MapAction urges world leaders and stakeholders gathered at COP28 to promote data-driven solutions to improve the lives of people on the front lines of climate change. (A version of this article was first published before CoP27 in Egypt in 2022. It was updated for CoP28 in November 2023. )
In recent years we have seen a large increase in the number of natural disasters worldwide. Regular climate-related disasters are exacerbating water and food insecurity.
How emergency relief stakeholders and governments coordinate their responses to the climate emergency can impact the recovery of affected communities. That is why good data is key to preparedness and mitigation, especially in locations with limited resources.
As the changing climate ravages and displaces some of the world’s poorest communities, good data use will not prevent such climate-driven occurrences. It can only soften the effects by helping the affected communities, and stakeholders, to be prepared and to coordinate relief strategies. Good use of data in decision-making at key moments can reduce the human cost of the climate emergency.
“Data, often visualised through maps, can help identify who the most vulnerable people are, where they are, and highlight need,” said Nick Moody, MapAction’s chair of trustees, before CoP27 in 2022. “At CoP27 there was a recognition that while this information is critical during a crisis, it can have an even greater effect if used in advance. MapAction has a huge role to play in helping others to build resilience through data.”
Since MapAction’s inception over 20 years ago, the charity has provided data and specialist technical geospatial and data volunteers in more than 140 crises, many climate-related, worldwide. Our team has supported responses alongside UN, regional and national agencies as well as INGOs and local civil society organisations, providing relief to some of the most vulnerable climate-exposed people worldwide.
Our 70+ volunteers come from across the ever-growing range of sectors using data and geospatial technology, bringing a huge diversity of technical expertise. MapAction gives them the training, operational experience and support needed to operate effectively in humanitarian situations.
Working in collaboration with many emergency relief partners, our teams create unique situation maps, data visualisations, data sets and other products that help coordinate disaster relief using the best available information in the most insightful ways. The improved decisions they enable can help mitigate, for example, the impact of droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, famines and health crises, to save lives and protect communities. In 2023 alone, MapAction has provided data products, volunteer mapping teams or experts to support emergency response, anticipatory action programmes or capacity building in a dozen countries in five continents.
While MapAction’s initial expertise was in support of emergency response, our work is increasingly moving into early warning and preparedness. Anthropogenic climate change has been proven to alter both the likelihood and the severity of extreme weather events around the world, and the growing frequency of these can be predicted, if not precisely then generally. Being ready to spot the indicators, triggering early support for anticipatory action can be life-saving. Predictive analytics can allow us to define the mechanisms that trigger these actions by analysing current and historical data and developing models, as long as the data is reliable.
“It is more important than ever to be able to respond effectively to such events, but also to be able to anticipate them, in order to more effectively mitigate their impact,” Daniele Castellana, former lead Data Scientist at MapAction, commented before CoP27. “Through our collaborations with the Centre for Humanitarian Data and the Start Network, MapAction has been working on this flourishing component of humanitarian aid.” MapAction launched its own InnovationHub in 2022.
Early action is one of the most effective ways to address the ever-growing climate impacts. That is why MapAction has partnered with the START Network, a coalition that focuses on humanitarian action through innovation, fast funding and early action; Insurance Development Forum is also a partner in this work. START Network brings together 55 international non-governmental organisations and 7,000 partners worldwide. MapAction is also working with INFORM to support updating forecast and risk models with select national disaster management agencies worldwide.
MapAction has made concrete commitments to actively seek solutions to reduce the impact of climate change. In October 2021, we signed the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organisations. The charter was developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and guided by a 19-person strong Advisory Committee which included representatives of local, national and international NGOs, UN agencies and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as academics, researchers and experts in the humanitarian, development, climate and environmental fields.
Signing that charter commits us to being a part of the solution and helping people adapt to a changing climate and environment. It will also help strengthen our own resolve and efforts to be environmentally sustainable. Most of all, it recognises that our efforts must be a collective endeavour – no organisation can tackle this alone.
Together with a growing range of partners, looking to engage ever more locally, we are using geospatial data, data visualization and data science to start laying the groundwork for climate resilience. The objective is to improve preventive actions and strategies in humanitarian response.
Because what we map today we can mitigate tomorrow and in the future. That is why the science of how we source, analyze, shape, share and deploy data must be at the heart of all current and future discussions on adapting to climate change.
For more info on MapAction’s work, please drop by our website.
From Mexico to South Sudan, Malawi and worldwide, MapAction and CartONG have worked together for nearly a decade to bring geospatial solutions to the humanitarian aid and international development sector. Our underlying core shared values help us support NGOs and aid actors for more impactful assistance.
What happens if information barriers aren’t broken down for humanitarian agencies in emergencies? Food gets sent to the wrong people, search and rescue teams are misinformed, temporary settlements are set up in misguided places. Lives are lost or ruined because the right data was missing.
Breaking down information barriers
At MapAction and CartONG we embrace and live by the same values embedded in a single idea: the application of geospatial technology to improve the quality and impact of humanitarian assistance and development projects. Every map, mapathon, training event, data analysis tool or geospatial element of disaster preparedness we co-strive to create can be the key to getting aid to a stricken community or to understanding and preparing for the worst effects of a drought, flood or health emergency. These shared core values and resources have led to a beautiful cross-channel partnership between UK-based MapAction and France-based CartONG. A partnership that aims to improve the impact of aid actions by providing decision-makers and vulnerable communities with the right data to understand and mitigate any crisis.
CartONG and MapAction have since worked together on a number of different projects. In Mexico, together with UNICEF and the Mexican government, MapAction and CartONG supported the creation of a dashboard aiming to display and monitor real-time information on key education indicators on elementary schools at the national level in order to map COVID-19 affectations before the start of the new school year in 2020. It was created to display and monitor real-time information on key education indicators for all elementary schools. This relied on over 200,000 individual schools uploading their data on a daily basis, and was the first time that this information would be collected and displayed at a national level.
In South Sudan, MapAction and CartONG, together with other partners, worked to identify the data challenges that might slow down ‘final mile’ vaccine delivery in a challenging data environment. One outcome of this work was the Integrated Humanitarian Data Package, that aimed to give quick and easy access to key geographic data that underpins the planning and delivery of vaccination programmes. This pilot health project highlighted the vital role that geospatial technology can play in creating effective healthcare solutions. High quality mapping and data analysis is key to understanding how many people need vaccinating, where they are, and how and where the vaccines can be safely stored and delivered.
In 2023, CartONG and MapAction again used the IHDP to map the outbreak of cholera in Malawi. We are also both partners on the ‘UNICEF Geospatial Hotline’, where interested UN departments can request specific geospatial services from our organisations.
As we look ahead, we know the crises we try to mitigate will become evermore complex and challenging; the funding landscape evermore volatile. That is why our partnership continues to grow and why the alliances we are building with organisations like H2H, UNICEF and Start Network are so vital. We will soon also be announcing a new and exciting joint-project linked to health in West Africa. More on that soon.
We both remain committed to continue to deliver capacity building events and projects worldwide to strengthen disaster preparedness and improve the impact of humanitarian assistance.
Souhaitez-vous lire cet article en français ? Cliquez ici!
Welcome to the first post in a new blog series on anticipatory action. The series will explore MapAction’s work to strengthen readiness and preparedness worldwide. We’ll kick off with a few facts and definitions, as well as a review of some of the key sessions and agenda points from the The Anticipation Hub: The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action, which is currently underway in Germany’s capital Berlin. This blog is part of an anticipatory action programme by MapAction kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Insurance Development Forum.
What does this blog cover?
Summaries, notes, images, cartoons and observations from the The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action
Anticipatory action: definition, components, facts and overview
Examples of MapAction’s work in anticipatory action
The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action is currently live from Berlin! Register here to watch it. Listen in as disaster management experts from across the world discuss the latest vanguard thinking on how to mitigate climate change and weather-related hazards.
Final day of the 11th #GlobalDP | In one of the sessions, ACAPS specialists Diogo Lemos, Francesca Giovinazzo, and Nic Parham will explore how joint analysis sets the stage for effective preparedness measures and more fit-for-purpose and impactful anticipatory action.
The Berlin Festival of Lights, which sees important landmarks in the German capital illuminated in technicolour, is also underway in Germany’s capital.
October 11th. 15:05 UTC
Heading into the final Day Two sessions now. With that, we’ll be wrapping up our Anticipation Hub blog today. We will add brief summaries and the odd pic tomorrow.
We’ll leave you with the excellent selection of anticipatory action cartoons to wind down with. Bis Morgen!
October 11th. 13:25 UTC
The Data Guardian Game for anticipatory action: a workshop on availability of data in anticipatory action.
“A useful tool to help participants grasp the significance of data in the decision-making process.”
Luke Caley from IFRC outlines the organisation’s database “with 100 years of disasters to learn from”.
“Global data needs to be verified on the ground”. Now the game begins.
Participants are divided into four groups, assuming the roles of government decision-makers. Each group is tasked with investing in various governmental agencies to enhance their data collection and analysis capabilities.
In the second stage of the game, a flood scenario is introduced, prompting participants to gather information exclusively from the agencies in which they had initially invested; they are only permitted to access data and information from these specific agencies. Armed with this information, the groups then proceeded to make crucial judgments regarding the activation of an early action protocol.
