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.