MapAction team of mappers in Belize to support country’s response to wildfires and drought

MapAction team members are supporting the Belize national disaster management agency NEMO to get a clearer understanding of the extent and impact of wildfires that continue to spread through southern and western Belize, causing damage to infrastructure, crops, land and livelihoods.

MapAction’s Edith Lendak works with Director of Toledo District Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Gustavo Requena (right) and NEMO GIS Officer Luwin Tzib (left) to confirm the location of local community settlements in fire-impacted districts. Photo: MapAction

Drought and a lack of rainfall have caused severe ongoing wildfires in the Central American country of Belize. As of May 28th, 10,000 hectares of land and 200 homes had been destroyed, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Damages as of end of May 2024 totalled more than $8 million. 

The response to the wildfires is being coordinated by Belize’s national disaster response agency, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), one of 19 CDEMA members. CDEMA, a long-time MapAction partner, requested MapAction’s support to assist local authorities in getting a clearer understanding as to the extent of the crisis. 

MapAction volunteer members Sam Gandhi, a GIS specialist, and Edith Lendak – who works for green energy company Orsted – are in Belize assisting the Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and disaster assessment teams out of the National Emergency Management Organisation’s (NEMO) various country offices. MapAction volunteer member Indigo Brownhall, a researcher with the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory (SGNL) at University College London (UCL), is providing remote support. 

MaAction volunteer member Sam Gandhi.

The team’s focus will be on the worst affected areas: the southern region of Toledo, before moving north to focus on Cayo District, where the country’s capital, Belmopan, is situated. 

“This shows the effectiveness of our partnership with CDEMA,” says Darren Dovey, head of emergency response for MapAction. “We were able to quickly understand their needs and advise that sending a MapAction team to Belize would be the most effective way to support them, working with their own GIS teams and supported by the wider MapAction membership remotely,” adds Dovey. 

Head of Emergency Response Darren Dovey.

The maps produced so far cover a range of key data points: the baseline population in each district, disaggregated by age, sex and gender; key ecosystems of Belize, as well as landcover per area. More maps will be created for decision-makers in the next few days and weeks. 

MapAction helps decision-makers get an overview of an emergency by mapping the key data about the extent and impact on communities, land and infrastructure. This helps emergency responders act faster, more efficiently and provide support to at-risk communities.

Each map is created to help decision-makers act faster and more accurately. Some maps are key to search-and-rescue operations – knowing where to send rescue personnel, which areas have been searched and which have not. Other maps might help plot a path for emergency aid to those who need it most, using the fastest and most accessible routes. Another map might outline where people are moving; how a wildfire is spreading or where the largest human need is. 

LISTEN ALSO: Podcast: Towards disaster resilience with CDEMA in the Caribbean

This work is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

MapAction Data Science Lab: the story so far

Since its inception MapAction has worked on leveraging technical expertise and geospatial technologies to transform humanitarian decision-making. In 2022, the ‘Data Science Lab’ became an even more integral part of MapAction’s work, adding new staff, resources and projects. 

By Daniel Soares, Head of Data Science, MapAction

The first tentative steps to establish a data science unit at MapAction began in 2020 with one staff data scientist and another volunteer working in partnership with OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data. The team continued to grow and on a summer night in 2022, the Data Science Lab was officially born. Eighteen months later the team has grown: we now have two staff members and six data science volunteers. Four more are set to join in 2024. This is, of course, without counting our many GIS volunteers with advanced data skills working as data scientists or similar roles in their prestigious day jobs.

READ MORE: A year of collaboration with the Centre for Humanitarian Data

Carola Martens, data science volunteer, taking part in an earthquake simulation to test her deployment capabilities together with geospatial volunteers Fiona Hardie and Claudia Offner. Photo: Daniel Soares

Data projects supporting disaster response 

“At the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (World Bank), I specialise in developing tools for assessing the impacts of natural disasters in various settings. Having joined MapAction I’ve found that it complements this work as it offers me the opportunity to apply my expertise in a different context, where I can contribute both to long-term planning and to direct emergency response.”

Nadia Leonova, MapAction data science volunteer

In the last 18 months our volunteers have done some impressive work, not only on tool development, but on missions leading workshops, as well as supporting our GIS team with disaster response. Below are some examples of tools and projects we’ve been working on.

Rapid flood mapping

The goal of our rapid flood mapping from satellite imagery is to create a tool that is able to estimate flood extents during emergencies using radar satellite imagery. The tool was created by two of our data science volunteers, with Cate Seale developing a Python package that contains all the necessary methods whilst Piet Gerrits worked on equipping the tool with a simple graphical interface. The approach is based on a UN SPIDER tutorial, built using Google Earth Engine. The entire code is naturally open-source and available on GitHUB (GitHub – mapaction/flood-mapping-tool).