MapAction and anticipatory action
MapAction’s work in anticipatory action is kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Insurance Development Forum, as well as other individual and institutional donors. Our work in anticipatory action takes on different shapes and forms from territory to territory and is correlated to disaster risk reduction initiatives worldwide. The list below is non-exhaustive and is designed to give a brief overview of MapAction anticipatory humanitarian action work.
In Kenya we work with Oxfam and the Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) Humanitarian Network to forecast and map the potential impacts of drought on northern counties. “The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), in Kenya cover close to 80% of the land and are home to approximately 36% of the country’s population, 70% of the national livestock and 90% of the wildlife,” states ASAL’s website. “The residents of the ASALs earn their living through a mix of pastoralism and agriculture. However, pastoralism is the main source of livelihood contributing to 13% to the GDP of Kenya and further plays a vital role in both the economic and socio-cultural development of the resident communities.” Recent droughts over the last five years have left CSOs and the communities they work with in the northern Kenyan counties of Isiolo, Kwale, Marsabit, Nyeri, Kitui and Taita Taveta more vulnerable. MapAction’s aim with this work is to increase the visibility of the work CSOs are doing in humanitarian action and to help them leverage their forecasts to release early funding and create resilience against future hazards for local residents. MapAction’s support focused on mapping at county and even ward-level, a more localised administrative unit, ensuring CSOs can integrate GIS and IM into their disaster management tools .
Start Network is another key partner for MapAction. In the last few months alone, MapAction volunteers have delivered resilience-building seminars and events for local disaster managers in Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Senegal and Madagascar.
Some of the most important work MapAction does under the umbrella of anticipatory action is through the INFORM network, the “multi-stakeholder forum for developing shared, quantitative analysis relevant to humanitarian crises and disasters.” MapAction works with several national and subnational disaster management agencies worldwide through this framework, including ongoing projects to build or upgrade national disaster models in Eswatini and Niger.
October 11th. 13:10 UTC/15:10 CEST:MapAction Chair of Trustees Nick Moody is talking next on a panel in his role as coordinator of the Global Risk Modelling Alliance (GRMA). Nick shared his thoughts briefly on MapAction’s role through the prism of anticipatory action when we caught up with him in Berlin.
The Global Shield and its relevance to anticipatory action
The Global Shield against Climate Risk is a new initiative to avert, minimize and address climate-related losses and damages by scaling up climate and disaster-risk financing instruments, coupled with social protection mechanisms and early warning systems. The initiative was launched at last year’s UN Climate Conference, building on a joint effort by the G7 and the Vulnerable 20 Group (V20).
This workshop will introduce the aims and structure of the Global Shield, including how the Global Shield Solutions Platform and the Global Shield Financing Facility can both provide support for climate- and disaster-risk financing instruments, including anticipatory action approaches; it will also explore the role of the anticipatory action community.
Register for or watch the workshop here. Starts at: 13.15 UTC/15:15 CEST.
Jonathan Auer, Junior Advisor, Global Shield Secretariat
Lea Sarah Kulick, Advisor, Secretariat of the Global Shield against Climate Risks
Lorraine Njue, Head of Actuarial, ARC Ltd
Nick Moody, Cooordinator, Global Risk Modelling Alliance (GRMA)
Kaavya Ashok Krishna, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank / Global Shield Financing Facility
Annette Detken , Head of the Global Shield Solution Platform , Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
Kip Koskei , Director of Strategic Partnerships , Insurance Development Forum
Emily Montier, Consultant, World Bank
New countries can apply for support from the Global Shield at CoP28.
11.11.11 A team of 11 strong Nepali delegation at the 11th #GDP2023 ready for the 2nd day of the dialogue on 11th Oct.
Break in plenary session at the #GlobalDP. Back this afternoon. Here are some other things to think about during the break. We’ll be back to wrap things up this afternoon.
Volunteer with MapAction to work on anticipatory action projects!
A lot of the work MapAction does in anticipatory action (with the Start Network and INFORM) involves our volunteer cohort of 70+ GIS and IM specialists. We are currently recruiting for six new exciting volunteer positions. Read on here to find out more about volunteering with MapAction.
Find out more about the volunteer community of practice at MapAction here.
2. Check out this UN video on role of data in AI in building resilience
INTERESTING RESOURCE (from the UN): Reimagining Tomorrow: Breakthrough in Data and AI for a More Resilient World
“Step into the future with the UN-hosted Complex Risk Analytics Fund, the Early Warnings for All initiative and Gzero Media at the 78th United Nations (UN) General Assembly. As we navigate an era of multifaceted global crises – amplified by climate change – recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), technologies, and data ecosystems create transformative opportunities to tackle these challenges. Together with global leaders and change-makers, we envisage a world where global partners unlock the potential of data, analytics, and AI to better anticipate crises and pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.”
An ongoing project in the Philippines with the Philippines Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) on disaster landscape mapping.
In the Session 2 panel, titled, A roadmap to institutionalisation: anticipatory action milestones towards shared resilience, representatives from disaster management agencies in the Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh. All three governments are mainstreaming anticipatory action strategies into their disaster risk reduction policies.
MapAction works closely with all three countries to create disaster resilience through the Start Network. In the last few months, MapAction volunteers have led disaster-resilience seminars focused on mapping the potential impacts of future hazards in all three countries. MapAction will be presenting the results from partnerships in Nepal at NetHope this month.
Really interesting interventions from WFP Mozambique on how the national disaster management agency, the national meteorological agency and agencies mandated to support and manage agriculture have been coordinating their anticipatory action policies. A representative from Burkinabe Red Cross follows up asking how governments can be convinced to institutionalise anticipatory action and early action policies.
October 11th, 08:10 UTC
Welcome to Day Two of the The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action in Berlin. The opening plenary session is ‘Anticipatory Action Practice in 2023 and beyond: navigated challenges from protracted crises to El Niño’.
This panel included an energetic talk by Albashir Ibrahim, Executive Director, Nexus Consortium Somalia and Somali Humanitarian Hub about locally led anticipatory action.
Anticipatory Action examples! Approximately 90$ million dollars allocated to protect food security due to El Niño by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in 18 countries – many in Central and Southern America – mainly due to low rainfall. Mainly protecting fisheries, livestock etc.
UNICEF is using epidemiological indicators in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to anticipate cholera outbreaks to trigger early & flexible financing to both respond and anticipate to other outbreaks.
Honduras Red Cross anticipating social crises triggered from migratory routes through Latin America.
October 10th. 15:30 UTC
A cartoon to wrap things up for today. More updates tomorrow.
Day 1 wraps up with lightning talks, in which a CSO leader and an academic explore how El Niño is affecting lives, health, food security, violence and displacement of children and adolescents.
Wendy Emilia Vera García, Leader, Movimiento Por Ser Niña (‘Because I am a Girl’ movement)
Liz Stephens, Science Lead / Professor of Climate Risks and Resilience, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and University of Reading
The parallel sessions are about to begin at #GlobalDP – come and join us online 👇🏾
Anticipatory action (AA) is a humanitarian term. We will use the Red Cross definition below:
“A set of actions taken to prevent or mitigate potential disaster impacts before a shock or before acute impacts are felt. The actions are carried out in anticipation of a hazard impact and based on a prediction of how the event will unfold. Anticipatory actions should not be a substitute for longer-term investment in risk reduction and should aim to strengthen people’s capacity to manage risks.”
The following are not synonymous with anticipatory action but are closely interconnectedterms: early action, early warning, disaster risk reduction, future preparedness, disaster resilience, forecast-based action, forecast-based finance.
In the last 10 years… 410,000 people have been killed by extreme weather and climate-related events, most by heatwaves and storms. (World Disaster Report 2020)
In the last 10 years… 83% of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events
There has been a 35% increase in climate and weather-related hazards since 1990
The East Asia and Pacific region alone includes 13 of the 30 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to the World Bank. “Without concerted action, the region could see an additional 7.5 million people fall into poverty due to climate impacts by 2030,” warns the international financial institution.
Anticipatory action networks
MapAction is part of the following anticipatory action frameworks and networks:
INFORM: INFORM is a multi-stakeholder forum for developing shared, quantitative analysis relevant to humanitarian crises and disasters. INFORM includes organisations from across the multilateral system, including the humanitarian and development sector, donors, and technical partners. The Joint Research Center of European Commission is the scientific lead for INFORM. INFORM is developing a suite of quantitative, analytical products to support decision-making on humanitarian crises and disasters. These help make decisions at different stages of the disaster management cycle, specifically climate adaptation and disaster prevention, preparedness and response.
Start Network: Start Network is made up of more than 80 non-governmental organisations across five continents, ranging from large international organisations to local and national NGOs. Our programmes allow members to deliver humanitarian action around the world.
Reflections from our first #GlobalDP session this year on #AnticipatoryAction processes and timelines: 💬Involve communities from start to finish of the response. 🤝Risk assessments should be participatory. 💡Disaster Risk Reduction scientific communities should be engaged. pic.twitter.com/S6ko4zysho
Anticipatory action allows communities exposed to hazards, as well as disaster managers, to be more prepared and forecast future hazards. It is a framework for disaster risk reduction and for triggering early release of funds to mitigate the effects of hazards.
Thesefour phases are regularly used components within an anticipatory action plan.
TRIGGERS: Defines when and where early action will be implemented.
