local people we were working with had lost friends or family. Although you try not to think of these things while you’re there, when you get home you have time to reflect on the immense loss you have witnessed.

The number of organisations arriving was increasing every day, all hungry for the sort of information MapAction was there to provide. The demands on our team were extreme. By the end of this mission, we will have deployed 15 mapping experts, who will have together contributed over 30 weeks of work. We will have produced well over 1,000 different mapped products, which will have been distributed to thousands of responders via web and printed copies. These figures don’t include the efforts our non-deployed volunteers, who have provided unfaltering support throughout– many of whom have taken time off their day jobs to devote their full-time attention to supporting our field team.

1 and 2: United Nations’ On Site Operations and Coordination Centre, a tent inside a roofless building

3: The tents where MapAction set up home

4: Standing up: Inter-agency coordination meeting
5. A scene from the roadside

When I returned to Tacloban airport, two weeks had passed since the typhoon had struck. It was daylight. Although if anything the destruction was clearer by day, life was reclaiming the land again. Everywhere people were busy clearing up and bringing order to the chaos.

Photo above: the road to the airport

The airport was now functioning well, although it was a surreal experience to check in and go through security amidst the destruction. Passengers sat in a departure lounge with no wall and just umbrellas to protect from them the rain. We placed our hands over our ears to block out the noise from the military planes delivering aid.

The determination of the staff and passengers to make it work was a moving sight – surely a sign that although the people of the Philippines may never forget Typhoon Haiyan, their remarkable courage and resilience will help them recover from this terrible storm.

Photos above: Normal service resumes at Tacloban airport

Typhoon Haiyan update

Philippines, 9 Dec – MapAction has deployed its final rotation of 4 mapping experts to Tacloban, who will hand over to a United Nations OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) team on 18 December. By the end of this mission, MapAction will have deployed 15 staff and volunteers to help with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda).

MapAction has had a team on the ground since before the storm struck, with the first team of two people arriving in the early hours of 8 November. Over the course of the mission, MapAction volunteers have produced a wide range of maps, including Who, What, Where maps i.e. maps which demonstrate which organisations are working where.

Sign up for map alerts here

Map Catalogue

Philippines Big Give Appeal

Philippines, 12 Nov – MapAction has launched a matched giving appeal to support our emergency efforts in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Every £1 you donate through the Big Give will be matched, thereby doubling the value of your donation (up to a limit of £1,000 per donor).

Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on 8 November. Its severity was unprecedented, with gusts of wind recorded at up to 235 mph. Official estimates are that more than 9.6 million people have been affected by the disaster. Many have lost loved ones and everything they own. They have no food, clean water, medicine or shelter. Bodies have been left in the fields and by the sides of roads, which add to the risk of disease. It is feared that some 10,000 people may have died in one province alone.

MapAction is working around the clock to help identify the needs of survivors, so they get the help they need as quickly as possible. We deployed a team of volunteers to the Philippines before the typhoon struck, so they could set to work as soon as it had passed. As the full scale of the emergency becomes apparent, we now need to deploy more skilled mapping experts to the region to help the millions of people affected.

Please give what you can today and make your donation go further through this fantastic matched giving opportunity.

Super typhoon Haiyan slams Philippines

Philippines, 8 Nov – A category 5 ‘super’ typhoon (Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda) has entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility and is due to make landfall on the east of the country Friday 8th November.  Haiyan was assessed as having sustained wind speeds of 225kph with gusts of 250 kph near its centre and is travelling at a speed of 33kmh. Eastern Visayas, likely to be first impacted has a population of 4.1m. The storm is predicted to track across the country exiting the evening of November 8th on the west coast of the country.

The Philippine public authorities are making evacuation and prepositioning plans particularly for people in lowlying or mountainous areas where floods, landslides and storm surges are likely. An advanced UN Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been requested to assist the national authorities and will arrive the morning of 8th November. Two members of MapAction are deploying alongside and are en route today.

Sign up for map alerts here

Map Catalogue

(Photo: Reuters)

Interested in running for MapAction?

UK, 11 Nov – Interested in running the London Marathon for MapAction next April? MapAction is delighted to announce it has a limited number of places available for the London Marathon 2014.

We ask our runners to commit to raising at least £1,500 and pay a £100 registration fee to secure their place. In return, you will receive a branded MapAction running top and have access to our post-race reception room, where you can enjoy a well-earned massage and refreshments. We support our runners every step of the way with their training, fundraising and on the big day itself. We would love you to join the team.

Places are in high demand for this prestigious event, so if you’re interested in running for MapAction, please complete the following form – MapAction London Marathon 2014 – by Friday 22 November and we will get right back to you.

Following in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin

India, 4 Nov – Cyclone Phailin made landfall in India on 12th October severally impacting the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Rapid action by the Indian Government and State authorities to evacuate half a million people, meant that the number of mortalities was low. However 13 million people have been affected with an estimated 1.7 million severely affected. Houses and infrastructure have been destroyed and livelihoods interrupted. MapAction deployed a team of two from Scotland on Saturday 2nd November.

Alistair Wilkie and Felicity Cross will work with two consortia of International Non-Government organisations (including Christian Aid, Action Aid, Care, Save the Children, Oxfam and others), in support of the Indian authorities response to the disaster. The team will also support the wider humanitarian community as requested. They will travel to Odisha to meet with assessment teams including the Sphere India team. It is likely that a team rotation will be required given the scale of this emergency.

Sign up for map alerts here

Map Catalogue

Investing in Humanitarian Information

UK, 29 Oct – 2012 was a significant year for MapAction as it celebrated ten years of mapping expertise. The year’s annual review reflects on those ten years, the achievements of the organisation during them and the invaluable support the organisation has enjoyed from a wide range of donors throughout. The review also looks forward, anticipating the strategic opportunities for the future both for the organisation and for its supporters. We hope it will inspire current and future supporters to join us.

Download: MapAction Annual Review 2012

Prince Harry attends ambassador launch

UK, 30 Sep – Prince Harry, MapAction’s Royal Patron, attended a reception on Thursday evening (26th September) at the Royal Society, London. The launch of an ambassador programme was the main focus of the event to further engage long term support for MapAction’s future. The function also provided an opportunity to give recognition and thanks to existing donors committed to supporting the organisation’s work.

MapAction simulated a field operation and demonstrated the organisations’ role in a mock earthquake based on past deployments. Prince Harry congratulated the MapAction team of many volunteers on their achievement in deploying to over 40 emergency missions during the past 11 years, helping millions of people affected by disaster. Prince Harry said: ‘I was struck by their willingness to drop everything at a moment’s notice – despite the fact that I would do that in my job – and step into the heart of a crisis no matter where it is in the world, leaving loved ones behind.’ He added: ‘These are extraordinary people in this extraordinary organisation and I am proud to be Patron.’

Liz Hughes, MapAction’s Chief Executive said: ‘ Prince Harry’s patronage of MapAction is a highly valuable contribution for an organisation of our size. Unique events such as this reception offer the perfect opportunity to attract new donors and it also allows us to express our thanks to all those involved with helping reach people in their time of urgent need. We are especially grateful for Prince Harry’s interest in meeting our donors who are an enormous part of enabling the service we provide.’

For further information on our ambassador programme please contact Mim or Chloe on 01494 568899 or email:

{loadposition Film003}

Flash Flooding support in Sudan

Sudan, 18 Sep – Heavy rain and flash floods in several areas of Sudan have affected up to 530,000 people. Between 15,000 and 18,000 houses have been destroyed, with Khartoum being the most-affected state.

Nationwide flooding affected 270,000 last year. This year’s floods are being considered the worst since the historical marker of the 1988 floods. Darfur appears to be less impacted than initially thought but there are conflicting reports.

MapAction has been asked by the OCHA Sudan office to assist with mapping and information management support for the humanitarian response.  A two person team was dispatched on the 18th September to assist. Liz Hughes said, ‘ these types of emergencies do not always hit the international headlines but they are just as capable of wreaking havoc and causing great levels of suffering to large numbers of the population. Accurate spatial analysis of the disaster, timely information and situation maps are crucial to helping the humanitarian community assist people when they need it.’

Deploying to Uttarakhand, India

India, 29 Jul – Over the past month, serious flooding in Uttarakhand state in Northern India has left over 3,000 dead, 11,000 missing and 100,000 people evacuated from homes to escape flooding and landslides. Described as the heaviest in 80 years, the mountainous region and ongoing nature of the flooding makes access a challenge.  Save the Children India requested assistance from MapAction . A team was deployed to Delhi on Saturday 27th July and will travel to Dehra Dun, capital of the state on Monday. The team will work with Save the Children India on logistical and monitoring requirements, and coordinate with other organisations such as SEEDS and the Digital Humanitarian Network to ensure data is shared as widely as possible.

(Photo: Hindustan Times)

Success at MapAction Hackathon

UK, 30 May – The MapAction Hackathon with AGI (Association for Geographic Information) was held on Saturday 27th April at Astun Technology offices in Epsom, Surrey. 40 people attended and worked on a series of data and visualisation topics to help MapAction in the field. The winning idea for the day was the “Dirty Data Dashboard”. This is a tool to help MapAction prepare data for scenario exercises, a key component of making sure the team is prepared for a real disaster when it happens. 

The event couldn’t have gone ahead without the enthusiasm of the participants who brought their knowledge of data, programming, GIS and visualisation from their day jobs to help MapAction. Technical Project Leader Andy Smith commented “We’ve already made progress with implementing some of the ideas and we’ve passed on the ideas for the population movement arrows to our volunteers. The Dirty Data Dashboard got its first real test at our annual disaster scenario training exercise.”

MapAction would like to thank Astun Technology who supplied their offices, lots of tea coffee and refreshments and cup cakes! MapAction are hoping to hold similar events to this in the future. If you are interested in joining the AGI as a member please visit the AGI website for more information. Please keep an eye on the MapAction website for more details and register here for alerts.

MapAction follows MAHASEN – UPDATE

Myanmar, 23 May – Tropical Cyclone Mahasen made landfall on Thursday northwest of Chittagong, Bangladesh.  Although there was less damage than anticipated due to reduced wind speeds, Bangladesh experienced coastal flooding and damage to shelters. Myanmar largely escaped the storm’s impact. MapAction’s team deployed with the UNDAC team to Sittwe, Rakhine state to better assess the situation, due to concerns for large numbers of displaced people settled in flood plains and their potential vulnerability.