Former volunteer and current MapAction Head of Data Science Daniel Soares (left) during the MapAction response to the 2022 Kinshasa floods (DRC) together with an UNDAC team member and a local expert. Photo: MapAction.

READ MORE: MapAction team deploys to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to support UN response to floods 

In 2021, MapAction engaged in a collaboration with HeiGIT (Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology): the final goal of this work is to produce tools and workflows that can constitute a resource for MapAction’s deployed or remote team members during emergency response. Our first joint project focused on assessing OpenStreetMap data quality. We’re now working to integrate these quality checks into our internal data pipeline.

READ ALSO: MapAction and HeiGIT partner to further geoinformation innovation

Proximity Tool

As part of the same collaboration with HeiGIT, we’re currently developing a Proximity Tool in order to automate road network analysis and identify remote communities and those potentially cut off during an emergency. This tool can also be used for health accessibility analysis (assessing populations not covered by health facilities within a given road distance).

First prototype of the MapAction Proximity Tool developed in collaboration with HeiGIT’s open route service.

Anticipatory action

MapAction substantially increased its anticipatory action focus in 2023. Our new anticipatory action programme kicked-off in July with GFFO funding new work on several projects geared at enhancing geospatial information management for anticipatory action decision makers. This programme will mainly focus on three areas: enabling adoption by partners through stakeholder landscaping and information management projects (ongoing work with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation); implementation of subnational risk models and working around building sustainability and localisation with partners.

READ ALSO: Updates: The Anticipation Hub, The 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action

The Data Science Lab is actively mainstreaming anticipatory action into its pipeline for the future. We have already started working on building an INFORM Subnational Risk Index for the Kingdom of Eswatini while scoping support for other countries. Our target is to work on four new INFORM subnational models, while updating eight more, over the next two years. We are also currently scoping and planning new projects in partnership with the UN’s Centre for Humanitarian Data around data solutions for anticipatory action. Stay tuned for more details in 2024.

Data science member Piet Gerrits and MapAction Data Visualiser Rob Baker attend an INFORM Subnational Risk training in Italy together with MapAction geospatial volunteer Leon Baruah in September 2023 ( all MapAction members are in blue t-shirts).

Want to be part of the team?

Our 2023 volunteer recruitment process is now closed but a new one will open in 2024 with opportunities for data scientists, data visualisers, data engineers, software developers and geospatial specialists.

Join our MapAction Humanitarian Data Volunteers group on LinkedIn to receive the latest updates re: recruitment or follow MapAction on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

READ MORE: MapAction looking for volunteers to unlock information management barriers in humanitarian sector

MapAction’s work in geospatial is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), UNICEF, Calleva Foundation and other foundations, private individuals and companies. Learn more here.

MapAction responds to Morocco earthquake, deployment team on standby

A MapAction team of experienced humanitarian data volunteers is always on standby. Photo: MapAction.

MapAction teams began responding to the devastating 6,8 magnitude earthquake in Morocco as news began to break on the morning of Saturday September 9th. The latest bulletin from the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior puts the death toll at above 2800, with thousands more injured.

Every time a major natural disaster like this occurs, at MapAction we activate our internal emergency protocol and put out an alert among our cohort of 70+ expert data and geospatial volunteers. Based on availability, we build a team of ‘disaster landscape mappers’ on standby and ready to deploy to the field. 

We currently have a team on standby to travel to Morocco if and when necessary and we have received a request for support from the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination office (UNDAC). Our remote team of mappers have begun to carefully select data points and package them into a set of useful maps, which are being shared with UNDAC.

The maps each paint their own picture: affected regions, provinces and prefectures, population density or elevation. Others highlight the shake intensity in different areas. We will continue to offer remote support and create maps that we know decision-makers will benefit from, drawing on our experience from 12 previous earthquake responses in the last 20 years.

READ ALSO: MapAction working to build disaster resilience globally

MapAction works on disaster preparedness 24/7, all-year-round. From the team that cancelled Christmas to rush to DRC in response to flooding, to those helping local communities to become better prepared for disasters, those delivering training, or advocating for better use of data for humanitarian response. We do the technical work that ultimately helps others save more lives. If you like the work we do and would like to support that work, or think you know somebody who would, please get in touch. MapAction doesn’t have the funds it needs, and the demands of responding to natural disasters are only getting greater. Read more in our appeal here.

UPDATES: MapAction humanitarian mappers supporting UN response to heavy floods in Peru

Key facts (April 26, 2023):

  • More than 500,000 people severely affected by floods caused by heavy rains since December in Peru
  • State of emergency declared by the national government in more than 50 percent of the country
  • Northern coastal regions of Lambayeque, Tumbes and Piura worst-affected
  • MapAction rotating teams and mappers have been supporting the office of the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) out of the capital Lima

April 26. 09:30 UTC. MapAction’s mappers have set up temporary office in Lima, Peru, in the last week and maps are already reaching UNDAC and partners. Cue a new MapAction Wall.