EARLY ACTIONS: Defines what early actions will be taken to reduce the impact
FINANCING MECHANISM: a pre-agreed financing mechanism
DELIVERY: Capacity to implement actions as planned
Triggers are essential to activating #AnticipatoryAction to save lives and livelihoods before hazards strike.
Without a consistent approach to sex-and-age-disaggregated-data (SADD) in local, national and international data collection, the specific needs of women and girls – as well as men and boys – will continue to be misunderstood or overlooked by international development agents and disaster relief operators. The same is true for understanding the needs of the LGBT community in a disaster.
Women and children, and in some cases men and boys, should not be more likely to die or be injured in a natural disaster. Yet a brief review of the literature on the disproportionate effects disasters place on different genders reveals that boys, girls, men and women can all be overlooked in humanitarian response for different reasons.
Previous studies have shown that key challenges in health, provision of shelter, food security and women’s safety – to mention but a few examples – cannot be solved with a one-profile-fits-all approach to data collection and analysis. Otherwise certain groups remain marginalised and the support they need does not reach them.
Needs differ, even in a disaster
MapAction, a humanitarian mapping charity that maps disaster landscapes, needs the right data to make the right maps to support decision-makers. Decisions based on SADD can be critical, yet hard to source. To get a better understanding of the need for more SADD in humanitarian response, MapAction interviewed representatives from 10 stakeholder organisations and reviewed dozens of specialist academic reviews on SADD in humanitarian data collection and response.
The process revealed that sometimes something as simple as stigma can be the key factor in misunderstanding gender-specific needs in a disaster. During the cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2011, for example, SADD revealed that more men were dying and fewer men were attending clinics than women. This led to the discovery that men needed more education on the symptoms and highlighted where men had been hiding their symptoms because they confused them with HIV, which had associated stigma, notes a case study in the EU’s Gender-Age Toolkit.
Another report by UN Women also found that people who identify as LGBT suffer more before and after a disaster. “The authors found that the discrimination, violence and isolation LGBT people face before, during and after emergencies weakens their ability to live resilient and dignified lives, survive and recover. And humanitarian and disaster response organizations do not appear to be systematically dealing with the problem, they say,” states UN Women in a summary of the report The Only Way Up that looked at cases in Myanmar, the Philippines and Vanuatu.
An interesting case study from Eritrea showed that adolescent demobilised male fighters were experiencing severe malnutrition because they did not know how to cook and had nobody to cook for them. While cases such as these highlight male margination, it is women and girls who continue to experience the most disproportionate impact because of unresolved gender parity issues, especially in societies with stronger patriarchal attitudes. “Gender equality is growing more distant. UN Women puts it 300 years away,” António Guterres, secretary general of the UN, told the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2023.
Women most affected
In Pakistan, for example, a 2009 review of World Food Programme (WFP) food ration recipients identified 95% of registered men were collecting rations, but only 55% of women. This triggered further investigation that led to understanding the access constraints affecting women, states a multi-stakeholder report from 2011.
Another example showed that female victims of natural disasters in Pakistan refused to be transported by male helicopter pilots because of potential stigma and fear of repercussions from male relatives. Stakeholders from major INGOs interviewed by MapAction for this study also cited striking other examples of gender imbalance in aid provision from Tanzania, Somalia and Sri Lanka. Understanding the role gender plays in each territory and context is vital.
Globally natural disasters kill more women than men and often at a younger age, observed a World Health Organization (WHO) study. Gender and age both matter in terms of who dies, who is injured and whose lives are impacted in what ways during and after the crisis, note Mazurana and Proctor in the The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action.
That is why sex-and-age-disaggregated data (SADD) is key. SADD highlights how people are affected differently depending on their age and gender, notes a 2021 report by the office of the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). Disaggregated data is key for example when modelling differences in development, mortality and disease risk, allowing for more targeting of specific at risk groups, states an earlier study on gender, data and international crisis response. Disaggregated data is also vital for understanding vulnerabilities, needs and barriers to access during a humanitarian response.
Culture and politics play a role
Yet often SADD is sadly not available. “It is commonly argued that ‘paying attention to gender issues may not be timely or practical on the ground,’ i.e. the so-called ‘tyranny of the urgent,’” notes a study by the Swedish development agency Sida, while emphasising the role that SADD can play for “effective relief and lifesaving assistance.”
Beyond the will to collect such data, there are logistical and technical challenges. SADD can be complex to interpret and better formatting and presentation are needed to improve adoption for programming decisions. Others have noted that where SADD is collected, there are reports of inconsistent collection, inconsistent data management and inconsistent analysis and use. There are also challenges associated with data sharing, with a lack of coordination and data quality concerns. Data collected locally are also sometimes not shared or aggregated at a national level in a way that loses the SADD which was collected.
More SADD, please!
We believe the brief and non-exhaustive list of recommendations and resources below will help strengthen our own and our partners’ role in pushing for the availability and mainstreaming of more SADD for humanitarian response.
The more people who are asking how gender is being considered during assessments, or requesting SADD, the more likely it is to begin to be more systematically considered. This should include sharing of knowledge and best practices with partners and in the humanitarian ecosystem;
Identify community groups and agencies that may be key to helping inform and include a gender perspective;
Training and awareness raising. It is not just after a disaster occurs that SADD matters, it is also important in anticipatory action. Integrating protection, gender and inclusion considerations into anticipatory action interventions is a crucial step in tackling the intersecting vulnerabilities that affect the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It also helps to ensure that any assistance provided does not exacerbate these vulnerabilities.
In early April 2023, a MapAction team led by Luis F. P. Velasquez deployed to Lima, the capital of Peru, to help map the response to deadly floods at the request of the local office of the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC), a longtime MapAction partner.
The government of Peru had declared a state of emergency in three northern coastal states and across 54% of the country, following heavy rains since December last year.
As roads and key transport hubs were blocked, schools forced to close and vulnerable people left stranded in large swathes of northern Peru, humanitarian respondents had to find ways to navigate the emergency and plan humanitarian support operations in an environment with limited data.
The MapAction team was supported remotely by Tom Huger, with volunteers Becky Kervell and Andy Kervell joining the mission a week later to support UNDAC’s efforts to map the aid response.
“There’s no way we could have produced such quality visualisation of the issues without MapAction’s team”, said a member of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a key user of MapAction’s map products in Peru. “We would have had to rely on very simplified versions of maps, with a very limited update capacity,” added OCHA’s Peru flood response team member.
Portrait of an emergency
MapAction’s maps paint a clearer picture of the emergency for key managers and agencies involved in decision-making in any crisis. Besides the actual mapping, MapAction’s knowhow from over 140 emergency responses worldwide in the last 20 years acts as a radar for the most relevant data to map in a crisis scenario.
Feedback from partners suggests that MapAction’s intervention in Peru was timely and effective. “It would have been difficult to select the best, most relevant data that should be best presented in a map format,” without MapAction, added OCHA’s team member.
MapAction volunteer Andy Kervell, who also deployed, was happy to be able to visit old colleagues in Lima having previously worked on reconstruction efforts remotely as part of his day job with Arup* following previous floods in Peru.
“It really was about the opportunity to contribute to the response for communities affected by this event which I have previous involvement with from my day job with Arup,” said Andy Kervell, who spent two weeks mapping for UNDAC together with fellow geospatial humanitarian mapper, and partner, MapAction volunteer Becky Kervell.
“Clear way to identify most impacted areas”
Maps help everyone in an emergency response scenario get a better sense of a given humanitarian priority and co-produce the best possible relief decisions, whether it be in terms of shelter, resource allocation or getting aid to where it is most needed.
“It [MapAction’s maps] provided a clear way to identify most impacted areas – areas where there would be more people with humanitarian needs – in order to organise the response. This would have been done in people’s heads otherwise and not as effectively,” said a UN OCHA officer who worked on the flood response.
Volunteer Andy Kervell, one of circa 80 volunteers at MapAction, highlights how a map can also help decision-makers assess a specific crisis challenge with a given data set. This map of shelters in Piura, for example, highlighted that there was quite a difference in the number of people in shelters compared to those affected. This suggested that it was likely that families were staying within the community. Emergency responses require such key insights.
“MapAction’s work helped increase the understanding of the humanitarian situation using the limited data available, as well as contributing together with other partners through other information products, in the shaping of a common and clear situational picture,” Antonio E. Miranda Melgar, information management officer at UN OCHA and a member of the Peru flood response in 2023, told MapAction.
The impact was tangible, adds Melgar: “This has helped the effective delivery of humanitarian aid by several humanitarian actors and decision makers.”
Team Leader Luis F. P. Velasquez added that MapAction’s presence helped to shape the humanitarian response. “MapAction’s work played an important role in advocacy, as well as helping in the effective delivery of humanitarian aid by strengthening decision-making processes through the use of data,” said Velasquez.
MapAction is a hub of 80 data, geospatial and geography professionals who volunteer as humanitarian mappers for disaster relief. Our new Head of Communications Alex Macbeth shares his views below of a recent training weekend, providing an insight into how and why volunteers at MapAction do what they do.
The GPS points towards a small community hall in a village not far from Oxford. As I approach, a row of wet tents in a field catches my eye. A couple of covered gas canisters outside suggest there has been cooking. Inside the sparsely-adorned hall, about 50 people are sitting on plastic chairs or leaning on pop-up tables.