However there was less need for disaster response during this mission and the team has therefore focused on assessing the current Information Management and mapping/GIS capacity in Rakhine state. As part of this, the team have met with a variety of agencies to assess how well prepared these agencies are for future disaster response  in relation to information management capacity. An initial dataset has been developed by the team through the data scramble at the outset of the deployment and since being in country, from talking with agencies. This will provide the foundation for any future disaster response mapping capacity.

Having completed this task, the MapAction team will return to the UK at the weekend.  It is hoped that a follow up visit to take forward the recommendations for capacity building and data preparedness might be undertaken in the future.

Myanmar, 16 May

MapAction has deployed a team of two volunteers in support of a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination mission in Myanmar to assess the impact of a tropical storm due to make landfall early Friday morning. Tropical Storm Mahasen is moving across the Indian Ocean towards Bangladesh and Myanmar. The cyclone appears to have weakened during its trajectory but remains a category 1 cyclone.

The highest impact is anticipated in Chittagong and Coz’s Bazaar area of Bangladesh although depending on its final trajectory could impact 8.2m people in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are serious concerns for displaced people (around 115,000-140,000 people) living on flood plains in Rakhine State Myanmar, likely to experience flooding and high winds, even if the storm’s epicentre is in Bangladesh. The Government of Myanmar has activated the first level of a three level evacuation plan, identifying locations to move people to safer and higher ground.

The full impact of the storm and subsequent flooding will not be known for several days. However the early deployment of the UNDAC team with MapAction and Télécoms Sans Frontière means close cooperation can be established at the earliest stage with the Government authorities leading the response, and with the humanitarian agencies prepositioning relief supplies including, medical supplies, tents and food, in support. In 2008 MapAction deployed a team to Myanmar in response to Cyclone Nargis, a devastating cyclone that claimed tens of thousands of lives and caused widespread damage to the Ayerarwady Delta area and parts of Yangon.

(Photos: Cyclone Nargis, 2008)

Meet our volunteer…Hamish Pritchard

UK, 9 May – Hamish Pritchard has been a MapAction Volunteer since 2006.With a Master’s in ‘remote sensing’ Hamish works fulltime for the British Antarctic Survey undertaking seasons in Antarctica and working from Cambridge for the rest of the time. Hamish underwent a rigorous assessment process before being accepted as a MapAction volunteer. This was followed by training in the organisation’s approach, services and procedures as well as in technical geographical information systems (GIS) training some of which was new to Hamish. Security and first aid training is also a core element of preparation for deployment.

Volunteers are expected to be self-supporting, capable of setting up the MapAction ‘office’ anywhere under any conditions and able to deliver high quality mapping and information services when under stress. Here Hamish talks about his experience with MapAction and reflects on his Haiti 2010 deployment.

“I first heard about MapAction at around the time it started, from a friend at college. It sounded like it could be an interesting use of my skills, so I was keen to find out more. The more I found out, the more I liked the sound of the organisation and its work. MapAction presented an opportunity to be ‘hands on’, making a real difference in crisis situations.

“My initial training was a steep but enjoyable learning curve, and training is on going. What is exciting about MapAction is that groups of MapAction volunteers develop new mapping techniques and software programmes which add value to what we can offer in the field and share with other organisations.

“In a typical year I give up one weekend or one full day every other month, which adds up to at least 18 days of training every year in addition to the time which might be spent on deployment.

“The alert about the high magnitude Haiti earthquake came through at about 10pm. It appeared on my mobile phone as a text alert labelled ‘active’, which meant that MapAction had already decided to send a team. I replied to say I was available. When I checked my phone again in the early hours there was a message to say that I was on the team and we would be deployed that day.

“It was a rush to get packed and sorted, and to clear two weeks’ leave with work.  I got a taxi direct to Gatwick where I met the other team members, who’d picked up the equipment we needed from MapAction HQ in Buckinghamshire. On the plane, chartered by the UK Government’s Department for International Development,  (DFID), the atmosphere was charged.

“The situation in Haiti touched people all over the world. Many large public buildings such as universities, schools, hotels and shops had collapsed. The civil ‘heart’ of the city had been literally ripped out. Many people were trapped under rubble and injured or dying. It was going to be a huge challenge to help people. “On arrival, we joined the UN Disaster Assessment and Co-ordination team (UNDAC). Our task was to provide crucial mapping to assist their work. The UN assigned different teams to different areas, so our first task was to create a map marking out sectors of the city. We then created smaller maps for individual search and rescue teams. Street signs and many landmarks were destroyed, so we gave them GPS co-ordinates instead.

“Some people who were trapped had phoned and texted relatives and friends, sometimes abroad. The UN set up a website where people could contact the rescuers. When we had reliable information backed by GPS co-ordinates, we could pass this to nearby search and rescue teams.

“During my deployment we were in a camp at the airport. The work was pressured and unrelenting. We slept on camp beds and lived on military rations. There were showers, but to be honest that was not the priority. We were there for one reason – to help to save lives.

“When we handed over to the next MapAction team, we were exhausted. The whole experience had been so intense, the adrenaline was constantly going – but ultimately it was rewarding. I felt that I had done something important.”

MapAction receives a £3,160 donation from CSR

UK, 9 May – Last year, CSR’s UK employees voted MapAction their “Charity of the Year” for 2012. This year, despite not taking the majority of votes required to retain this title, CSR’s Social Responsibility committee decided to make a special donation to MapAction – an amount totalling £3,160 based on a “runner-up” donation of £2,500 plus £10 for each of the 66 employee votes cast.

Presenting a cheque for £3,160 to MapAction volunteer Nick McWilliam [pictured left] outside CSR’s Churchill House headquarters in Cambridge last week, Will Gardiner [centre], Chief Financial Officer of CSR said, “Once again CSR is pleased to support the humanitarian services provided by MapAction – aid that saves many lives. This unique charity works in disaster zones providing frequently updated situation maps showing where relief help is most urgently needed.” CSR engineer Azadeh Ebrahimi [right] represented the company’s Social Responsibility committee.

Since 2002, MapAction volunteers have responded to 39 humanitarian emergencies worldwide, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis. Recently returned home to Cambridge from deployment supporting the Syria response, Nick McWilliam has been with MapAction since it started 10 years ago. Nick has previously been deployed to emergencies in Japan, South Sudan, Niger, and Pakistan.

Commenting on CSR’s gesture, Liz Hughes, Chief Executive at MapAction said, “MapAction volunteers are on standby 24/7 to respond to any humanitarian emergency anywhere in the world.  It is wonderful to have the support from CSR for a second year. It goes a long way in ensuring we can be deployment ready. MapAction supports humanitarian partners in saving lives and minimising suffering when a disaster strikes. Through our relationship CSR employees are also helping reach men, women and children in urgent need.”

MapAction launches Syria Appeal

UK, 1 Feb – MapAction is appealing to its supporters to make a donation to enable the charity to continue its commitment to help those affected by the Syria crisis. Since December 2012, MapAction has had six volunteers working in the region to help to map the needs of affected communities and coordinate humanitarian efforts. The resulting situational analysis has contributed to securing pledges for more than $1.5 billion at a recent conference of international donors in Kuwait. Before Wednesday’s conference, donors had given only nine per cent of the amount sought.

Valerie Amos, the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, highlighted at the conference the latest figures on the affected population in northern Syria, referring directly to the evidence from the J-RANS inter-agency rapid assessment in northern Syria, to which MapAction was a key contributor. Our mapped information helped to provide evidence that the numbers in need in the north alone may be as high as 3.2m, a significant increase on previous estimates which was less than this for the whole country. Valerie Amos commented: “Up to three million people are having trouble getting food. Bakeries have been destroyed or cannot get fuel, so bread is in short supply. Cereal, fruit and vegetable production has dropped by half in some areas.

Twenty-five per cent of schools are no longer in use because they have been destroyed or have been turned into communal shelters. Thousands of children are unable to go to school.

The needs are huge. The UN estimates that four million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, including two million who have fled their homes and are now living without the most basic services: without clean water, sanitation facilities and electricity.

Alongside the situational analysis of affected communities in the north, MapAction has also had volunteers working from Beirut on the Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP) in partnership with the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS). Its mapped information is providing valuable, independent analysis of the overall humanitarian situation, within Syria and neighbouring countries.

MapAction has already committed to deploying further volunteers to the region to assist with the ongoing coordination of humanitarian efforts. The charity anticipates its involvement will continue for many months to come, which will stretch its limited resources and has led to this appeal for funding.

It costs approximately £4,500 to deploy a team of two skilled volunteers to the region for a two-week period, including flights, accommodation and subsistence. As demonstrated at the recent international donor conference, the impact of their work makes an important contribution to key decisions about the delivery of humanitarian aid. Please give what you can.

The Syria Crisis Appeal will be directly channelled into MapAction’s humanitarian mapping service for the Syria Crisis. In the unlikely event that the charity raises more money than can be reasonably spent, any surplus funds will be channelled into the charity’s Rapid Response Fund – a designated fund that supports the direct costs of deploying skilled volunteers to humanitarian emergencies anywhere in the world.

MapAction responds to humanitarian crisis in CAR

Copyright: EC/ECHO/Imanol BerakoetxeaYaounde, 22 Jan – MapAction has deployed two volunteers to Yaounde, Cameroon, at the request of UNICEF to support with the response to the ongoing violence and insecurity in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Since 10 December 2012, a coalition of rebel groups in CAR (the “Seleka” coalition) has taken control of a number of towns across the country, stopping just short of the capital, Bangui. The on-going insecurity is taking a toll on close to 1.5 million people (some 33% of the total population of CAR), comprising approximately 800,000 people who reside in rebel-controlled zones and 700,000 in Bangui.

Rebels took over key mining areas in the country, destroyed hundreds of homes, and displaced thousands of civilians. Reports have claimed that the rebels have forcibly recruited children to fight and serve as porters and sex slaves.

A peace agreement was signed between the CAR government and rebel groups on 11 January, however, tens of thousands of people are thought to have stayed away from their homes due to ongoing insecurity. Many shops, markets and schools remain closed, with some medical clinics running out of supplies.

CAR is a landlocked nation, bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. MapAction’s volunteers will initially be based in neighbouring Cameroon.

MapAction has worked in several other countries of west Africa in the recent past, including response to the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast in 2011, and supporting conflict resolution programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012.

The Big Give Christmas Challenge – Update

UK, 12 Dec – MapAction would like to thank all its supporters for contributing to the Big Give Christmas Challenge this December. So far £8,531 has been raised for its Rapid Response Fund, which will be channelled into its emergency mapping service.

