This has been our busiest ever year. We asked people from across our team what their 2020 was like at MapAction. This is what they told us:
In this video, MapAction volunteer Emerson Tan gives a report from the airport on his way home from Guatemala.
MapAction was mobilised to help the international response to the catastrophic impacts of Hurricanes Eta and Iota which have caused tremendous suffering across Central America, on top of the COVID pandemic.
MapAction is working in close collaboration with our partner CartONG to provide GIS & information management support to UNICEF – another long-term MapAction partner – on an as-needed basis around the world.
Working with UNICEF’s head quarters, country offices and partners in different parts of the globe, we are focusing on helping with geospatial data collection and management, mapping, knowledge management and capacity building.
One of the projects we have been collectively working on is a data analysis dashboard to help educators in Mexico respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This dashboard, which is updated on a daily basis, is a dynamic, interactive visualisation of information enabling education teams to monitor changes and identify trends in school attendance following COVID closures. It also provides general information on the state of schools’ water and sanitation infrastructure.
The dashboard is currently in beta. When finalised, it is planned that all teachers across Mexico will have access to it to help them plan and respond to the evolving COVID crisis.
As well as helping CartONG to build the dashboard, MapAction has provided data processing scripts to ensure a seamless feed of data and has lead on the user testing and quality assurance aspects of the project.
For over a year, swarms of locusts have been ravaging large parts of rural Africa, affecting different countries at different times. Stripping the land of vegetation and destroying crops and food supplies, the highly destructive pest is causing additional severe food insecurity for communities already struggling to recover from drought and flooding, as well as coping with COVID-19.
Since April, MapAction has been working with Oxfam and its network of local civil society partners in Eastern and Southern Africa to help improve visibility of the work the partners are doing and improve communication flows between them, even during COVID lockdowns. This in turn is helping them to protect people’s food security, livelihoods and access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services as this complex and many-layered crisis evolves.
As well as mapping who is doing what and where to help, we have also been creating map templates and training people locally so that they can update and refresh the maps on an ongoing basis. This means that Oxfam’s partners can alert each other of threats such as locust swarms migrating into new areas.
In Somalia we have been assisting teams working on food security, livelihoods, WASH and protection by helping to triangulate information about locust infestations and areas affected by COVID. In Southern Africa, we have been helping Oxfam and its civil society partners set up and then maintain situational awareness of locusts and other threats to food security across the region.
One Oxfam project MapAction has been supporting involves mapping water ATMs – machines that allow water to be automatically dispensed when a customer places his or her token or card against an electronic reader, which regulates flow at a dispensing point. A chip within the token or card contains information about the amount of water the user has already paid for and water credits are deducted each time water is dispensed. The water ATMs are important points in areas such as informal settlements, ensuring access to safe, low-cost drinking water which is key in protecting people against water-borne diseases. Initially covering informal settlements around Nairobi, MapAction’s involvement has now extended to mapping ATMs in other areas.
Irene Gai, WASH strategist at Oxfam, said, “Sharing where work has been done is helping to avoid duplication of interventions, thereby saving resources that can be channelled to other needy areas. By having the maps shared with other WASH-sector agencies, they can target their own resources for similar initiatives in other places than where Oxfam has already supported.”
During the course of the work in East Africa, the MapAction team created our first automatically-generated maps, testing out this new approach which is part of our ambitious Moonshot programme. Among other things, this enables us to produce the best reference and baseline maps possible in almost no time at all, freeing up team time to focus on the specifics of the situation at hand.
Initially supporting Oxfam’s partners’ work in Kenya and Somalia, MapAction personnel are now also helping in Zimbabwe and Zambia, with scope to roll out to Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Botswana. Additional projects in other countries may also take place.
We’re grateful to the German Federal Foreign Office for funding this work.
Since March this year, a MapAction data scientist has been based at the Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague, supporting its workstream on predictive analytics. The aim of this important work is to forecast humanitarian emergencies and needs in order to trigger responses before a disaster occurs.
One of the projects the Centre’s predictive analytics team is working on, in partnership with the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and individual country offices of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is the development of COVID-19 modelling tailored for each country’s specific context. This seeks to predict the scale, severity and duration of the outbreak within each country, including its likely effects on particularly vulnerable groups, such as people at risk of hunger or those using solid fuel indoors for cooking.