The breakfast snacks on a table are thrifty: bread, tea, a handful of digestives. Laptop bags and raincoats line the edges of the room, like landmarks parked between the rivers of cables and extension leads. A few well-behaved dogs are roaming around, although it isn’t clear what geospatial credentials any of them have. Laptops are out; all eyes are on the map on the projector.
Lean and green event
I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first MapAction training weekend after recently joining the humanitarian mapping charity as head of communications. Many aid events I have attended or that I have been a part of in the last 10 years in the sector have often had the aesthetics of a high-society gala rather than a community feel. This was less Champagne Sunday, more lean and green.
MapAction, a charity that works alongside UN, regional and civil society disaster relief agencies to map disaster landscapes and strengthen disaster preparedness, holds regular training events for its cohort of nearly 80 volunteers. These events create a platform to simulate disasters and the response expected from MapAction. They also serve as a way for volunteers who have been on deployments or worked on projects to provide feedback to each other, their peers and to the broader team at MapAction. These circular procedures and reviews are fundamental to how MapAction assesses impact. The learnings from these events ultimately get fed back to our InnovationHub, where new tools, projects, approaches and solutions are developed.
Early in 2023, MapAction added 12 new recruits to its volunteer cohort after a diligent and long interview and screening process. They come from an incredible range of fields and work for leading research institutes, businesses and other bodies, including the British Geological Survey, the British Antarctic Survey, Arup, Informed Solutions, the University of St Andrews and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to mention but a few.
Their skill sets for the job are proven but it is their life experiences that jump out. One is a former National Park ranger in Taiwan; another made maps for an Oscar-winning actor while yet another was himself a child actor on screen. They come from half a dozen countries, including Andorra.
As I drove to the training weekend through endless roundabouts on a particularly rainy Sunday morning, I kept asking myself: why do successful mapping and data professionals give up their time and drag themselves to or across England in late March to camp by a wet community hall for a weekend? The answer was obvious once inside the room.
The shared sense of commitment to humanitarian values was overwhelming. Volunteers don’t bemoan the sacrifice. If there is a personal cost to the work they do with MapAction, they hide it well. Passion brings them time and time again. The sense of passion for being able to support and inform key relief decisions in humanitarian crises is something money cannot buy. That shared sense of community – that shared commitment – was tangible.
The training itself focused on the procedures for mapping in humanitarian situations: naming maps and admin boundary colour schemes, archiving data, different symbology (good to distinguish the humanitarian icon for bacteria from that for bottled water), as well as templates, toolbars and software used by MapAction. There was also a review of MapAction’s recent earthquake response in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic.
Many of the 50 or so volunteers in the room were ‘veterans’ of recent deployments: whether it be MapAction’s response to the earthquakes in Turkiye or the team that deployed to Democratic Republic of Congo at Christmas last year in response to floods. Some volunteers professed to having weaker cartography skills than others; others were evidently linguists or experienced project managers. It was easy to see how this combination of skill sets is needed to tailor the right response to a vast range of natural disasters in so many global territories.
And that is really the point. No two disaster responses look the same. For MapAction to be committed to saving lives when disasters strike, this fundamentally generous network of professionals needs to constantly update its skills and training to be on standby to respond. Volunteers outnumber staff by 4 to 1 at MapAction. That prevalence of volunteer spirit is MapAction’s soul; the shared sense of purpose cannot be rivalled with other incentives.
After a brief editorial exercise and an attempt to sign up these awesome women and men to produce content, it was time to pack up and leave. Tables, chairs, cables and projectors were dismantled with clinical efficiency. I couldn’t see them but I suspected even the dogs were trained to do something, like update software or pack away tents.
All said and done, the volunteers returned to different parts of the UK or Europe. One was seen setting off for a major transport hub miles away by bike. With them all went a little more disaster preparedness into the world.
MapAction has signed the Standby Partnership Agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) which will allow the UK-based emergency response and disaster preparedness charity to have greater impact in health emergencies.
The agreement will see MapAction volunteers ready on standby to deploy to any health emergency operations at the request of the WHO. This will help bring the organisation’s unique data-driven approach to saving lives in even more health crises worldwide.
The Standby Partnership Agreement will streamline and simplify how MapAction can deploy to WHO emergency operations at short notice. The agreement states that MapAction will “maintain a roster of standby personnel….for the rapid mobilisation and deployment of pre-screened individuals…to WHO emergency operations.”
“We will provide some surge support that will be relevant to WHO emergency operations,” MapAction’s CEO Liz Hughes says of the agreement, noting that it is an important step to being able to deploy faster and more efficiently alongside WHO teams in emergency operations. “We have a growing knowledge of health needs through our own work” adds MapAction’s CEO.
MapAction has already lent data management, geospatial and mapping support in 13 health-related emergency deployments worldwide since 2014. Teams of volunteers from the Oxfordshire-based charity were involved in providing support in the Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as during the more recent COVID-19 pandemic. A team of MapAction volunteers is also currently working on a project to reduce the impacts of cholera in Malawi.
Besides deployments to emergency health crises, MapAction has also developed, with partners, the Integrated Humanitarian Data Package (IHDP) tool, designed to aid final mile vaccine delivery planning and logistics. It contains selected data sets, information explaining the data (‘metadata’) as well as GIS and coding tools which allow users to easily develop situation-specific items such as maps and other graphics.
The IHDP was trialled during the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in South Sudan.
It was adapted in Burundi in late 2022 to combat the impacts of malaria.
Three members of MapAction, the humanitarian mapping agency, have had to cut short or postpone their Christmas plans as they drop everything to respond to the UN’s call for help in Kinshasa, DRC, to respond to deadly floods.
Experienced MapAction members Mark Gillick, Andrew Kesterton and Daniel Soares have deployed to DRC – initially for two weeks – to work alongside, and at the request of, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), a long-standing MapAction partner.
Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo in southwest Africa, has experienced severe flooding caused by heavy rains. According to DRC authorities, at the time of writing, at least 169 people have died, nearly 39,000 households were flooded and at least 282 houses were destroyed, leaving many families homeless. Critical infrastructure has also been damaged or destroyed.
The United Nations Disaster Assessment & Coordination (UNDAC) team were asked to respond and they requested “long-standing partner” MapAction, the Oxfordshire-based humanitarian mapping charity, to support their initial emergency response coordination to the floods.
MapAction regularly sends teams to crisis-stricken areas alongside UN agencies to help ensure good data use and management in disaster response. Since 2002, MapAction has been part of approximately 130 similar emergency responses.
Our teams regularly deploy last-minute and spontaneously at the request of UN disaster relief agencies like UN OCHA and UNDAC. From the moment we receive a request for support, team members often deploy within 24 to 48 hours to the affected country to assist with management and analysis of data in response to any given emergency.
Getting good data into the hands of decision makers in the first days of any disaster relief response is vital. Access to high-quality data is fundamental in the chaotic aftermath of a humanitarian emergency, when data and maps are crucial to make rapid sense of the situation and plan the best response to save lives and minimise suffering.
In the early hours of a crisis, one of the first tasks facing our team is to produce standardised ‘core’ maps that will be used throughout the response. These provide contextual and reference information about, among other things, the local environment, population and infrastructure. Sometimes they are created under difficult on-the-ground conditions or with incomplete information. Once they are in place, they are used to create additional situation-specific maps by layering on top evolving information about the extent and impacts of the emergency and the humanitarian response.
Ready to deploy
In emergency response, every hour is critical. When floods strike, like the ones currently affecting DRC, and a UN agency requests our support, a call goes out instantly to MapAction volunteers to see who is available. Backroom support at MapAction will already have begun: tickets, visas, insurance and other logistics will be reviewed and finalised; software and hardware tested and customized for the situation. Equipment will be streamlined according to mission-aligned criteria, such as a country’s specific voltage, plug type and satellite phone coverage. Our geospatial department will begin to produce maps from the moment the news is reported. Dialogue between internal departments and with external partners will be continuous.
As the DRC-bound team works in-country alongside UN agencies, the wider MapAction team has already started collating and publishing key datasets for the affected area.
MapAction’s 2022 Annual General Meeting celebrated 20 years of humanitarian service. The event in early December also served as a platform to announce the organisation’s increasing pivot towards early warning work – to consolidate global resilience to the climate emergency, health epidemics and conflict.
20 years ago a small group of people started MapAction from humble beginnings in a village in Oxfordshire. The organisation has grown – via more than 130 deployments alongside international, regional and national relief agencies – to encompass a cohort of more than 60 volunteers and 20 staff with a global footprint of projects in five continents.
In 2022 alone, MapAction was involved in responses to disasters in Paraguay, Suriname, Madagascar, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, The Gambia and the Philippines (to mention but a few), responding to cyclones, floods, droughts, conflict and food security emergencies.
This year, MapAction volunteers and staff completed 59 projects. Our teams produced hundreds of maps and trained more than 100 professionals in GIS and data and information management worldwide. With the help of five major donors and many individual donations, we were able to work with 26 key partners globally. A majority of our cohort of volunteers attended 14 training events in the UK.
Coming into 2022 we knew it would be an inflection point for the organisation, with different routes we could travel. Twenty years on from our beginnings, that seems appropriate.
We have had a front seat alongside emergency relief agencies in more than 130 disaster responses since we started providing maps, data analytics and IM services to humanitarian emergency relief coordinators. Thousands of maps later, we are using that experience to create new, and better, ways of working.