Matched funds will remain available until 19 December (subject to availability), so it’s not too late to take part. If you would like to make a contribution, please visit Every £1 donated could be worth £2.25 with matched giving and Gift Aid. Thank you.

Volunteers deploy ahead of Typhoon Pablo

MANILA, 3 Dec – A team of two MapAction volunteers has deployed to the Philippines in readiness for Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) which is heading straight towards the country from the western Pacific. The deployment arose from a request from the United Nations’ Disaster Assessment and Coordination team. Recent reports indicate the typhoon is producing sustained winds of 114 mph and gusts of up to 124 mph. According to Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the typhoon is expected to make landfall over Surigao del Norte on Tuesday morning and affect Mindanao, Visayas, areas in Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila.

There are concerns that this could result in floods and landslides amongst communities that are still recovering from the devastating impact of Tropical Storm Sendong, which hit northern Mindanao in December of last year and led to a MapAction deployment. Some responders believe that Pablo could develop into a super-typhoon and cause even more destruction than Sendong, which killed more than 1,250 people and displaced nearly three quarters of a million.

Nigel Woof, MapAction’s Chief Executive commented: “It’s unusual for MapAction to deploy a team before the disaster has actually hit, but this means we will be on the scene and ready to help as soon as the storm passes through. We got the call for assistance from the UN on Saturday and were able to have our team in the air by Sunday evening. One volunteer arrived in Manila this morning from Bangkok, where she is based. Another is flying from the UK and will arrive later today. They will initially work from Manila to help map the needs of communities, but may travel to affected regions once the size and shape of the impact is clearer.”

This is MapAction’s third emergency mission to the Philippines. In addition to its deployment a year ago for Sendong, the charity also assisted after severe storms in 2009. As before, MapAction will work closely with the Filipino national disaster management agency, United Nations and other responders to help coordinate whatever response is needed to Typhoon Pablo.

Follow link for Philippines map catalogue

{loadposition mapalerts}

Boosting disaster resilience in 2012

UK, 29 Nov – Here at MapAction, we know from our own experience in more than thirty humanitarian crises that disaster preparedness can save lives. Beyond our six emergency deployments so far in 2012, we have also made seven capacity-building trips worldwide and delivered training on another 15 short courses and modules.

We know that when a disaster strikes, responders need immediate access to the best available map data. Alongside this, national disaster management agencies need to be able to produce situation maps that help to steer aid in the vital early stages of a new emergency. With that aim, MapAction has been working in vulnerable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with the Southern Africa Development Community and the United Nations in the region, to train national staff in the use of free and open-source GIS tools, involving work in Kenya and Zambia. A staff member also took part in a national disaster preparedness capacity assessment in Nigeria.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a two-stage pilot project has been completed with partners of the international NGO CAFOD. The project aims to provide appropriate low- or no-cost tools for local NGOs to map the indicators of re-emergent conflict, and to use that data for the prevention of conflict and to advocate for change. One of CAFOD’s partners commented on our initial scoping exercise:“MapAction were very patient […] and got partners to spend half a day learning to use Google Earth, it was very empowering. We had a discussion which identified the key target audience and then what the best mapping applications would be – we now have a clearer plan.”

We also provided training for disaster responders in Dominica, and are planning a trip to transfer advanced GIS skills to UN humanitarian information management professionals in the central Asian region in December.

“Helping to grow capacity for disaster and conflict resilience is something we’re well equipped to do. We can draw on our own direct experience in disaster response to help partners use the growing toolkit of free GIS software, and to prepare their data resources. So they can be ready for the day they hope won’t come, but which so often does in vulnerable parts of the world.” Nigel Woof, MapAction Chief Executive.

Almost all our capacity-building and training work is funded out of our core resources, rather than receiving special grants. If you are interested in supporting MapAction’s disaster preparedness work, please contact us via email or call Chloe on 01494 56 88 99.

London Marathon 2013

UK, 7 Nov – MapAction has been lucky enough to secure guaranteed places in the Virgin London Marathon for next April. You can find out more about what it means to join Team MapAction and register your interest at –

Places are limited, so please register by Monday 19 November to be in with a chance of joining Team MapAction!

Fundraise for Free

UK, 17 Oct – You can raise money for MapAction at no cost to yourself. Give As You Live is a clever little widget that raises money for MapAction while you shop online. Big brands including Amazon, John Lewis, M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and have signed up to donate when you buy from their online stores.

So with only 68 shopping days until Christmas, why not sign up today and start fundraising for free?

It’s really quick and easy to set up. All you need do is register some very basic information and you’re off! Each time you visit a Give As You Live retailer, just click on the GAYL logo and you’ll be raising money for MapAction through your everyday purchases.

Register for your GAYL account at: and start fundraising for free today!

Taking stock of progress

UK, 12 Oct – MapAction has just received an independent evaluation report in its work. The review was done as part of the charity’s commitments under the DFID Programme Partnership Agreement (PPA), in which MapAction receives strategic funding.

The headline findings of the review were that: MapAction is being effective in making it easier for aid agencies to make evidence-based operational and coordination decisions; that its work is judged to be conducted effectively and efficiently; and that the charity delivers value-for-money both through its volunteer capacity and its cost conscious ethos.

The independent evaluators interviewed external partners and service users and also MapAction’s own volunteers and staff. There was a high correlation between views of the organisation from outside and inside. The consultants described the feedback from users as “incredibly positive”.

Although no serious shortcomings were identified, the consultants highlighted several areas that MapAction needs to keep under review to ensure sustainability of impact. This includes its capacity building work – which began as a way to use volunteer resources in between major emergency response missions. The charity concurred with the consultants that it is important to ensure that delivery of training in GIS methods to partner agencies in developing countries ‘sticks’ and contributes to long term capacity enhancement for disaster risk reduction.

Humanitarian organisations appear to be demanding ‘more MapAction’ in a number of areas: to extend its deployments in major emergencies, to deliver more capacity building support and to accelerate its work in putting relevant new geospatial technologies into the hands of aid workers in the field. At the same time, the challenges of funding this capacity came through in the report: the charity’s total annual budget is currently less than £450,000 ($675,000) per year.

MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “It’s gratifying that the review endorsed our overall approach and that users in the humanitarian sector value our services so highly. The review findings point towards the ‘multiplier effect’ that we have on the impact efficiency of emergency aid. The consultants felt we should be shouting this from the rooftops to attract the resources we need to extend our reach.”

The Independent Progress Review executive summary and management response can be accessed here – MapAction IPR 2012 Final Exec Summary and Management Response.

Date for your diary: 10 January 2013

UK, 25 Sep – MapAction is delighted to announce that it will be benefiting from a gala dinner and auction organised by the London Mapping Festival and sponsored by Esri UK. The event will take place in the prestigious East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, on the evening of Thursday 10 January 2013. Tickets are on sale for a very reasonable £90, with all profits supporting MapAction’s humanitarian mapping service. You can find out more and buy tickets at London Mapping Festival Charity Dinner. We look forward to seeing you there!

MapAction carrying the torch

UK,26 Jul – Prince Harry has invited MapAction to fly the flag for volunteering in the Olympic Torch Relay as it passes Buckingham Palace today, the day before the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Wai-Ming Lee, an active MapAction volunteer, has been given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch as it passes Buckingham Palace, where it will be viewed by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Wai-Ming first joined the charity in 2004 and deployed to such humanitarian emergencies as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Pakistan floods of 2010. When he’s not flying out to disaster zones, he helps the charity develop its technical capabilities, so its operations are as streamlined and effective as possible.

Wai-Ming says: “I am incredibly proud to carry the Olympic torch for MapAction. In doing so, I am representing the tireless work of some 60 volunteers who contribute their mapping skills, so that lives can be saved in humanitarian emergencies.”

Persistent flooding in Paraguay triggers deployment

ASUNCION, 2 Jul – A MapAction team is attached to a United Nations’ assistance group en route to western Paraguay, in response to widespread and repeated flooding.

The worst floods for more than a decade began in April. They have left thousands of families in scattered rural communities in urgent need of emergency food and other help after the floods devastated crops and livestock.

A complication of the emergency is that the affected communities are spread across two rural departments with a combined area somewhat larger than England and Wales. Many villages have remained cut off by road for weeks, requiring aid to be flown in by helicopter.

On 29 June MapAction received a request from the UN to support a group travelling to Paraguay to assist the government and international agencies in coordinating assistance.

Although MapAction has undertaken many missions in central America and the Caribbean, this is the charity’s first deployment to South America since severe flooding hit Bolivia in 2008. Chief executive Nigel Woof said: “This is typical of many very nasty natural disasters that don’t hit the global news channels, yet still leave poor and vulnerable people in real need. Creating a comprehensive picture of these needs is essential to make sure every community gets the right help. Once again our volunteers have answered the call to action.”


Teaming up with the Digital Humanitarians

UK, 27 Jun – MapAction is playing an important role in harnessing the skills and resourcefulness of high-tech volunteer communities to meet urgent information needs in disaster situations.

In recent crises, like the 2010 Haiti earthquake, talented and committed members of online technology communities have stepped up to gather, process and share crucial information resources to help aid agencies on the ground. Volunteer communities like the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and more recently formed groups like DataKind, are adept at exploiting online technologies and crowdsourcing methods to turn new sources of raw data into useful intelligence that can help aid response on the ground.

For example, blending analysis of satellite imagery with mobile phone traffic data may offers ways to detect movement of displaced people across a disaster zone.

These potent and agile resources must however be focused the priority information needs of aid agencies and other responders, otherwise there is a risk of merely contributing to ‘data noise’. This issue was recognised after Haiti and the volunteer communities have now responded by establishing a ‘network of networks’ with the aim of focusing the response of the ‘ecosystem’ of online groups onto the most urgent information needs during each new emergency.

The result is the Digital Humanitarian Network ( The network is gearing up to provide a tasking linkage between formal humanitarian organisations and the online technology communities. At the heart of the new structure is a coordinators group.Initially this comprises four individuals who will quickly review requests for help and work with the network to find the right member entities to respond as a solution team. One of the four coordinators is Jonny Douch, operations director of MapAction. The other three are from the United Nations, CrisisMappers and GISCorps.

Jonny Douch of MapAction said: “We are hoping this new system will help to unlock the potential of techology expertise world wide to contribute to positive humanitarian outcomes in disasters. MapAction’s own teams, who work in the field, will play a vital role in the network by being a bridge between the innovative communities in the ‘cloud and crowd’, and the emergency responders on the front line.”

