West Africa, 22 Dec – Two volunteers have been in action in West Africa recently helping with the efforts against Ebola – Alan Mills in Mali and KirstyFerris in Ghana.
The Mali government asked for international assistance to prepare for the possibility of a widening Ebola outbreak after six people were infected, one of them the person who had brought the virus from Guinea. Alan joined the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team already there. He reports that the mission was about understanding the priorities for information management in Ebola preparedness, identifying what was already in place and clarifying requirements in response to a possible further outbreak. One aspect of this included documenting all available relevant data and establishing a framework for the place codes and typical mapping we produce to clarify gaps in response. MapAction has now been asked to send a consolidation mission to Mali and it is likely that a volunteer will depart on 10 January. Alan says “Bamako will be very hot in January but it’s an interesting city and there’s good will from the Malians and their international partners here to co-operate and build something strong.” The Mali government is establishing an Ebola Operations Centre, which could be used for other emergencies.
Alan coordinates our Resilient Action for Mapping Preparedness project (RAMP) that started with a pilot in Southern Africa in 2012. The project aims to develop the capacity for mapping preparedness within government bodies responsible for emergency response and is targeted at countries with a high likelihood of disasters. It aims to improve their information management by providing tools, guidelines and training in collaboration with agencies; technical, GIS and information specialists. To reinforce whatever we do we have identified the need to work with intermediary organisations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Caribbean and are in discussion with the World Food Programme in Asia Pacific.
Liz Hughes, chief executive of MapAction says, “The Mali mission has given us the opportunity to apply the methodology of our RAMP project and demonstrate the value of preparedness work.”
In Ghana, Kirsty Ferris has just completed a two-week volunteer mission working with the United Nations Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), working to strengthen the data management structure for the regional response to the crisis. UNMEER is tasked to provide leadership and coordination in collaboration with the host governments across all three of the most affected countries. Kirsty followed Darren Connaghan’s one month paid mission; when he began the information management structure was minimal and required considerable coordination with many information management specialists across the region. This is the first time in recent years that MapAction has been involved in a regional mission at this level.