Perhaps the most striking change compared to the humanitarian sector 20 years ago when MapAction was founded is the shift away from global relief agencies towards local and national leadership for response, anticipatory action and preparedness. We recognised a while back that we will not always be the ones providing the maps; others will do so. That is why we are increasingly focusing on a strategy of ‘global localisation’: supporting regional and grassroots response capacity.
MapAction works with regional and local disaster relief bodies and civil society organisations worldwide to strengthen resilience and preparedness vis-a-vis any disaster. In Asia, we work with the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) – an intergovernmental organisation consisting of 10 southeast Asian nations – as well as the Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR) in Central Asia.
In the Caribbean, MapAction works with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Equivalent projects are also underway to create partnerships and opportunities for knowledge exchange among humanitarian data analytics practitioners in Africa.
We support organisations to streamline preparedness for any disaster through enhancing response with innovation and new ideas. That is why we are increasingly placing resources and energy into our InnovationHub, which identifies, prioritises and explores needs and opportunities in the humanitarian data analytics sector. Our ultimate goal is for no one to be left behind.
We see the potential of building communities of like-minded people to use geospatial and data analysis to help decision-making effectively. We wanted to globalise the wonderful data-crunching culture of MapAction, our own community of practice. Such communities can cross national boundaries working collaboratively and in solidarity to use data and tech to solve problems and answer questions
Looking to 2023
In 2023, we are already earmarked to work in Bangladesh, Burundi, Madagascar, Philippines and South Sudan on preparedness and anticipatory action, as well as on health microplanning. The calendar for next year in general is looking exciting.
In January, MapAction will lead ‘geo-surgery’ sessions as part of the State of the Map Tanzania conference. In April, our annual disaster simulation Gilded will bring together more than 50 data professionals on the Isle of Cumbrae off the west coast of Scotland. Our InnovationHub will continue to collaborate with the Predictive Analytics team at the UN Centre for Humanitarian Data to push the boundaries of innovation.
As the final days of the year loom, I can honestly say 2022 was everything we anticipated. We end the year having achieved what we set out to do, with perhaps the strongest team that we’ve ever had. We will carry this momentum into 2023, fully aware that very real challenges lie ahead of the horizon. One of the greatest challenges we will face will be to secure the resources that we need to achieve the impact that we strive for. I know that MapAction will continue to work to fill this funding gap with determination, innovation and conviction.
All that remains for me to say is to wish all of our donors, partners, volunteers, members, staff, friends and followers all the very best for the festive season. Merry Xmas!
MapAction continues to help create resilience for geospatial and data science practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region working on emergency response and anticipatory action. It is part of MapAction’s ‘global strategy of localisation’, a commitment to empower regional disaster relief bodies and civil society stakeholders to be more resilient and sustainable.
The East Asia and Pacific region alone includes 13 of the 30 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to the World Bank. “Without concerted action, the region could see an additional 7.5 million people fall into poverty due to climate impacts by 2030,” warns the international financial institution.
In 2021, MapAction signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), a civil society partnership of 59 international and regional NGOs working in 18 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, to support that “concerted action”.
The ADRRN network, in its own words, “focuses on transforming Asia’s resilience, moving from the most vulnerable to the most resilient region’. Its influence and reach is considerably enhanced through collaboration with national-level networks, global networks, regional multilateral stakeholders and UN agencies.”
MapAction remains committed to strengthening the global humanitarian data science and geospatial sectors through partnerships with civil society networks like ADRRN. “Our joint agreement commits us to seeing how humanitarian information can help in planning and developing tools for anticipatory action and in better understanding the different contexts of emergencies, such as the difference between urban and rural settings,” says MapAction CEO Liz Hughes.
Our work so far with ADRRN has focused on improving Information Management (IM) for civil society organisations (CSOs) to have a better understanding of their existing resources, impact and plans. MapAction also supports CSOs to be interoperable with other humanitarian actors and mechanisms. This nourishes a bottom-up approach to building capacity and ability to do IM at local levels – that then regional and international agencies can support. The ultimate goal is for local stakeholders to be more resilient vis-a-vis any crisis.
MapAction continues to provide data and volunteers for emergencies in the region alongside major international relief agencies like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But working with civil society organisations at ADRRN has additional benefits. “Doing it through a network encourages spillover approaches and techniques from one agency to another,” says Alan Mills MBE, a MapAction team member on the project. “MapAction wants to learn peer-to-peer with these agencies who come with different world experiences and perspectives from our own.”
MapAction’s partnership with ADRRN is ongoing. As part of Regional Humanitarian Partnership Week in Bangkok (jointly organised by ADRRN, CWS, ICVA and OCHA) on December 14th, MapAction will lead a session to support how people use geospatial data in emergencies. The presentation and ‘geo-surgery’ Q&A for partners will cover ‘Using location data for preparedness and response work’. In a nutshell, tips and techniques for successful geospatial work.
The session will focus on some key geospatial and data challenges faced by data scientists and geospatial data engineers when confronted with any emergency, from mapping techniques, to location surveys and establishing baseline data for the ‘3Ws’: the who-what-where baseline information that is so vital to emergency service coordinators and providers to able to make informed decisions. The session led by MapAction will look at rapid mapping techniques using software like PowerPoint, Excel, Google Earth, ESRI ArcGis (mapping software) and QGIS (an open source geo data tool).
Another Q&A with stakeholders will explore the benefits of including location in assessments, using survey tools such as Kobo. The discussion will explore how good data sources, good formatting and interoperability can all represent quick wins for geodata specialists working in disaster relief.
In the last 16 months, MapAction data volunteers and staff have been working on projects in Sri Lanka and the Philippines geared at building preparedness. In Sri Lanka we work with Muslim Foundation for Culture and Development (MFCD) and in the Philippines with the Centre for Disaster Preparedness Foundation Inc (CDP). Both projects focus on mapping their programmes and partnerships (the who-what-where baseline of information and ‘3W Rapid Mapping’) through a standardised template. Essentially, creating a clear view to pierce through the whirlpool of data.
“Not only does this provide our partners with useful information about what everyone is doing but it also provides visibility amongst the full ADRRN network and with regional and global bodies such as OCHA. During a crisis response this is useful as this information can be fed straight into the humanitarian cluster system for the 3W work, so the local civil society organisations are getting better visibility in the response and with donors – and it also fosters better interoperability between all organisations,” says MapAction’s Matt Sims, who worked on both projects.
At MapAction we are committed to building on what we already know: use of data to mitigate the devastating effects of global threats such as climate change is at the heart of why we set-up our Innovation Hub in 2022. The emphasis on innovation in how we use, source, present and process data to mitigate natural disasters aligns with stakeholder policy.
“Frontier technologies and digital innovations not only reduce the cost of implementing the policy interventions, but also have game-changing impacts on scaling up transformative adaptation through enhanced risk analytics like impact forecasting and integrated multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning, surveillance, and strategic foresights,” notes the UN’s Economic and Social Commission For Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Asia Pacific Disaster Report for 2022.
“Anticipatory action protects lives”
This is part of a prevailing global strategy to put data and innovation at the centre of mitigating the colossal impacts of the climate emergency, including through the promotion of disaster risk reduction and emerging anticipatory action strategies. “Anticipatory action protects lives, livelihoods, homes and entire communities. These early investments also prevent higher response costs down the road. This is at the core of my prevention agenda — to put better data, and more innovation, foresight and inclusion, into our work to address major risks,” affirmed UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ in a video message for a UN event on Anticipatory Action in September 2021.
MapAction’s work with ADRRN is part of a broader institutional strategy to engage and partner with regional and local disaster relief bodies and civil society organisations worldwide. Since 2018, MapAction has worked extensively with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre), an intergovernmental organisation consisting of 10 southeast Asian nations.
MapAction also works with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in the Caribbean, as well as the Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR) in Central Asia. Equivalent projects are also underway to create partnerships and opportunities for knowledge exchange in humanitarian data science in Africa.
MapAction is helping CSOs put together the building blocks for more coherent management of information between all pillars of humanitarian actors. One of the key goals of all our partnerships with local and civil society organisations is to ensure that they can efficiently contribute to that sharing of vital information on local action which often gets overlooked by global audiences. Our collaborative work with ADRRN and others in the Asia Pacific region is helping to create that solid foundation from which more innovative and interoperable solutions can emerge.
One of MapAction’s aims is to help disaster management agencies around the world to use vital geospatial and data analysis tools in their work. By doing so we can deepen how effective and impactful the sector can be, both when emergencies strike or in advance by enabling regional communities and organisations to reduce their risks.
The initial training was in Tashkent – the first time MapAction has trained personnel in Uzbekistan. Three of our members – Alistair Wilkie, Katharina Lorenz and Richard Phillips – provided a week-long course of tailored basic training aimed to introduce and raise awareness of humanitarian and emergency mapping, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Information Management, allowing attendees to become familiar with some basic techniques.
In mid-May MapAction members Chris Ewing, Mark Gillick and Colin Spiller delivered training in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. As we have trained many CESDRR members in basic techniques over the past few years, this was a more advanced course exploring operational readiness and testing participants under time and pressure constraints in simulated scenarios.
Finally, at the end of May, Members Alistair Wilkie, Dominic Greenslade and Mark Gillick, delivered another advanced course for the regional and national offices of the emergency agencies in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where we have delivered several courses previously.