Mapping support for CAFOD in DRC

GOMA, 7 Jun – MapAction has deployed two mapping experts to support CAFOD’s conflict-related work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has been ripped apart by ongoing conflict since 1998 and there has been an upsurge in violence in eastern provinces since the beginning of the year. It is estimated that 5.4 million have lost their lives as a result of the fighting – mostly from preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Communities have been torn apart, homes burnt to the ground and thousands of women have been subjected to sexual violence. MapAction is working in partnership with CAFOD’s local partners to map conflict triggers, so steps can be taken to predict and pre-empt future outbreaks of violence.

Responding to floods in Comoros

MORONI, 30 Apr – Torrential rain has been battering the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean since 20 April, causing heavy flooding and landslides. A State of Emergency has been called.

MapAction has deployed a team of two volunteers to map the needs of over 46,000 people affected. Reports indicate that more than 11,000 people have “lost everything” and at least 9,200 are without shelter.

Civil protection official Ismael Mouigni Daho said the situation on the islands was “dramatic”. Some villages are completely flooded, causing the populations to evacuate entirely. In other areas, schools have been cut off and water and electricity supplies have been disrupted. There are increasing concerns about the spread of diseases, including cholera and malaria, making healthcare and hygiene priorities for the response.

More than half the population of the Comoros Islands live under the poverty line, surviving on less than a dollar a day. People are largely reliant on subsistence farming, so the impact of these floods is a long-term concern for food security.

Humanitarian efforts have thus far been hampered by roads being rendered inaccessible by flooding and landslides. Responders have therefore identified mapped information to be critical in helping to assess where humanitarian aid is needed and how it can best be delivered in the prevailing conditions.

This is MapAction’s first mission to the Comoros Islands, however, the charity recently deployed to neighbouring Madagascar in February to help with the humanitarian response to a series of killer storms.

Marathon runners reach over £25,000

UK, 25 Apr – On Sunday 22 April six lovely people took part in the London Marathon in aid of MapAction. We’d like to say a HUGE thank you to…

  • Christopher and Sarah Egerton-Warburton 
  • Chris Holcroft 
  • Ian Holt 
  • John Lyon 
  • Naomi Morris

for raising over £25,000 for our emergency mapping service. Thank you also to everyone who lined the streets to cheer them on.

Chris Holcroft, one of our runners, commented:

“Doing the 2012 London Marathon was a life enriching experience that was full of fun, emotion, hardship and achievement. It gave our team of six runners a chance to make a vital contribution to MapAction, a unique charity that uses geographic information to save and improve the lives of those affected in humanitarian crises and natural disasters. It demanded a heck of a lot from us, but at the same time MapAction supported us and helped us very well at every stage of the process. I would certainly do it again.”

If you’re interested in running the London Marathon for MapAction in 2013, please contact Chloe Browitt – 01494 56 88 99.

10 years of disaster mapping bike ride

UK, 4 Apr – MapAction invites you to join our Chiltern Challenge bike ride between 6-8 July 2012. We’re looking for fun and friendly people to cycle 170 miles around the beautiful Chiltern countryside. The aim is to enjoy yourself, meet lovely new people and raise lots of money for MapAction’s emergency mapping service.

We’re calling it a “challenge” not because we’ll push you to within an inch of your life (you cycle at your own pace), but because we’re challenging participants to contribute to an overall fundraising target of £10,000 in celebration of MapAction’s 10 years of disaster mapping.

So if you’re looking for a fun and worthwhile way to enjoy the British countryside this summer, look no further than

Responding to Brazzaville explosion

BRAZZAVILLE, 12 Mar – Following devastating explosions in a munitions depot in the Congolese capital on 4 March, MapAction has deployed a team of two volunteers to help map the needs of those affected. 

Reports indicate that at least 223 people have died in the blasts and a further 2,300 were injured. Approximately 14,000 people have been left homeless, making the provision of shelter, clean water and sanitation a priority. Hygiene is a particular concern as the Republic of Congo typically experiences heavy rainfall and high temperatures at this time of year, making displaced people more vulnerable to outbreaks of disease.

MapAction is deploying at the request of the UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination team. It is anticipated that our volunteers will help to coordinate aid efforts, such as mapping the location and needs of blast victims.

This is MapAction’s first mission to the Republic of Congo, our eleventh to sub-Saharan Africa. It is running concurrently with another emergency deployment, helping with the impact of tropical storms on local populations in Madagascar.

Second storm hits Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, 9 Mar – Madagascar has been hit by its second killer storm of the season. Tropical Storm Irina caused 65 deaths, most of them residents of the Ifanadiana district in the southeast of the island, and affected more than 70,000 people in all. Most casualties have been caused by landslides and flooding, following heavy rainfall.

In February Tropical Storm Giovanna also hit the island, claiming the lives of 35 people, injuring 284 and leaving a further 250,000 people affected by its impact.

MapAction is deploying a team of volunteers at the request of the Madagascar Government’s National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management, to boost the agency’s own GIS capability which is working at full stretch responding to the two large-scale events, with more rains forecast.

MapAction’s Operations Director Jonathan Douch said: “Although Madagascar has good capacity to coordinate disaster response, they have been hit hard by storms this year and asked for our help with their coordinated response across several disaster zones.”

This is MapAction’s first mission to Madagascar, however the charity has responded in the past to nine crises across sub-Saharan Africa, including the current food crisis in the Sahel region.

(Photo: Madagascar Tribune)

MapAction selected for humanitarian response

UK, 7 Mar – The UK Government has selected the disaster mapping charity MapAction as a standby partner for its new Rapid Response Facility (RRF) mechanism. The scheme means that MapAction will be called on as part of the first wave of humanitarian assistance in major disasters and other crises.

The UK Government’s Humanitarian Response Review, conducted last year by Lord Ashdown, highlighted the need for rapid reaction to new or escalating crises world-wide. The Department for International Development (DFID) has selected a small group of aid charities that it can call on within 72 hours of a disaster, through fast-tracked funding decisions based on ‘pre-qualified’ credentials.

The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, endorsed the selection of MapAction as an RRF member, remarking positively on the charity’s technical capacity, track record of results and value for money.

MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof commented:”Although we’re a small charity, DFID’s decision endorses our role as a vital first-mover in the international disaster response system. When big disasters happen we need immediate funding decisions to allow us to get feet on the ground in hours, to start creating a shared picture of humanitarian needs. The RRF partner system promises to be extremely helpful in this.”

The charity is already a strategic partner of DFID, having been selected last year for a three-year Programme Partnership Agreement (PPA) funding scheme. Nevertheless, the charity still relies heavily on public and corporate donations for the balance of its funding, for example to provide training and technical equipment for its team of volunteer emergency mappers.

Sahel preparedness mapping with UNICEF

DAKAR, 9 Feb – A severe food crisis is forecast to strike the Sahel region of West Africa later in 2012, potentially affecting 7 to 10 million people in eight countries (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon). Low rainfall, poor harvests and high food prices are making communities vulnerable to extreme malnutrition. The number of children dying from nutrition-related causes is already estimated at more than 490,000 per year.

MapAction has deployed a team of two volunteers to undertake a mapping preparedness project from the UNICEF regional office in Dakar, Senegal. The team will work with UNICEF information management staff to do preparatory map setup and initial vulnerability maps, with a focus on food security and nutrition.

This is MapAction’s third deployment to the Sahel region. In 2005, our volunteers helped map priority needs in a food crisis in Niger and in 2009 we responded to floods in Burkina Faso.

Targeting emergency aid in Philippines

CAGAYAN DE ORO, 2 Jan – Cyclone Washi/Sendong in late 2011 caused more than 1,250 deaths and displaced more nearly three quarters of a million people in the southern Philippines. The mounting scale of response by the end of December led to a request for support from MapAction.

A team of MapAction’s emergency mapping volunteers has been tasked to work alongside United Nations disaster coordination teams from an operations centre in Cagayan de Oro, in the heart of the worst-hit region on the north side of the island of Mindanao.

Many people are still in evacuation centres, unable to return to their devastated communities. The international Humanitarian Cluster system is supporting the Government’s response by conducting a series of detailed needs assessments. MapAction will map these needs, highlighting the highest priorities and enabling aid agencies to achieve the best use of their resources to reach people lacking essentials such as proper sanitation.

This is MapAction’s second mission to the Philippines. In 2009 a severe storm in the north of the country saw a MapAction team deployed in response. There, as in the current emergency, MapAction volunteers worked closely with both international aid organisations and the country’s own national disaster management agency.

(Photo: Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan)

Info for disaster-affected communities

UK, 5 Dec – MapAction is collaborating in a project with infoasaid to map the media and telecoms landscapes of 22 developing countries vulnerable to humanitarian crises to enhance humanitarian response.

infoasaid is a consortium of Internews and the BBC World Service Trust. Their objective is to improve how aid agencies communicate with disaster-affected communities – the focus is on providing humanitarian information. The emphasis is on the need to deliver information, as aid itself, through the most appropriate channels.

The aim of the project is to produce a series of tools, including country-specific media and telecommunications guides, to help humanitarian agencies communicate effectively with crisis-affected communities. Each country guide identifies local media organizations, telecommunication companies and other media service providers that can help to produce and disseminate radio shows, TV programs, SMS messages, poster campaigns or public service announcements to communicate with local communities in a timely, accurate and well-targeted manner.

In virtue of this collaboration, MapAction is literally putting much of this information onto maps to enhance humanitarian response. The maps, which will be accessible both on- and off-line, are produced by collating technical data from radio stations and feeding it into a mapping system developed by infoasaid. This innovative humanitarian tool, to be launched in early 2012, will display the geolocation of local media outlets and provide available contact information for each.

At the same time, MapAction, as part of its standard humanitarian response, will strengthen its capacity to produce maps that help relief agencies communicate better with affected communities post disaster. The recent volunteer training focused on communicating with affected communities was attended by the Director of Humanitarian Media and the Head of Innovation and Technology from Internews, representing infoasaid. A simulation exercise looked into the importance of effective two-way communications with disaster affected populations and a series of maps to improve communication with affected populations based on the infoasaid media and telecommunication landscapes were devised.

From that training, three maps of the media and telecommunication landscape of Côte d’Ivoire were produced: one that overlays the presence of radio stations onto a map of the location of populations from different language families; one that shows all the radio and TV masts in relation to major language groups; and one representing the mobile phone coverage of a major telecommunication provider.