The project is also modelling the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as curfews, travel bans and face masks, according to what is locally viable.
The inclusion of country-specific factors, looking at projections for specific vulnerable groups as well as the general population at a sub national level, can make this work particularly helpful for governments and humanitarian organisations to inform their COVID planning.
The initial model was developed for Afghanistan and is now being extended to other priority countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Sudan.
We’re grateful for the support of the German Federal Foreign Office which funds MapAction’s data scientist role.
Earlier this year, MapAction was asked by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to send a team to Turkey. Their mission was to provide assistance to humanitarian teams there and in Northwest Syria who are supporting the very large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people that arrived in the region during the first three months of the year following an upsurge of fighting in Aleppo.
The request was to work with two groups of organisations collaborating to collectively manage around 900 refugee camps; the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster, and the Shelter /Non-Food Item (SNFI) Cluster.
Days before the MapAction team was due to travel, the UK and Turkey went into lockdown. Consequently, the team was compelled to switch rapidly to a remote-working approach.
Since late March, they have been helping the Clusters to get a better understanding of the locations and sizes of the camps and the needs of the people arriving and living in them. Camps vary enormously; from just a few tents to up to 93 separate sites within a single camp, and from long-term, static settlements to temporary ones.
As well as cross referencing, checking and cleaning data about camp locations received from numerous sources, the MapAction team developed some simple tools to help do this quickly and easily in future, which will also have benefits for other areas of work undertaken by the Clusters. One tool validates the location coordinates of camps recorded by teams within Syria, another matches them to Syrian administrative areas.
The MapAction team has also been locating aerial images of the camps on OpenStreetMap and using these to develop 900 map polygons showing the shape and size of each camp. As well as helping the Clusters to understand and meet the existing needs of people in the camps, this work will help to inform them about their population densities, which is particularly important in the context of COVID-19.
Updated to add: This project was shortlisted for a DataIQ Award for ‘Best use of data by a not-for-profit’.
The Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCS EP) is leading a collaborative initiative to establish a UK-wide coordination system for civil society organisations and charities participating in the country’s domestic response to COVID-19. It aims to provide support to people in vulnerable situations who aren’t able to get help locally. The initiative, which is backed by the UK government, is a huge undertaking and draws on expertise from a broad range of people and organisations.
The concept is based on a number of ‘tactical cells’ located around the four countries of the UK and made up of experts from across the voluntary and community sector.
These cells will oversee, coordinate and represent the voluntary and community sector’s response to Covid19. Each cell aims to identify the unmet need of people in the most vulnerable situations by linking information gathered from teams delivering front-line support to strategic decision makers. This rapidly changing information is used to ensure resources go to where they are most needed, for example by identifying where demand for support outweighs the local capacity available, or where needs are of a particularly specialist nature.
A four-person MapAction team has been supporting the VCS EP to set up, test and run the information flows and coordination systems for the tactical cells. Our input was solicited because of our team’s experience and knowledge of the challenges of creating and delivering a robust information management process across multiple countries in a complex and rapidly evolving crisis situation.
The VCS EP is co-chaired by the British Red Cross and the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA).
The new system is being rolled out this week and will be in place for the rest of the spring and summer.
MapAction volunteers have been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in Libya and Chad to process and map data about health and sanitation services, in order to support the response to COVID-19.
The volunteers have been working remotely, alongside each country’s health cluster (networks of WHO partners that work together to relieve suffering and save lives in humanitarian emergencies). They have been helping to identify and map what healthcare, water and sanitation services and aid are being provided, by whom, when and where. This is known as 4W mapping and is important to help identify gaps and avoid duplication.
We are now looking at providing similar assistance to WHO in other parts of North and Central Africa.
At a time when charities throughout the UK and around the world are being severely impacted by big drops in fundraising income caused by the Corona virus, MapAction is busier than ever before.
We’re helping national governments, the UN and humanitarian organisations across the globe make rapid sense of the COVID-19 pandemic and plan the best response, to save the most lives and minimise the long-term impacts.
Managing a pandemic of this kind requires the rapid collection and analysis of vast amounts of data. Without maps and data, those responding to the crisis are effectively blindfolded. This is where MapAction’s help is crucial. Our expertise in humanitarian information management and mapping is hugely in demand, as we face a global crisis of unprecedented scale. We’re having an impact, right at the heart of the world’s response.
