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.”
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.
COTE 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.
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.
LIBYA, 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
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.
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.
LITTLE 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 www.mapaction.org. The closing date for applications is 15 December 2010.
SAINT 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, 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.
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.
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, 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, 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.”
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.
UK, 9 March – John Lyon, Geographical Association’s programme director, is running the Virgin London Marathon 2010 on behalf of MapAction. John has had some interesting training runs as the photos on his JustGiving website show. We thank him for his support and wish him all the best for Sunday 25th April – http://www.justgiving.com/John-Lyon
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 www.alertnet.org)
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.”
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.
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.
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, 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.”
UK, 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.
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
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.
PAPUA 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)
Serious 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.
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.
The film was shot and produced by Pat Schulenburg, a MapAction volunteer, at no charge to the charity.
USA, 6 October – MapAction is participating in the first International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM 2009) in Cleveland, USA on 16-18 October 2009. The purpose of ICCM 2009 is to help shape the future of the field of crisis mapping.
Hurricane 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)
More 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.
MapAction is assisting the NGO Mines Advisory Group (www.maginternational.org) 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)
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)
The 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.
Tropical 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.
Two 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)
In 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)
UPDATE: 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.
A 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.
MapAction 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.
BOLIVIA, 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.
A 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)
A 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.
A 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)
A 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)
In 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.
Flooding 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.
MapAction 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.
On 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 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.
Anne 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.
MapAction 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.
Project 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.
MapAction 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 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.
MapAction 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.
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.
MapAction 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.