Better data and information on the impact of disasters and the needs of affected communities is a key element in ensuring the best possible response. However, aid responders very often do not know enough about local media and telecommunication landscapes pre-disaster, which could help them identify which outlets post-disaster might still be functioning and could be best used to reach affected populations. This is a gap in disaster preparedness and response that the infoasaid/MapAction collaboration aims to fill.

This collaboration between MapAction and infoasaid is part of the overall strategy of the infoasaid project that seeks to strengthen the capacity and preparedness of aid agencies to respond to the information and communication needs of disaster affected populations.

Nicaragua floods mission

MANAGUA, 20 Oct – Responding to severe flooding in central America, a MapAction team is deploying to Nicaragua today.

Torrential rain from Tropical Depression 12-E has caused extensive flooding across Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Damage to roads and infrastructure from landslides has left many communities cut off from help.

A United Nations disaster assessment team was mobilised on Wednesday 19 October to assist in Nicaragua, where the government declared a state of emergency after more than 130,000 people were reported as affected. A MapAction team was requested to support the UN mission.

MapAction volunteers James Steel and Adia Bey flew out from the UK on Thursday morning to Managua, to rendezvous with the UN team. They took with them extensive GIS data for the region, assembled overnight from a wide range of sources by other MapAction team members through the charity’s well rehearsed ‘data scramble’ procedures. Meanwhile, mission equipment was prepared at MapAction’s new operations centre in Saunderton in Buckinghamshire, UK.

James Steel has deployed on numerous humanitarian missions with MapAction, including to Haiti, Pakistan, South East Asia and most recently to North Africa in March. For Adia Bey it is her first emergency mission since she joined the charity as a volunteer early this year. She recently took part in a UN disaster response training course in Peru.

James Steel commented: “The MapAction team has completed the preparation for this mission with their usual speed and efficiency. Two hours after the ‘go’ decision yesterday evening a briefing about the available map data, a list of the mission kit that will be waiting for us at Heathrow airport, and a full security risk assessment had all been forwarded to my blackberry! Great teamwork”.

Maps will be published on the Nicaragua deployment page.

ACAPS and MapAction to collaborate

UK, 19 Sep – MapAction has signed a cooperation agreement with the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) to strengthen both organisations’ humanitarian programmes.

ACAPS is a consortium project of the NGOs HelpAge International, Merlin and Norwegian Refugee Council. It aims to improve the assessment of needs in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. It delivers a range of services including methods training, and deploys specialist personnel in protracted and sudden-onset crises.

One of ACAPS’ outputs is its Secondary Data Review (SDR) concept. These reports analyse existing assessment and baseline information to produce actionable humanitarian intelligence focused on key operational issues. Maps are a vital part of SDR publications, and MapAction will in future deliver required maps whenever required for new or updated SDRs. The first of these is the Yemen SDR, issued in September 2011.

MapAction and ACAPS will also seek opportunities to undertake joint training and field missions.

MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “Much of the information that passes through our field mapping units comes from humanitarian assessments. The assessment methodology practised by ACAPS has real rigour and focuses on crucial questions that aid agencies need to answer.” 

The ACAPS website is at

Show your support: wear the shirt

UK, 25 Aug – A range of MapAction clothing and gift items is now available to supporters of the charity.

MapAction has partnered with, a leading online retailer of quality clothing. The MapAction online shop has a carefully chosen range of items inspired by the charity’s work in disasters and based on the field gear worn by its volunteers and staff in humanitarian crises around the world.

Items can be delivered almost anywhere in the world, using Spreadshirt’s sophisticated order processing ‘back office’. For every item sold, MapAction receives an average commission of 15% which goes directly to funding the charity’s emergency mapping service.

Darren Connaghan, one of MapAction’s operational volunteers, said: “We only get issued the blue shirts for field work, so I’m a bit envious that our supporters will get to wear a whole spectrum of colours to put the MapAction name out there. And Christmas isn’t that far away.”

The online shop is at

October humanitarian mapping course

UK, 23 Aug – The next Introduction to Humanitarian Mapping course is to be run in London on 5-7 October 2011.

The 3 day introduction to humanitarian mapping course is designed for humanitarian and development field workers and others who want to use GPS and free/open source mapping tools in their work. The syllabus is based on the newly released second edition of MapAction’s Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping and is grounded in practical, proven methods used by MapAction in disaster emergencies and development projects. It will include advanced use of Google Earth, how to find useful map data, and using the open source Quantum GIS software package.

The venue and facilities for both courses are being provided by the UK Royal Geographical Society, which is an experienced provider of training on fieldwork methods and which MapAction has partnered for the last two mapping courses.

Full details about the course and how to book a place can be found on the following RGS-IBG website page.

Field guide expanded and updated

UK, 23 Aug – MapAction’s popular Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping, first published in 2009, has just been updated and expanded.

The second edition of the Guide contains 35% more content than the first edition. In response to requests from users there is a completely new chapter on data collection with step-by-step instructions on accessing many free map data and satellite imagery sources available for various parts of the world.

The new edition continues the principle of helping aid organisations on limited budgets to find and use free and open-source software. This year’s Guide contains an in-depth manual for the use of the Quantum GIS open source software suite, which in MapAction’s experience is now reliable and well supported. As before, the Guide also contains many tips and techniques for using Google Earth.

The Guide’s principal author Naomi Morris is one of MapAction’s experienced volunteers and has used a wide range of GIS techniques and tools in challenging field environments including Haiti, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. She said of the new edition: “We got great feedback from users of the first edition. It helped us to make the new Guide even more relevant and useful for aid workers who need practical solutions that work in the field, and who don’t want to waste time reinventing the wheel.”

Because the publishing costs have been covered by a generous grant from the Dulverton Trust, the new Guide is available as a free PDF download –  Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping (13mb). A printed version in handy A5 wire-bound format will shortly available to purchase via the online bookshop of the RGS-IBG website page for £16 including postage and packing.

Download here – Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping – hi res (13mb).

A low res version is available here – Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping – low res (4.2mb)

Boosting disaster preparedness in Southern Africa

BOTSWANA, 27 May – MapAction used a regional intergovernmental meeting as a means to kick off an initiative to enhance disaster readiness in southern Africa.

Spatial data is invariably a critical requirement for effective disaster response, but gathering datasets from scratch when a disaster is under way is never ideal, as data can be incomplete, old and not available at appropriate scales. Addressing preparedness of data can make a real difference in being able to produce required maps and information products for the crucial first stages of response. MapAction has become pro-active in addressing data preparedness, working with partner organisations. Following a pilot project in Nepal in 2010 (Disaster preparedness in Nepal ), and ongoing activities in the Caribbean islands (Caribbean kick-off for disaster preparedness), a new project, called Zambezi Emergency Basemapping and Risk Assessment (ZEBRA), has been conceived by MapAction to enhance emergency preparedness in southern Africa.

The ZEBRA project covers the Zambezi Basin (including parts of Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) which is especially prone to long term droughts and recurring flood events.

MapAction is partnering with the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa. The organisations jointly identified a draft Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategy developed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as an ideal starting point for practical action on data readiness. SADC convened a planning meeting and workshop for national disaster management agencies (NMDAs), UN organisations, Red Cross, and NGOs in Gaborone, Botswana in late May. Alan Mills and Helen Campbell attended for MapAction to develop a coherent project plan. The meeting showed how building a collaborative network of data providers and information management structures, with the national disaster agencies at the centre, has the potential to produce long term solutions to both identifying good data and to updating it regularly.

ZEBRA project manager Alan Mills said: “This meeting has given MapAction a solid foundation for building the right links with both disaster management and GIS practitioners in southern Africa. In partnership with OCHA, and with the ratification of SADC and its member nations, we can now start the detailed work of identifying and assembling those datasets that will improve our ability to help people caught up in natural disasters throughout the region.”

Historic cycle route for MapAction supporters

UK, 14 May – Twenty MapAction volunteers, friends and supporters are cycling between the Paris and Greenwich Meridians to raise funds for the charity.

The group will leave Paris on 24 June heading west along the route of the Seine before turning north to Dieppe to catch the ferry to Newhaven. Then the route will closely follow the Greenwich Meridian northwards through the fine scenery of the Kent and Sussex Weald before arriving at the beautiful Greenwich Observatory for a celebration.

The Paris Meridian dates from 1634 and was in competition with the Greenwich Meridian until 1884 when Greenwich won at an international conference – although to this day some French cartographers continue to use the Paris Meridian.The competition between the Meridians was highlighted in Jules Verne’s ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’.

One of the cyclists, Matthew Sims, said: “We’re mappers so we thought the idea of celebrating the two meridians would be nice. But really the aim is to raise as much money as we can for MapAction to help the victims of disasters all around the world. We’d love as many people as can to sponsor us. Every pound will help.”

Sponsors can sign up with a few clicks at Virgin Money Giving, and UK taxpayers’ donations will have Gift Aid added. Visit: MapAction Midsummer Meridian.

MapAction deploys to Cote d’Ivoire

Picture: ReutersCOTE D’IVOIRE, 11 Apr – Two MapAction team members are en route to Bouake in central Cote d’Ivoire. They are deploying in support of a UN assessment team tasked with obtaining a clear picture of humanitarian needs in the conflict-torn country.

The call to support the United Nations mission came after reported further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis that have been triggered by sustained and intense fighting in the main city Abidjan, and politically motivated violence in other parts of the country.

The UN and MapAction team are travelling via Accra in Ghana and then on to Bouake where a humanitarian coordination hub is being established. MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof, who is one of the team of two deploying, said: “More than three quarters of a million people are reportedly displaced so far. Many people attempting to flee, into the west particularly, are in need of protection from human rights violations, as well as has having other basic needs – food, clean water and medical care. We will help to build a clearer view of where these people are now, and are moving to, so that vital aid can reach them.”

This is MapAction’s third emergency mission this year so far, having completed deployments in North Africa and Japan in March.

Up to date situational maps can be found in the Cote d’Ivoire Map Catalogue and further resources in Cote d’Ivoire Resources.

Picture: REUTERS

MapAction sends team to Japanese disaster

TOKYO, 14 Mar – MapAction has responded to a request to help in response to the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

A request was received via the United Nations for a MapAction team to travel to Tokyo. A UN disaster support team has just flown out to assist the Japanese Government in coordinating international assistance. The MapAction team will provide mapping and information support for the international response effort.