The courses were all well received and helped to cement and enhance MapAction’s long-standing partnership with CESDRR, and to strengthen valuable GIS skills that are crucial in disaster response and humanitarian aid distribution. Again with CESDRR, we are planning to deliver training in Tajikistan next year.
One of the Nur-Sultan course participants commented, “I would like to note the work of the best specialists in the field of QGIS mapping, wonderful MapAction (members) – Mark, Colin and Chris, who trained the participants of the training for 5 days, and distinguished themselves by their literacy, cognition, accessibility, professionalism, feedback, responsiveness and decency.”
For a week in June, my MapAction colleague Darren and I supported the training of almost 30 members of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, which is part of the international emergency response system for sudden-onset emergencies.
The training event was held in Lima, Peru which not only meant a long flight but everything, including the training, was in Spanish. As a native speaker, this was ideal for me! Having also just undertaken MapAcion’s ‘Operational Readiness Course’, it felt like the perfect time to go on my first official ‘deployment’ as a MapAction volunteer.
MapAction often works with UNDAC during emergencies, so it was a great opportunity to make some contacts and meet others in the humanitarian sector, often people from different backgrounds and with a wide range of experiences. It was really beneficial for me to understand the way in which UNDAC works, and for me to ascertain the levels of knowledge of the new trainees in terms of GIS and the data that needs to be collected.
Sunday was all about introductions and ensuring the team knew about MapAction, how we work and how we support UNDAC in emergency situations. Monday saw the start of a three-day and three night simulation exercise which involved delegates being split into four teams and ‘travelling’, along with ourselves, to a ‘country’ that had just experienced an earthquake.
Darren and I had dual roles; we participated as MapAction and supported all of the teams in the geospatial elements of the simulation, we were also part of the exercise coordination team. From the data collected during the exercise, Darren and I developed a number of GIS products and maps that helped identify humanitarian needs and tell the unfolding story of the crisis. Although they were long days, being part of the team 24/7 meant that we made some really strong bonds.
As well as it being great for my personal and professional development, and confidence building, I now feel more confident that I can handle the pressure of a deployment to a humanitarian crisis.
Aside from volunteering, I work as a Geospatial Consultant at the Satellite Applications Catapult and I am part of a team focused on ensuring that the International Development & Humanitarian sector is maximising the opportunities that satellite-enabled geospatial data and technologies can provide.
This first ‘deployment’ has also allowed me to travel around Peru and visit some extraordinary places such as Machu Picchu. It was a very valuable experience and I now feel ready to deploy when an emergency happens.
MapAction’s Chief Executive, Liz Hughes, and senior geospatial expert member, Alan Mills, are at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. They are representing MapAction at the twelfth session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), under MapAction’s official observer status.
The event, held from 3 – 5 August 2022 (side events from 1 August), comprises designated Member State experts and relevant international organisations. It seeks to promote international cooperation in global geospatial information management and provide an international forum for coordination and dialogue.
Led by Member States, UN-GGIM sessions seek to address global challenges regarding the production, availability and application of geospatial information, including in development agendas and policymaking. This includes joint decision-making and setting directions towards nationally integrated geospatial information management within national, regional and global policy frameworks and development agendas.
MapAction’s Alan Mills presented and was a panel member at the ‘Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters’ side event on 1 August. He discussed the challenges and suggested ways to apply geospatial information across complex humanitarian problems.
Disaster responses can take many forms and include multiple stakeholders, but he put forward that whatever the combination of these complex dimensions, reliable, consistent and well presented information, geographical information in particular, is essential. This will allow those involved to understand and identify the vulnerabilities and risks, what is happening, who has been affected and what resources people need to recover.
He drew on the experience MapAction has in supporting governments, international and regional agencies, civil society organisations and communities. He then outlined four brief scenarios that highlight the need for sharing timely, accurate, information, analysing it effectively and communicating through good visualisation. The intention was to show that UN-GGIM can and should provide the gold standard, allowing humanitarian and emergency response workers to relieve suffering and leave no one behind.
MapAction Chief Executive Liz Hughes said: “MapAction has been working to help manage global humanitarian crises for 20 years. We therefore have a lot of experience to share, in terms of how we have worked with governments, UN and other agencies and civil society organisations. We want to strengthen the system and are looking at ways to increase protection and reduce vulnerability. UN-GGIM provides a great forum to meet with other experts in the field and to jointly set the future agenda.”
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) deliver much of the world’s humanitarian aid, build resilience against disaster and advocate for many of the world’s poorest people. Enabling them to take advantage of information and data technology, in-line with other parts of the humanitarian sector, needs to be a priority.
MapAction is working with several CSO networks, exploring how we can share our knowledge of humanitarian mapping and information management. We held a session at Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) which was intended to share our range of experiences, highlight learning and challenges and see more CSOs being supported in this way.
The session aimed to highlight the huge amounts of information management that the civil society sector does. It was also a space to learn about the barriers that prevent CSOs from gathering, using and sharing data, not just within the CSO networks but between them and governments, regional agencies and international humanitarian systems. We wanted to share our experiences of working with CSOs and to use this platform to advocate for more support to these valuable organisations.
It also considered how the humanitarian sector can better support CSOs and accelerate their adoption of new technologies for information management, mapping and data science etc, as we all grapple with a wide range of anticipation, programming, monitoring and evaluation challenges.
As well as looking at the bottlenecks, the session looked at some of the challenges, such as: how to access good information; avoid poor use; allow for easy and efficient information exchange; and how organisations might be able to do all this with already stretched funding and capacity constraints.
See the zoom recording of the session below
The Humanitarian Networking and Partnerships Week (HNPW) is run by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). It provides a forum to address key humanitarian issues. Throughout the three weeks, participants and partnerships shared their expertise and collaborated on best practices to address shared problems.
As part of a growing trend, humanitarians are now anticipating crises and acting prior to their onset, enabling faster, more dignified and more cost-effective humanitarian responses. Using data and analytical approaches we can now predict humanitarian shocks brought about by extreme weather, conflict and a range of other sources with increasing confidence.
Geospatial data, data visualisation and information management are critical to this type of anticipatory action. As a trusted leader in these fields MapAction has been selected to partner with Start Network to assist with their programmes of anticipatory and early action.
MapAction will use its expertise to provide hazard data analysis, real time hazard data, base maps and vulnerability analysis to the network. Together, we aim to provide locally led anticipatory action to enhance the coordination of disaster risk nationally.
The three year programme will see MapAction providing Start Network with data for eight vulnerable countries where it is implementing anticipatory finance projects. This will involve MapAction providing local information and visualisations for critical early decision making as well as implementation support.
Liz Hughes, MapAction’s CEO, said, “We are very excited to be working on this project as we believe it can make a real and lasting difference for disaster affected populations. MapAction will provide Start Network and its members with a combination of historical and real time hazard data analysis, vulnerability analysis, maps and more. By converting all of that into usable situational information and visualisations for critical early decision making, we can enable better informed humanitarian decisions, and ultimately save lives and reduce suffering.”
This work is being made possible by a consortium of partners including members of the Insurance Development Forum and Swiss Re Foundation, who aim to improve global risk understanding in order to help create equal opportunities and sustainable growth.
The award will be used to enhance MapAction’s operational capability to help different regional and national emergency management bodies prepare for future humanitarian emergencies, and to help with responses to shocks and emergencies when they occur.
We were selected to receive this generous donation thanks to the efforts of MapAction volunteer and Trustee, Chris Ewing. He applied for the award on our behalf in his role as Head of Client Management at Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe model development centre of Aon Reinsurance Solutions. It’s one of a handful of awards that the Lloyd’s Market hand out every year in response to individual efforts of those who work across the Lloyd’s Corporation and market.
Over the past 12 months Chris has helped produce drought indicator maps for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), as part of a larger UN project using satellite imagery and machine learning to quickly identify areas for pre-emptive funding. He also volunteered through MapAction on a COVID-19 dashboard project with UNICEF and the Mexican Government Ministry of Education.
Chris said: “This award is really fantastic, quite unexpected and we’re really very very grateful for it. I know how crucial every penny is for MapAction and this will help our efforts to mitigate and to respond to crises.”
On 17-19 September, MapAction held it’s largest annual training event, a realistic simulation of a humanitarian emergency, with colleagues from partners including the British Red Cross, Insecurity Insight, Save the Children and Tearfund.
This exercise provides an opportunity for MapAction team volunteers and staff to hone skills, share learning, test protocols and embed new systems and technologies in a challenging but safe environment. It’s also a chance to catch up with friends and strengthen team relationships. Due to COVID-19, this is the first major training exercise of this kind we have held since June 2019, so it was great to be back in the thick of it again.
We are proud to be supporting the delivery of an online course in crisis mapping in the Caribbean this month. The training course will involve around 50 disaster management professionals from across the Caribbean and is in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), with input from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).
This is the second time the online course has been run, and we used our extensive deployment and training experience in the design and development of it.
As well as learning the principles of disaster mapping for response and resilience and OpenStreetMap data entry, the participants are practicing effective use of the GeoCRIS. This is the new regional repository for geospatial data needed for risk and hazard mapping, disaster preparedness and response operations. As MapAction was involved in setting up the GeoCRIS, we are well placed to design and deliver this training.