At the same time, other humanitarian emergencies that existed pre-Corona, or have occurred since its onset – such as Cyclone Harold and the Syrian refugee crisis – require our urgent assistance too.
Like all charities, our funding has been affected by the COVID crisis. That’s why we’re asking all our supporters to take part in the MapAction 2.6 Challenge.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Plan a 2.6-mile route around your home using a tool like mapmywalk.com or the map app on your phone. Make sure you adhere to government guidance and social distancing measures in force where you are.
- Run, walk, cycle, scoot, hop, jump or anything-you-like around your route between 26 April and 1 May 2020. You could even do the same loop ten times to make it 26 miles!
- If you can’t leave your home, you can still take part by performing any activity you like 26 times (do 26 sit ups or 26 minutes of yoga, toss a pancake 26 times…). If you like, you can create a fantasy 2.6 mile map route that you plan to do one day.
- Take a picture of you doing your challenge (videos and GIFs are also v welcome, but make sure you include at least one photo), and a screenshot of your route map, if applicable. Send them to email@example.com with your name(s). (Route maps will be anonymised before we share them. By sending us your name and images, you consent to us storing and publishing them.)
- Share your picture/video/GIF on social media with the hashtags #MapAction26Challenge and #twopointsixchallenge. (NB don’t share a map that shows where you live.)
- Donate £26 – or whatever you can afford – to MapAction via this Virgin Money Giving page or set up your own 2.6 Challenge fundraising page.
- That’s it! You’re a super hero. Thank you!
As well as the money you donate, we will receive a portion of a central fund being collected from large corporate donors. The amount of that we receive will be proportionate to the amount of donations we receive, so please give as much as you can.
MapAction’s partner Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides rapid-response medical teams to assist in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics. On any given day, its staff treats tens of thousands of patients for a variety of illnesses in its medical programmes around the world.
MSF is very concerned how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect people in countries with already fragile health systems. In many areas where its teams work, there are few medical organisations in a position to respond to an overload of patients.
In order to provide the best medical aid as fast as possible, MSF is working with its technical partner CartONG to create a single repository for all the information its operations personnel need to rapidly respond to the COVID crisis, including information about travel restrictions, flights, cargo transport, availability of supplies, etc. A MapAction team member has been seconded to this technical task force in the role of GIS coordinator. As well as bringing technical expertise in data and content strategy, he’s helping to define and prioritise the information needs of MSF teams and create content for the new platform.
MapAction has been helping its partners the World Food Program (WFP) and Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to distribute mobile app questionnaires about availability of and access to food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past several years, we have been working with CDEMA and other organisations to build a network of GIS professionals in the Caribbean region (and elsewhere) with a shared interest in disaster preparedness and information management. We were able to use this network to help disseminate the questionnaire as widely as possible across the region in order to gather information about potential food shortages once incidences of the virus escalate.
A MapAction team member currently based in New Zealand is providing GIS, mapping and information management support to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Asia and the Pacific (ROAP).
Over the next two months, he will be helping ROAP to support countries that have limited public health infrastructure and resources to cope with the rapid onset of COVID-19. He will be assisted in this work by MapAction’s team of volunteers.
ROAP covers 41 countries in Asia and the Pacific and currently supports these countries in their efforts to ramp up preparedness and response through the UN Resident Coordinators and their offices, as well as local governments.
We’ve helped ACAPS to put together a dashboard showing government measures being taken around the world. Data can be filtered by region, country, type of measure and timeframe.
We will be updating this twice a week. In the meantime ACAPS, MapAction and other organisations are looking at further topics to develop analysis for.
MapAction is collaborating with ACAPS and other partners to provide analysis, maps and visualisations of the pandemic as it evolves to assist governments and aid agencies in their response.
Since last week, we have been working with our partner ACAPS, the independent humanitarian analysis organisation, to support their efforts looking at the longer term humanitarian effects of COVID-19.
Every Wednesday, starting today, ACAPS will be publishing a weekly bulletin about government measures around the world in relation to the virus. MapAction is assisting this work with analysis, mapping and visualisations of the collected data. The data is also being published via the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX).
This information will enable teams planning the response to the pandemic around the world to see what steps are being taken in different countries and what the impacts of those measures are.