MapAction’s Operations Director, Jonathan Douch, said: “Although the Japanese Government is one of the best prepared in the world for disasters, the scale of this emergency means they will be fully stretched in coordinating their national response. International relief agencies also need up-to-the-minute information on the scene, which is why our help has been asked for.”

The devastating impact of the tsunami is a poignant reminder for MapAction of its first natural disaster mission, in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Current maps will be published in the Japan Map Catalogue and additional resources at Japan Resources.

MapAction responds to Libya crisis

Picture: Reuters/Suhaib SalemLIBYA, 3 Mar – Two MapAction teams are deploying to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Libya. One team is flying to Tunisia, another to Egypt.

MapAction’s partner the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) requested MapAction’s help on the afternoon of 2 March. The first team mobilised the same evening, for a 6am flight to Tunis. A second team meanwhile packed to fly to Cairo later the same day.

Getting the right aid to people across and beyond the Libyan territories poses a huge challenge of humanitarian intelligence gathering, planning and logistics for the international aid agencies gearing up within the region. Both the MapAction teams will gather and communicate vital information about the rapidly changing humanitarian picture within Libya and at its borders, where more than 150,000 people have already crossed into neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

The team leader of the Tunis team, Alan Mills, said: “This looks like one of the most complex humanitarian challenges for MapAction so far. We’re expecting to be at full stretch from the time we land, to track and map the actionable information that aid agencies will need to help people caught up in the emergency.”

Last year, MapAction volunteers deployed to the massive humanitarian crises in Haiti and Pakistan, as well as other emergencies around the world.

Picture: Reuters/Suhaib Salem

New GPS and mapping courses

UK, 22 Feb – Following the success of the inaugural Introduction to Humanitarian Mapping course in London last October, MapAction is pleased to announce the dates of two further courses.

The 3 day introduction to humanitarian mapping course will run in London on 4-6 April 2011. It is designed for humanitarian and development field workers and others who want to use GPS and free/open source mapping tools in their work. The syllabus is grounded in practical, proven methods used by MapAction in disaster emergencies and development projects. It will include advanced use of Google Earth, how to find useful map data, and using the open source Quantum GIS software package.

The new 1 day GPS and data collection for humanitarians course will cover the essential skills in using a GPS and data collection in the field.

The venue and facilities for both courses are being provided by the UK Royal Geographical Society, which is an experienced provider of training on fieldwork methods.

Full details about the course and how to book a place can be found on the following RGS-IBG website page.

Caribbean kick-off for disaster preparedness

GUYANA, 8 Feb – MapAction has started a project to improve data preparedness for disasters in several parts of the world, beginning in the Caribbean region.

Recognising the need for immediate access to map/spatial data from the first hours of rapid-onset disasters, MapAction is using its volunteer resources and partnerships to boost data availability in vulnerable zones. In the Caribbean region, subject to multiple hazards as shown so tragically in Haiti in 2010, MapAction is teaming up with GISCorps to collate available data of highest importance in emergency response. The initiative is known as the Wide Availability for Response Project (WARP).

MapAction volunteer Vijay Datadin explained: “In Haiti last year basic mapping was essential for the rescue response for instance to locate reports of trapped victims. Yet the map data we knew existed was destroyed when the earthquake struck. We’re now aiming to put copies of key data for vulnerable countries in the region into a state of readiness, and will be working closely with national disaster management authorities.”

The WARP process has already been piloted successfully by MapAction in Nepal, in late 2010. The charity is also in discussion with its UN partners who have suggested it would be of high value in countries in Asia Pacific, and in the Zambezi basin region of southern Africa.

Volunteers sought for 2011

altLITTLE MISSENDEN, 11 Nov – MapAction is seeking emergency mapping volunteers to expand its capacity. The charity has commenced selection of a small group of GIS experts to join its main UK-based volunteer group in early 2011.

A hand-picked and thoroughly trained volunteer group is the backbone of MapAction’s unique capability to respond immediately to disasters anywhere in the world. Team members commit to making themselves available to deploy at short notice in emergencies. Continuation training is ongoing throughout service with the charity and involves monthly face-to-face weekend workshops – for that reason volunteers must be UK based.

Volunteers, although unpaid, are all highly skilled with geographical information systems (GIS) generally. A prerequisite for selection is being practised with the ESRI ArcGIS software that is MapAction’s main tool in the field.

MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “The requirements are obviously strict, given what we do in the field, but still we get many applicants and selection is always very competitive. We assess technical abilities, team working skills and commitment to availability for deployment and ongoing training.”

Information about specific requirements and how to apply is on the Volunteers page of the charity’s website The closing date for applications is 15 December 2010.

Hurricane Tomas response

altSAINT LUCIA, 4 Nov – MapAction is responding to a request for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas in the Caribbean. Volunteer emergency mapper Kirsty Ferris flew out to Saint Lucia today, less than 24 hours after the government requested MapAction’s assistance with their disaster response operation.

Saint Lucia was the worst affected island as Tomas crashed through the Lesser Antilles chain. Fifteen people died as the hurricane caused devastation right across the island. Landslides have blocked many roads, cutting off many settlements including the town of Soufriere. Agriculture has been devastated, threatening rural livelihoods. A national disaster was declared as work has begun to bring humanitarian relief and commence recovery.

MapAction’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “Tomas has dealt a severe blow to Saint Lucia. We’re pleased to be able to provide mapping support at the request of the National Emergency Management Organisation, which is moving quickly to get access to cut-off towns and villages and is commencing a comprehensive damage and needs assessment.”

MapAction expects to utilise its volunteer team based in the Caribbean region to support its emergency mapping work in the wake of Hurricane Tomas. The charity has established relationships with a number of states in the region, including Saint Lucia, achieved through previous disaster response missions and international training projects.

Kili challenge to MapAction supporters

TANZANIA, 20 Oct – A challenge has been laid down to people who want to help MapAction in its vital work. The charity is inviting supporters to climb Africa’s highest peak and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, Kilimanjaro.

Other challenge events benefiting MapAction in 2011 will include a London to Paris cycle ride and trekking through the High Atlas of Morocco.

The charity’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “We know many of our supporters share MapAction’s own spirit of adventure. To those who want to make a real difference to our work, we invite you to raise funds by climbing Kili for MapAction in 2011, or tackling another of our challenge events. Whilst helping us in our mission, you’ll also be broadening your own horizons – literally!”

MapAction has teamed up with the world’s most experienced operator of fundraising treks and challenges. This is aimed at ensuring that the challenge events are well organised and guided, with an emphasis on ensuring participants complete the trip safely. Costs and commitments are transparent and participants can ensure that MapAction will receive the maximum benefit from their efforts before, during and after the trip.

For more information email

Disaster preparedness in Nepal

KATHMANDU, 5 Oct – MapAction volunteers have been working to ensure the immediate availability of spatial data if disaster strikes the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.

The Kathmandu Valley is highly vulnerable to earthquakes that tend to occur every 75 years or so – the last being in 1934. Fast urban expansion means that 1.7 million people are now potentially at risk. MapAction studied lessons from the Haiti earthquake in January this year where rapid situation mapping was constrained by the non-availability of base map data: which had existed but was lost beneath collapsed government buildings. A MapAction team was tasked with ensuring that this scenario cannot recur in any similar disaster in Nepal.

Alan Mills and Liesbeth Renders, both experienced volunteers with MapAction, visited Kathmandu in September and worked closely with United Nations and Nepal Government contacts to identify and review available map data sources.

At the end of the trip the team took with them more than eight gigabytes of map data copies that will be crucial in responding to a future emergency in Nepal. By holding copies of this data outside the country, a ‘worst case’ contingency can be covered.

MapAction’s Alan Mills said: “Knowing where vital data is held isn’t always enough in an emergency. Immediate access is vital to produce maps that can be used within hours by search and rescue teams after a catastrophic disaster.”

From a cartographer’s perspective, Nepal presents some interesting challenges. Several different geodetic datums and projection systems are in use. To ensure that satellite imagery can be combined accurately with other data if needed, Alan and Liesbeth surveyed a number of ground georeference points using GPS.

Using the experience gained, MapAction hopes to be able to do similar work to strengthen disaster preparedness in other potential urban disaster hotspots.

Pakistan Floods

(c)Reuters Adrees LatifPAKISTAN, 10 Aug – A MapAction team is flying out from the UK in response to the floods that are affecting much of Pakistan.

MapAction has been on standby for several days waiting for appropriate clearances to travel to Pakistan. Two MapAction volunteers are now on their way as part of a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team.

As flooding spreads southwards from the initial impact in the north-west, practically every province in Pakistan is either affected or forecast to be soon. At time of deployment, approaching 14 million people are suffering from the effects of the worst monsoon rains in 80 years. With such massive humanitarian needs for food, clean water, emergency healthcare and other resources, across a huge area of the country, good analysis of geographical priorities becomes essential for the most effective aid response.

This is the fourth time that MapAction team members have deployed to Pakistan since the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. Last year, a team worked alongside UN and other agencies responding to the humanitarian consequences of the counter-insurgency conflict in the north-west, the same area that is the focus of the current flood crisis.

Further details on the deployment and current maps will be published on the Pakistan Floods deployment page. A list of some of the resources that have been used for this emergency can be found here – Pakistan Resources

All maps can also be found at – Pakistan Response – where maps for this emergency will continue to be published.

Mapping essentials course

UK, 22 June – MapAction is running a 3-day introduction to humanitarian mapping course in London on 11-13 October 2010.

The course is designed for humanitarian and development field workers and others who want to use GPS and free/open source mapping tools in their work. The syllabus is grounded in practical, proven methods used by MapAction in disaster emergencies and development projects. It will include advanced use of Google Earth, how to find useful map data, and using the open source MapWindow software package.

The venue and facilities are being provided by the UK Royal Geographical Society, which is an experienced provider of training on fieldwork methods.

Jonathan Douch, MapAction’s operations director, said: “Aid workers have told us they need this kind of practical training. We know from experience what methods work in the field, and we’ll be drawing on real life humanitarian and development scenarios throughout the three day course.”

Full details about the course and how to book a place can be found on the following RGS-IBG website page.

Award for MapAction

UK, 8 June – Michael Palin, in his role as President of the UK’s Royal Geographical Society, presented MapAction with an award at a ceremony in London on 7 June 2010. The Geographical Award was conferred on the charity for its work in disasters since 2004. 