The month-long course also includes a disaster simulation exercise in which the students will have the opportunity to deploy their newly acquired skills in a realistic emergency scenario. Additionally, two members of MapAction’s Caribbean volunteer team who have both recently been involved in the response to the La Soufrière volcanic eruption will be running a live session to share their real-world experiences of emergency mapping in the region and answer questions.
We’re grateful to USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) for funding this activity as part of our ongoing programme to improve the ways in which geographical information systems (GIS), mapping and spatial analysis are used in humanitarian emergencies.
In March 2020, MapAction and the UN OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Centre for Humanitarian Data embarked on a new level of collaboration by sharing a Data Scientist’s time between the two organisations. Both teams had a lot to offer and learn from each other, with MapAction bringing its geospatial expertise to the Centre’s Predictive Analytics (PA) team. Predictive analytics is a form of data science that uses current and historical facts to predict future events. For MapAction, this collaboration also constituted an important aspect of our Moonshot, which sees us transitioning from being a passive data consumer to an organisation that actively contributes to humanitarian datasets.
Looking back on our work over the past year, we can see how this collaboration has benefitted both organisations in many ways, with numerous positive repercussions more widely. Ultimately, the fruits of our joint working are examples of how data science can help to reduce suffering and save lives in humanitarian initiatives.
“Your input leap-frogged us forward. It is amazing to me how quickly we were able to do this together. A round of applause for your work and its contribution to unlocking critically needed aid for Ethiopians.“
Josée Poirier, Predictive Analytics Technical Specialist, Centre for Humanitarian Data
In the latter part of the year, a MapAction team of volunteers helped the Centre’s PA team develop analysis for a drought-related anticipatory action framework which was designed to trigger mitigation activities ahead of a predicted drought crisis. The PA team aimed to better understand the reliability of various indicators used to predict potential food shortages caused by drought in Somalia and Ethiopia. These indicators were then used to trigger an early release of funds from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The MapAction team reviewed past literature, evaluated available satellite images, and created a prototype drought model in Google Earth Engine (a platform for visualising and analysing satellite imagery of Earth). These inputs helped the PA team to flag an upcoming crisis in Ethiopia and trigger an activation for a humanitarian response. In the words of Josée Poirier, Predictive Analytics Technical Specialist from the PA team: “Your input leap-frogged us forward. It is amazing to me how quickly we were able to do this together. A round of applause for your work and its contribution to unlocking critically needed aid for Ethiopians.”
The MapAction and PA teams also collaborated to implement and validate an approach for mapping flooding from satellite imagery. MapAction’s Data Scientist has been working with the PA team to help evaluate the impact of recent anticipatory action in Bangladesh which took place in July 2020 and was the fastest-ever allocation of CERF funds. To better understand how this aid was helpful to those affected, the PA team needs to know exactly when, where, and for how long flooding occurred. Contributing to this work also has direct benefits for MapAction’s own work, enabling us to add a new data processing method to our disaster-response toolbox. We then had the opportunity to test this methodology in our response to the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America.
Both organisations have made commitments to assist in the global pandemic response. The Centre PA team and MapAction Data Scientist have, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), developed a model to forecast the number of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths due to COVID-19 for six countries, tailored to each country’s specific humanitarian needs. Named OCHA-Bucky, the model offers sub-national projections, and takes into the account the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Presently, MapAction is participating in a pilot project to aid vaccine rollout in vulnerable countries by surveying the current data landscapes and identify gaps in order to address the logistical challenges inherent in such tasks. Along a similar line of work, the Centre PA team and APL are planning on adding vaccination strategies to the OCHA-Bucky model.
There is substantial overlap between the broad technical goals of the two organisations. The Centre’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) contains over 18,000 datasets and it has created several automatic pipelines (software that carries out a series of data-processing steps) to systematically ingest data from its partners into its database. The Centre’s technical expertise has so far been a key input into the planning and development of a similar (albeit smaller scale) pipeline at MapAction, which is being created to automate the generation of core maps as part of the Moonshot initiative. This work will ensure that base maps essential for coordinating any type of humanitarian response are immediately available whenever they are needed.
The two organisations share similar data access platforms and are actively engaged in ongoing discussions regarding different ways to construct pipeline software. Finally, both HDX and MapAction ultimately seek to identify and rectify gaps in the humanitarian data landscape in order to ensure that those coordinating the preparations for and responses to different types of emergencies have the reliable, timely information they need.
Looking ahead in 2021
MapAction and the Centre for Humanitarian Data are continuing to plan ways to collaborate throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
In addition to sharing expertise in advanced analytics, we are working to make data-driven methods accessible to wider audiences in the humanitarian sector in order to improve the effectiveness of aid programmes. MapAction and the Centre’s Data Literacy team have identified an opportunity to come together to develop GIS training material. This work aims to help non-technical humanitarians make better use of geospatial data to understand the needs of affected communities and coordinate aid.
Both teams are also collaborating to ensure that our data science workflows and models are published openly and can be used by others in the field. Inspired by initiatives such as The Turing Way, we are formalising and adopting best practices to write high quality code, document methodologies, and reproduce results.
At the end of the first year of our collaboration, it is gratifying to reflect on how much we have been able to achieve together while learning from each other and expanding our collective knowledge. We’re grateful to the German Federal Foreign Office for making this work possible by funding our Data Scientist role. We’re looking forward to continuing to work together to push forward the boundaries of humanitarian data science.
Launched today, the Caribbean Risk Information System (CRIS) is a “one stop shop” for gathering and sharing information and data on disaster risk management and climate change adaptation across the Caribbean region.
The CRIS platform has been created by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in collaboration with the World Bank and other partners including MapAction, with financial support from the European Union (EU).
CRIS aims to support informed decision making by providing access to information on all types of hazards, including climate-induced hazards, as well as guidance on how to reduce risk, build disaster-resilient states and promote sustainable development. It consists of a Virtual Library, databases and the GeoCRIS – a geospatial component which provides access to geospatial data needed for risk and hazard mapping, disaster preparedness and response operations. Data from the Caribbean Handbook on Risk Information Management (CHaRIM) GeoNode has been integrated into the GeoCRIS to facilitate evidence-based decision making and development planning processes.
MapAction provided advice on strategic, technical and personnel issues related to creating the GeoCRIS, based on its years of experience of developing similar systems. We particularly assisted in defining needs for data and tools to support the Rapid Needs Assistance Team (RNAT) and other rapid-response mechanisms within CDEMA as we have partnered alongside CDEMA following several devastating hurricanes in the past five years. We will also be helping CDEMA to train disaster management teams across the Caribbean region in using GeoCRIS once travel restrictions are lifted.
We’re grateful to the USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance for funding our participation in this project.
Two MapAction members contributed to a one-hour discussion of how use of collaborative networks and advances in geospatial technology can improve humanitarian outcomes in urban settings. Professor Melinda Laituri of Colorado State University and the Secondary Cities initiative was Chair of the event, with talks from Alan Mills and Chris Ewing, both of MapAction.
Entitled Cities, humanitarianism and using geospatial analysis to mitigate risk, the online event looked at collaborative approaches to addressing global humanitarian issues.
Alan Mills and Chris Ewing shared insights gleaned from their work aimed at supporting urban resilience and emergency preparedness and response, in particular through working with, building, supporting and mobilising civil society networks. They also discussed recent technical innovations such as automated mapping.
This was followed by a question and answer session exploring some aspects further as questioned by the audience.
Chris Ewing, MapAction Trustee and Volunteer – a keen physical geographer, Chris has over 10 years’ experience in the (re)insurance and engineering sectors. In his day job at Aon Impact Forecasting, Chris helps organizations better quantify natural catastrophe risk. He has volunteered with MapAction since 2007.
Alan Mills, MapAction Consultant and Volunteer – a volunteer since 2005 and former trustee, Alan also leads on building data preparedness partnerships. He has his own consultancy business specializing in GIS and remote sensing in international development and has 30 years experience in operations.
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.
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.
MapAction has formed a new partnership with the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) Humanitarian Assistance to help improve the use of technology and data in humanitarian decision making.
As part of the broad-ranging programme, MapAction is working on
greatly reducing the time and effort required to create maps and data products needed
in many emergencies, by automating repeat processes. It is also extending its
capacity to have specialist personnel in emergency situations for longer
periods to support information management and decision-making processes, and
placing a data scientist in the Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague to
facilitate knowledge sharing.
MapAction Chief Executive Liz Hughes said, “This is an exciting
programme which will help to keep us at the vanguard of humanitarian response
missions, but also, vitally, to overhaul our technical offer. This will enable
us to continue to help ensure the best possible outcomes for people affected by
disasters and humanitarian emergencies. We are very pleased to be working with
GFFO and looking forward very much to getting stuck in to this important work together.”
Two MapAction members are currently in Tallinn, Estonia, participating in and helping to facilitate a course for UN On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) Assessment and Analysis Cell teams. Participants are looking in detail at ways in which data and analysis can inform fast-moving and chaotic emergency situations.
At the end of October, two MapAction volunteers participated in a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) refresher training course in Neuhausen, Germany. As well as presenting to participants on humanitarian mapping, they supported the simulation exercise with mapping.
These regular training courses enable all involved to enhance and update their skills and knowledge and share insights from disaster responses.
One MapAction participant described the course as a “fantastic week”, while the other described the UNDAC trainees as a “Really dedicated team with interesting first hand experiences from Idai and Dorian.”