Since 1832, the prestigious RGS medals and awards have recognised excellence in geographical research and fieldwork. Dr Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Society, said: ‘Our award recipients illustrate the breadth of geography and its importance in understanding our world’s changing societies, environments and economies. MapAction’s use of GIS technology is a great example of the role geography can play in providing invaluable emergency relief and disaster preparedness to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.’

A team of four MapAction trustees and volunteers accepted the award from Michael Palin CBE, whose television and film-making output has focused increasingly on geography topics, and who became President of the RGS in 2009 having been a Fellow of the Society since 1978. The Chairnan of MapAction’s board of trustees, Andrew Douglas-Bate MBE, said: ‘This award is a fantastic recognition of the team effort that is MapAction, we’re honoured and delighted to accept it.’

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.

Pakistan landslide dam alert

PAKISTAN, 6 April – MapAction has been helping to alleviate risks of a potential flood catastrophe in mountainous northern Pakistan.

The charity was approached by NGO leaders in Pakistan seeking assistance with risk and emergency planning mapping in the Hunza district where a mountain landslide earlier this year dammed the Hunza River creating a lake. Rising water levels are now threatening to breach the dam, putting 45,000 people at risk from an outburst flood.

MapAction found that UK flood researchers at Durham and Newcastle universities, led by Professor David Petley, had been studying the situation, and that there was now an urgent need to map the potential at-risk areas downstream and to form a basis for evacuation planning. At the same time, as a member of the EU-funded SAFER project, MapAction was able to request specialist assistance through Infoterra UK and its partners.

Within a few days, the University researchers and the SAFER team had run state-of-the-art computer models to indicate the possible extent of a “worst case” flood. Using data about the shape of the valleys, the volume of water and the speed of its movement, the result was a series of detailed datasets showing areas potentially at risk. MapAction volunteers helped to map and interpret the data, working with staff of Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan, an NGO which is taking a lead in relief and risk mitigation work in the region.

MapAction team member Nick McWilliam commented: “Predicting floods in such complex terrain is an uncertain and difficult science. MapAction was able to tap the expertise of some of the world’s leading experts, connecting their results to beneficiaries on the ground. It’s a good example of research techniques being rapidly applied to create maps for a very pressing humanitarian crisis.”

Arc2Earth supports MapAction in Haiti

HAITI, 6 April – Three months after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the humanitarian relief effort is gearing itself up for the oncoming rainy season.

Having deployed a large team of volunteers immediately after the earthquake, MapAction is still continuing to support the ongoing humanitarian situation by providing mapping and information management support within specific clusters. One of the key issues for Haitians remains that of shelter; many people are still without adequate waterproof shelter, and are living in areas which are at risk of flooding as the weather worsens. MapAction is helping the Shelter Cluster to consolidate and present information from its many partners, to aid in the identification of gaps and overlaps in provision.

Google Earth has proved itself to be a valuable tool for the dissemination of large data sets covering a wide geographic area. In order to support MapAction’s activities, Arc2Earth have donated licences for its software, an add-in for ArcGIS which facilitates the export of GIS data layers into a Google Earth format. It supports a very rich representation of multiple layers of information, and allows it to be packaged into one file for easy distribution. The Shelter Cluster are using this tool to package together a range of key geographical datasets for its cluster partners, allowing them to have a better overview of the activities of other agencies.

Tenth mission of 2009 for MapAction

EL SALVADOR, 12 November – MapAction’s tenth field mission of 2009 has started in El Salvador, in response to flooding and landslides there. (Picture: Reuters/Luis Galdamez, courtesy

The deployment is in response to a request for mapping and information management support for a UN OCHA disaster assessment and coordination mission. Severe seasonal rains and the passage of Hurricane Ida across central America caused flash floods and mudslides across a large area of El Salvador. There have been scores of deaths and thousands made homeless.

As a MapAction team flew out to emergency, the charity noted the deployment as its tenth field mission so far in 2009. The mission tally has included five flooding emergencies across Africa and Asia, the Sumatra earthquake, and humanitarian crises in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Teams have also undertaken disaster risk reduction projects in Papua New Guinea and Kenya, and a further project is scheduled in Niger in December.

The charity’s chief executive Nigel Woof said: “We’ve never been this busy. Our field mapping service has been in demand time and again this year. It continues to be a real stretch but our volunteers are just fantastic.”

Responding to Haiti quake

HAITI, 13 January – Since deploying on the morning after the 12 January earthquake, MapAction volunteers and staff remain active on the ground.

Four team members played a pivotal role in coordinating the work of more than fifty international search and rescue teams in Port-au-Prince and in other devastated towns. As well as creating and issuing vital maps to sectorise the affected area, the team provided GPS coordinates and directions for hundreds of reported locations of victims; some instigated through mobile phone SMS messages from trapped individuals themselves.

Following the transition to the relief phase of the emergency, MapAction provided start-up staffing for the UN Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) in Port-au-Prince. In total, eleven of the charity’s volunteers deployed to Haiti, in several waves from the charity’s UK and Caribbean regional teams. Two team members have in fact returned to Haiti after a break of only a few days, to work in support of UN OCHA and the Emergency Shelter Cluster.

This has been the most intensive and arduous mission in MapAction’s experience. During the first weeks team members in the field had to get by with only short snatches of sleep. Temperatures in the working tents topped 40 degrees and clouds of dust clogged printers. Despite this, dozens of reference and situation map products were generated and thousands of copies issued in the field to relief organisations.

This is MapAction’s second mission to Haiti: in September 2008 the NGO deployed a team there in response to a string of tropical storms that struck the north of the country. MapAction is now planning reconstruction support to the country’s national mapping agency that lost most of its staff and all of its facilities in this year’s’earthquake.

For further up to date deployment details including new maps and diary entries follow the link to the Haiti Earthquake Deployment Page.

MapAction deploying to Sumatra

Sumatra, October 1 – Following two earthquakes of 7.6 and 6.9 near the city of Padang on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra on Wednesday 30 September 2009. Four MapAction volunteers are deploying following a request from UNOCHA. Three team members deployed from the UK, with one of the team members  redeploying from the Manila, Philippines following the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana. This is MapAction’s seventh emergency mission of the year. Up to date maps will be posted to at – Sumatra Earthquake, September 2009.

GIS award for MapAction’s work

USA, 20 July – MapAction was presented with the Humanitarian GIS Award by ESRI in San Diego in July.

The award was received by Andrew Douglas-Bate, MapAction’s Chairman, from Jack Dangermond, President of ESRI Inc. The presentation took place in front of some 12,000 people at ESRI’s International User Conference, on 11 July 2009 in San Diego, California.

Jack Dangermond praised the work of MapAction volunteers who use GIS for good in challenging and sometimes dangerous environments.

ESRI Inc is the world’s largest GIS software and services company. It supports MapAction by providing free licences and support for its powerful software, for MapAction volunteers to use in the field during natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.


Pakistan mission continues despite bombing

PAKISTAN, 12 June – A MapAction team member in Pakistan  had a lucky escape on the 9th June when she was caught in the terrorist attack on the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar.

Anne Frankland was in the city for one night, training United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) personnel on data collection methods for use in the current emergency in North West Frontier Province.

Anne had just gone to bed when the blast shattered the windows of her room and blew down the door. She survived with only minor injuries but five humanitarian agency staff died in the blast.

She said about the event: “The air was full of dust, it was hard to see. The building was rumbling and I thought it was going to collapse. Afterwards, our WFP colleagues really looked after me and the Pakistani people have been very warm, caring and concerned.”

Anne returned to Islamabad where she is continuing her MapAction mission in support of the Logistics Cluster. Two other MapAction team members are also deployed in Pakistan, where more than 2 million people have been affected by conflict between the government and insurgent groups in the north-west of the country.

Anne is an experienced member of MapAction and it is her second time in Pakistan, having deployed there in 2005 following the Kashmir earthquake disaster.

MapAction’s Operations Director Nigel Woof said: “This appaling attack slaughtered both Pakistani and international humanitarian staff who are working to help people in desperate need. We’re obviously deeply relieved that our team member escaped relatively unscathed but our thoughts are also with those who have lost colleagues and family.”

New GIS field guide

field_guide_cover_110x110UK, 10 June – MapAction has published the first edition of its Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping. The guide, which is downloadable free, will help aid organisations to use geospatial tools and methods in their work in emergencies. There are tutorials for Google Earth and open-source GIS software. Click here to access the guide.

Lively debate on disaster mapping

MapAction and Alertnet jointly ran an event that examined the future on mapping in the aid world, on 4 June. The seminar was held at the Thomson Reuters headquarters in London and attracted representatives from international NGO’s, UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations.

The event, entitled ‘Mapping for Communications Planning and Advocacy’ was filmed and can be accessed online via the following page: A clash of cultures between aid work and mapping?

Nick McWilliam of MapAction, who chaired the discussion, remarked: “You can’t respond to a disaster without first asking a lot of questions about ‘where’.”

The problem of making a ‘business case’ for investment in mapping resources was debated at the seminar. The question of who will pay for new technologies — and the data, much of which remains proprietary — is not yet clear.

The morning plenary sessions were followed by workshops on several technical subjects, including using Google Earth, and how to find map data sources for aid projects.

Picture: REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Fresh funding for MapAction

UK, 15 May – The UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has announced a substantial two-year funding grant for MapAction. The grant totals £291,000 and follows on from a previous grant under DFID’s Conflict and Humanitarian Fund.

MapAction’s Director David Spackman commented: “This is excellent news for the charity as it provides essential financial security for our emergency mapping service, in an otherwise tough financial climate. In fact, the grant will cover an expansion of our work, which is in growing demand by our beneficiary organisations. DFID is a hard-nosed funder and their confidence in us is therefore doubly gratifying.”

The grant covers a substantial proportion of MapAction’s core costs until March 2011. However, the charity’s fundraising efforts from other sources will be accelerated to enable additional humanitarian work to be done. Plans include the expansion of MapAction’s programme of assistance to help organisations in developing countries to use GIS and related methods to reduce disaster risks.

Other MapAction donors encompass a range of grant-making trusts, corporate donors and individuals. One of the most important ‘hidden’ sources of support is the charity’s volunteer group, pivoting on thirty or so committed GIS and other professionals who give their time free of charge to deliver the emergency mapping service in response to humanitarian emergencies around the world.

Reducing disaster risks in PNG

png_map_110x110PAPUA NEW GUINEA, January 28 – MapAction is supporting disaster risk reduction in Papua New Guinea by providing funding and expertise for a three-month project starting in March 2009. The project, in partnership with the country’s National Disasters Centre, NGOs and other agencies, is delivering training in GIS and community-level vulnerability mapping methods. (Picture: Google Earth)

Severe flooding hits Fiji

fiji_floods_2009Serious flooding claimed 11 lives and made thousands homeless in Fiji in January 2009. MapAction volunteer Helen Wood was working temporarily in Fiji when the disaster struck. She immediately began to help with collecting field data on the flood extent. This will be used to predict future floods and so to reduce communities' vulnerabilities. 

MapAction captured on film

During real emergencies there is little opportunity to capture a record of MapAction’s work. However in 2008 a MapAction team ‘deployed’ to Norway and Sweden to take part in the world’s largest international disaster response exercise, Triplex 08. A short film showing MapAction’s work on the exercise, and how it relates to their real-world disaster response operations was produced.

The Triplex exercise is held every two years and involves more than 200 disaster response professionals from many countries. The organisers are the International Humanitarian Partnership in cooperation with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

{loadposition Film001}  

The film was shot and produced by Pat Schulenburg, a MapAction volunteer, at no charge to the charity.

Atlantic storms devastate Haiti

haiti_displaced_peopleHurricane Ike and other tropical storms in September 2008 brought devastating flooding affecting 600,000 people in Haiti and submerged much of the northern city of Gonaïves. To support humanitarian relief coordination, MapAction despatched an emergency mapping team. Click here for Haiti maps. (Picture: American Red Cross)

MapAction to present to GIS professionals

gis_for_everyday_life_110x110More than 2,000 GIS professionals are expected to hear MapAction present on its work in disaster response at an international conference in October. The GIS software business ESRI is holding its Europe, Middle East and Africa in London. ESRI UK donates its software , and provides training facilities, to MapAction’s volunteer team.

Mapping the hidden enemy

mag_angola_demolition_110x110MapAction is assisting the NGO Mines Advisory Group ( to use advanced GIS methods in its work. MapAction volunteers have travelled to Angola and Northern Iraq to train MAG personnel in the use of GIS to enhance the efficiency and safety of demining work in the most mine-affected areas of the world. (Picture ©MAG 2008)

Putting Lesotho aid projects on the map

sentebale_kids_110x110 MapAction has assisted the Lesotho-based NGO Sentebale to produce an online map showing locations of aid projects helping orphans and vulnerable children across the country. The interactive map allows selective viewing of various types of projects and resources with links to Sentabale's database of projects run by a wide range of organisations. (Picture: Sentebale)

Sichuan earthquake

sichuan_eq_clip_110x110The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck central China on 12 May has caused at least 40,000 deaths. A MapAction team was placed on standby to deploy if China requested international assistance for coordination. Meanwhile a reference map of the affected area was produced within 24 hours by MapAction and can be downloaded – click here.

Myanmar cyclone disaster

myanmar_boy_110x110Tropical cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar on 2 May reportedly caused over 100,000 deaths and made 2.4 million homeless. MapAction emergency mappers were deployed to Bangkok and Myanmar. (Picture: Reuters Alertnet)  Click here for Myanmar maps.

GIS training for Indian NGO

chirag_staff_using_ge_110x110Two MapAction volunteers have completed a project to provide GIS know-how to the NGO Chirag based in the Indian Himalayas. Chirag's team are now equipped to use GPS in conjunction with free GIS software tools to track their reforestation programmes that deliver social, environmental and disaster risk reduction benefits. (Picture: MapAction)

Times Atlas mapping for disaster response

times_atlas_page_110x110In the first hours and days of a humanitarian crisis, good reference maps of the affected region are always in demand. MapAction can now produce these rapidly, using data from the authoritative Times Atlas of the World. The publishers, Collins Bartholomew, have agreed to provide their data free of charge to MapAction for use in emergencies. (Map detail copyright Collins Bartholomew)

Learn about MapAction missions using Google Earth

missionskmzscreenUPDATE: new Google Earth file updated in design and data. Anyone with Google Earth installed on their computer can now click here to view all MapAction’s disaster relief and capacity buiilding field missions since 2003. Each icon has details of the deployment and a direct link to the maps produced during the mission.

New population maps for East Africa

kenya_data_110x110A malaria mapping project in Nairobi and Oxford has provided an unexpected benefit to MapAction's readiness for humanitarian emergencies in East Africa, in the form of detailed population maps of the region. This fills a missing information element in many disasters, which is a reliable indication of how many people are affected in a given area.

Major donor to support MapAction

man_group_logoMapAction will benefit from a new three-year grant from the Man Group plc Charitable Trust, it was announced in March. The grant will fund MapAction’s emergency response capability and its capacity-building work. The Trust is aiming to grant a total of £60,000 between now and 2010. 

January 2008: floods in Bolivia

sandbagging_in_bolivia_110x110BOLIVIA, 25 Jaunary – A MapAction team deployed to Bolivia on 26 January in response to the severe flooding that is affecting much of the country. A state of emergency has been declared by the government and more than 240,000 people are reported as affected. MapAction is working alongside a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team. (Picture: Reuters/Alertnet). Click here for Bolivia maps.

Mozambique disaster preparedness training

moz1_gps_trainingA two-stage training programme on use of GIS for disaster preparedness has been completed in Mozambique by MapAction. The course was run in partnership with Mozambique’s technical university (UDM), and also with involvement from the national disaster management agency (INCG) and UN Development Programme. (Picture: MapAction)

2007 was “no freak year” says Oxfam

flood_damage_110x110A dramatic rise in disaster events is attributed to global warming by leading aid agencies who have issued reports recently. Looking back on 2007, an Oxfam director said that "This is no freak year" and that it was part of a pattern of less predictable weather events. The NGO MapAction is anticipating more weather-related emergencies in future.  

Mexican flood relief

villahermosa_mexicoA team of four volunteers from MapAction joined the international relief effort in the devastating floods in southern Mexico, in November 2007. In the flooded city of Villahermosa in Tabasco province, more than 80,000 people took refuge in schools and churches. This placed them at risk from diseases such as dengue fever and cholera. (Picture: Reuters/Alertnet)

Dominican Republic emergency

dominican_republic_floods_110x110A MapAction team deployed in October to the Dominican Republic where Tropical Storm Noel caused severe flooding and displaced more than 64,000 people. More than 80% of the country has been affected. This was MapAction’s second emergency mission in the Caribbean region this year, having sent a team to Jamaica following Hurricane Dean. (Picture: Reuters/Alertnet)

Prince Harry helps MapAction mark 50 missions

prince_harry_oct07_110x110In October 2007, MapAction completed its first 50 field and training missions. Prince Harry, the charity's Royal Patron, attended a reception and presentation to mark this milestone. About 140 guests and members of MapAction met at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in central London. 

Floods in West Africa

ghana_floods_sep07_110x110Flooding in north-eastern Ghana in September killed at least six people and affected over 260,000, according to the Government. Thousands of homes were destroyed and the flooding also caused major bridges to collapse and destroyed crops. Following the deployment of a UN assessment and coordination group, a MapAction team deployed to support them from Tamale in northern Ghana.

Assisting in Pakistan flood emergency

pakistan_floodsMapAction team member Philip Moore has returned from a one-month attachment to the UN Joint Logistics Centre responding to the flooding emergency in Pakistan which affected more than one million people. Based in Islamabad, he produced situation maps for the logistics coordination cluster and other humanitarian organisations.

Hurricane Dean – Jamaica

damage_at_old_harbour_02_110x110On Friday 17 August 2007, Hurricane Dean tore through the eastern Caribbean and then strengthened to Category 4 as it brushed the south coast of Jamaica. MapAction deployed an emergency response team to the island. The team worked closely with government agencies, the UN and Red Cross to assess and map damage and immediate relief needs.

MapAction becomes ECHO partner

echoMapAction has signed a Framework Partnership Agreement with ECHO, the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission. The agreement will enable MapAction to increase its level of response in humanitarian emergencies, as well as enabling other disaster preparedness work. It provides a mechanism for ECHO to provide funding for specific missions by MapAction. 

MapAction team member deploys to Sudan

anne_frankland_110x110Anne Frankland of MapAction travels to South Sudan in August to start a six-month contract with the UN Joint Logistics Centre. Anne will be replacing Nick McWilliam, also of MapAction, who has been in Sudan since early 2007. The post is based in Juba, and involves building local capacity for mapping transport routes across southern Sudan. 

Building disaster resilience in Mozambique

mozambique_floods_110x110MapAction will be training engineers and disaster response professionals in the use of GIS and GPS technologies in a two-stage mission to Mozambique over the coming months. The project was instigated by the Dean of Mozambique’s technical university (UDM) who, recognising a need for predictive flood mapping, sought MapAction’s help. 

Satellite project reaches first milestone

harmless_image_110x110Project HARMLESS, researching and promoting the use of next-generation satellite navigation technologies for humanitarian and emergency uses, has reached its first major milestone. The project, in which MapAction is a consortium partner, has completed its Critical Analysis phase, with a report recently issued.

Excellence award for MapAction

esir_awardMapAction received a GIS Excellence Award from ESRI at a ceremony on 24 April. The award recognises the charity's innovation in using geographical information technologies in disaster relief. Roger Wedge of MapAction received the award from Richard Waite, managing director of ESRI (UK) at the GISTech 2007 event. 

Prince Harry to be Royal Patron

emp-3446906_110x110Prince Harry has lent his personal support to MapAction by becoming the charity’s Royal Patron. The charity’s director David Spackman stated it was “a great honour and boost to our continuing development”. The Prince is said to be very interested in the role of MapAction and the work of its teams in disaster emergencies. 

New Caribbean & Latin America section

lac_team_with_andrew_loresMapAction has formed its first regional section, which will be based in the Caribbean area. Once operational, the team will assist in regional emergencies including responding to hurricane impacts. Pictured are team leader Vijay Datadin (centre) with Darren Kowlessar (right) and MapAction chairman Andrew Douglas-Bate. 

JAGUAR to assist Latin America region

jaguar_logo_110x110 European geospatial services will be promoted to the Latin American region through newly-launched Project JAGUAR, with MapAction playing a role in maximising humanitarian applications, by contributing its expertise on the use of remote sensed imagery in disaster emergencies.

Mapping aid for Kenya flood emergency

kenya_map_sample_110x110MapAction has completed a mission to Kenya to strengthen capacity in disaster response during the recent flood emergency that affected much of the eastern side of the country as well as neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia. In Kenya alone, some 700,000 people were seriously affected.