We’re grateful to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance for supporting this important disaster preparedness work.
This week, a MapAction volunteer has been participating in discussions and strengthening relationships with our partners at the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Information Management Working Group and Team Leaders meetings in Santiago, Chile. These conversations enable us to continuously improve how we visualise data collected by INSARAG teams.
Today is World Humanitarian Day and the theme this year is Women Humanitarians. I find that an interesting theme. I am, indeed, personally grateful to all the female humanitarians – including our own volunteers and staff – who inspire, challenge, advise, listen and make a difference. As well as experiencing barriers to participation in formal humanitarian responses, women are often also at greater risk in emergency situations. So anything that highlights and begins to address these issues is to be welcomed.
World Humanitarian Day is often interpreted as being about the workers, not the affected communities. Yet, it seems to me that humanitarianism is in fact about people’s suffering and what helps. So, in general, I think the message should be about the amazing survivors of conflict and disaster, the ways communities recover together and the women in those communities who contribute to that.
It is good to make note of differences of perspective (gender being just one), but we need to take care that that is not where our acknowledgement of difference starts and stops, with just one day. If we want to promote a really inclusive humanitarianism, we need to think about these differences and contributions every day, and make our efforts towards inclusion and diversity part of the way we live and work. There is much more work to be done.
To this end, we are in the process of examining in detail and systematically improving our own working practices. During our monthly team training weekend in July, our Diversity Working Group presented the findings of a recent team survey on the topic of diversity within MapAction. Although the sample size was too small to be statistically significant, it enabled us to ask some good questions. Together we discussed some concrete next steps. We will share more on these once they are more fully developed.
By Lavern Rogers-Ryan, MapAction Caribbean Section volunteer
When the call came for Caribbean volunteers to apply to MapAction, I was keen to sign up. Having followed the work of this organisation and the amazing group of people who work as volunteers, I saw this as an awesome opportunity for me to contribute to the work of saving lives.
Living in Montserrat, with an active volcano and being privy to how devastating disasters can be, I was grateful for the prospect of being able to use my skills in geospatial technologies to contribute to humanitarian efforts during a disaster. My mind quickly raced back to the impact Hurricanes Irma and Maria had on my neighboring Caribbean Islands, in 2017. I wanted to be in a better position to offer assistance if a situation like that – God-forbid – presented itself again.
I therefore submitted an application to the organisation and not very long after, I was greeted with an email inviting me to an ‘assessment day’. Needless to say, I was very happy to advance to the next stage.
The assessment day turned out to be very interesting. Surprisingly, during the introductory session, I was reintroduced to the Head of the MapAction Caribbean Section, who reminded me that we met while he visited Montserrat in another capacity several years before. Moreover, the gentleman who is the Preparedness Lead for MapAction worked in Montserrat briefly on a project back in the early 2000s. I found it to be very fascinating how unsuspectingly our paths crossed again! In addition, hearing the testimony of a fellow MapAction volunteer sort of sealed the deal for me. He explained what being a volunteer all entailed and how my skills can contribute to saving lives.
Overall, this interview process was detailed enough to ensure that I was a good fit for MapAction. Amongst other skills, the panel assessed team spirit, leadership potential and the knowledge and application of geographic information systems (GIS) tools and software.
Receiving another email shortly after assessment day, entitled, “MapAction Caribbean Section – Interview Outcome”, I nervously but anxiously opened it. The words that bounced from my computer screen, read: “Congratulations, you have been selected to join our Caribbean Team!”
This was awesome news and I am absolutely thrilled to be apart of the MapAction family and be able to contribute to society in this capacity.
I look forward to sharing more about the work of MapAction and my experiences in future blogs.
Lavern Rogers-Ryan is a geospatial consultant specialising in disaster risk management and recovery. She is currently head of the GIS Centre within the Government of Montserrat.
This week MapAction is in Sentul, Indonesia, to support an induction training course for the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC).
As well as supporting an earthquake simulation exercise with mapping, three MapAction members are delivering training on GPS, information management and the use of maps for humanitarian response.
MapAction regularly provides training and support to UNDAC’s induction courses that take place around the world for new team members
Our participation in this training was made possible thanks to the support of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance. OFDA provides us with grant funding to help us improve the use of maps, geographical information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis across the humanitarian sector to improve the impact of humanitarian aid.
A programme of training for disaster management teams across Kazakhstan has been continuing this week. Employees of the Department for Emergency Situations of Almaty, the East Kazakhstan and Pavlodar regions have been learning about geographic information systems (GIS), data management and mapping on a course jointly provided by MapAction and the region’s Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR).
The training is part of an ongoing programme of work which sees CESDRR and MapAction collaborating to enhance the use of mapping and information management to improve and expand disaster preparedness, relief and recovery activities across Central Asia. We’re very grateful to US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) for funding this work.
Three MapAction volunteers are currently in Ust-Kamenogorsk in East Kazakhstan. Next week they will move to Atyrau in the West of the country to repeat the course with another group of local emergency management personnel. In August, two further courses will take place in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Two MapAction training courses are in progress in Trinidad & Tobago this week.
Three MapAction team members are privileged to be working with members of civil protection response teams from Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Surinam. We are collaborating to share geospatial skills and experiences to support readiness for response to communities.
In the region, hurricanes and storms are a key concern, but several countries also respond to a multitude of different concerns affecting their citizens including earthquakes and other seismic risks.
We are very grateful for the support of The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management of Trinidad & Tobago for their support. This is part of an ongoing joint programme we are carrying out with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). We have already run humanitarian mapping courses with CDEMA in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and Jamaica. This important work is funded by US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
Training MapAction’s latest recruits
Also in Trinidad & Tobago this week, the newest members of MapAction’s Caribbean section are being put through their paces on our Conversion Course which, through a combination of theory and practical exercises, prepares our GIS expert volunteers for deployments to humanitarian emergencies.
The week-long course covers numerous topics including sources and collection of humanitarian data, mapping in emergency conditions, priority needs and the timeline of a response.
Last week, a MapAction team was in Morges, Switzerland, training United Nations Disaster Assessment & Coordination (UNDAC) team members from around the world in humanitarian mapping as part of a two-week intensive induction course.
UNDAC training courses take place regularly throughout the year in different countries and MapAction is often involved, providing mapping support to emergency simulation exercises as well as teaching GIS skills.
We’re grateful to USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance for making our participation in this and other UNDAC training courses possible.
Three MapAction team members are currently in Kostanay, Kazakhstan, teaching national civil defence and emergency responders how to create and use humanitarian maps. Next week they move to the capital Astana (Nur-Sultan) to provide the same training to local teams there.
These courses are the latest in a series of workshops we are providing as part of an ongoing joint programme of disaster preparedness activity with our regional partner, the Center for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction (CESDRR). Our partnership with CESDRR aims to improve and expand disaster preparedness, relief and recovery activities across Central Asia.
We’re grateful to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for funding this important collaborative work.
Earlier this year we embarked on a round of volunteer recruitment to find mapping and geographical information system (GIS) experts living and working in the Caribbean. The aim was to expand our small team in the region to ensure we are always well placed to help prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies across the Caribbean, working with our close partner the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). This includes pre-positioning personnel when necessary to provide mapping and data support in the event of severe tropical storms.
We are delighted to now welcome three exceptionally high-calibre volunteers who bring a tremendous amount of additional knowledge, expertise and energy to an already very strong Caribbean team.
Deanesh lives in Trinidad and is a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for Maritime and Ocean Studies (CMOS) of the University of Trinidad and Tobago. He teaches GIS and remote sensing and has recently worked on a multi-agency research project funded by NASA, using drones for studying coastal ecosystems. His work has been published in international and regional journals and he is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
My interest in MapAction began after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. The response by MapAction volunteers to it, as well as to other Caribbean disasters since then, inspired me to join the humanitarian effort.
Deanesh also volunteers as a mentor for the Caribbean Youth Science Forum (CYSF), the longest standing non-formal STEM education programme in the region, as well as for a local non-profit organisation called Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) which seeks to effect change through technology and education. In his free time he enjoys travelling, meeting new people, swimming and yoga.
Lavern is from the beautiful Caribbean island of Montserrat where she lives and works as a GIS Manager. She loves travelling, meeting new people and learning about new cultures. She especially loves star gazing!
Following the events of the 2017 hurricane season, I wanted to use my skills more to help mitigate against the impacts of disasters. When the call came for Caribbean GIS professionals to join MapAction, I was further inspired. I am passionate about GIS and I want to use my knowledge and skills to help people when they are most in need and to help to save lives. MapAction provides the platform for me to do just that!
Mike is currently the Hazard Mitigation and GIS Specialist within the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME), Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an Urban and Regional Planner by profession and holds a Masters degree in Built Environment with a specialisation in Geomatics. He joined the Disaster Management Team in 2016 and that same year was part of the CDEMA Regional Response Mechanism that was deployed to the Bahamas following Hurricane Matthew, which was when he first encountered MapAction.
Prior to joining DDME, Mike was a volunteer in Damage and Needs Assessment (DANA) as well as lead facilitator for them. Outside of Disaster Management, Mike is happily married with three girls. He enjoys carpentry and coaching basketball.
“Ever since Hurricane Matthew, I was eager to be a part of MapAction. I look forward to serving in this new capacity and being a part of the MapAction family.”