April 14. 12:00 UTC. Experienced humanitarian mappers from MapAction have travelled to Peru to support the United Nations and the Peruvian government’s response to floods that have affected more than 500,000 people since December 2022. The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in 1056 districts, more than 50 per cent of the country, according to an update last week from the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 

In the northern Provinces of Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque, among the most affected, the authorities issued an emergency declaration of the highest level. According to the latest report from UN OCHA, approximately 517,000 people have urgent humanitarian needs, 410,000 others have been directly affected, 12,000 houses have been destroyed and 73,000 damaged.

MapAction’s presence was once again requested by long-time partner UNDAC, the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination office. MapAction’s Luis Velasquez has travelled to Lima to be followed by experienced MapAction volunteer Becky Kervell in the near-future. MapAction’s Tom Hughes will support remotely from New York. 

As the tweet below shows, roads and infrastructure in Peru have been heavily affected by the floods and landslides. 

The Peruvian army has been evacuating children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable groups in some of the affected districts, reports Peruvian daily El Comercio. 

MapAction’s work will be coordinated from the capital Lima but will focus on supporting regional hubs in each of the three most-affected regions: Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque, all coastal regions in northern Peru.

MapAction’s experience is often requested by international relief operators at the scene of natural disasters. Our disaster mapping helps inform better aid solutions for those affected, but remains under threat as it is not currently funded. If you would like to support this deployment financially, please get in touch with our Head of Philanthropic Giving, Howard Wheeldon: hwheeldon@mapaction.org

We need all the help we can get to continue to support unpredictable emergency responses. Please read about our Emergency Response Fund to understand more about the urgent need for more funding to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. 

READ ALSO: How maps can save lives when disasters strike

MapAction signs WHO partnership agreement underlining growing support for health emergencies

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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. 

MapAction personnel have also contributed to a leading sector title on how to respond to health emergencies (In Control: A Practical Handbook for Professionals Working in Health Emergencies Internationally).  

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. 

UPDATES*: MapAction team in Turkiye working on disaster landscape maps and supporting earthquake response at UNDAC’s request

(This work is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance)

Key facts (March 15, 10:00 UTC):

  • A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Kahramanmaras Province in southeast Turkiye (formerly known as Turkey) on the morning of Monday February 6th. A second major earthquake struck soon after. Both earthquakes and the aftershocks collapsed buildings and killed tens of thousands of people in both southeast Turkiye and northwest Syrian Arab Republic.
  • Teams of volunteers from MapAction have joined the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) office’s emergency operations in Gaziantep in southeast Turkiye – at their request – less than 20 kilometres from the epicentre of last Monday’s largest of two earthquakes
  • The MapAction team are mapping various aspects – for UN relief agencies – of the earthquake landscape, such as population and shake intensity, forecasted temperatures and temporary camp locations. See a sample of Turkiye earthquake maps here.
  • MapAction launches an APPEAL to sustain the Turkiye deployment
  • Two more earthquakes, of magnitude 6.3 and 5.8 respectively, struck Hatay Province in Turkiye on February 20th
  • The total number of casualties confirmed dead in both countries is more than 52,000 (March 13). The Turkiye government says 48,448 have been confirmed dead (March 13) in the country formerly known as Turkey. More than 4,300 deaths and 7,600 injuries have been reported in north-west Syria, as of March 06, reports UN OCHA.
  • 2.7 million people displaced in Turkiye (March 13)
  • Nearly 16,000 aftershocks have been felt in the region (March 13)
  • Listen on the BBC to why MapAction has launched an appeal and how the vital mapping work we do supports emergency operations (starts at 01:07)
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates that a combined 23 million people are affected in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic
  • Government of Turkiye says 10 provinces are affected in its country
  • *This blog is not, at least regularly, updated between 6pm UTC and 8.30am UTC and on weekends.

March 15: 10:00 UTC. More than 9 million people have been affected by the earthquakes in Turkiye, according to the latest data and situation report from UN OCHA. Nearly 3 million people have been displaced: 3.5 million people have been provided with shelter or accommodation; 354 new formal tent settlements established. Nearly 50,000 people have died in Turkiye alone.

March 06: 14:00 UTC. A new team of MapAction volunteers has now deployed to Gaziantep to continue to support the word of UNDAC in response to the devastating earthquakes in southeast Turkiye. We hope to rotate more teams but the support we can provide continues to be limited by the funds we have as an organisation. Please support our emergency response appeal.

Feb 23: 15: 30 UTC. 42,310 people have now been confirmed dead in Turkiye, states the latest update from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye – the country’s disaster relief agency. Nearly half a million people have been evacuated from quake-hit zones, states the same update.

Feb 22: 16:45 UTC. A new map from MapAction’s Turkiye earthquake response set shows the average forecasted temperatures over the coming four days near the epicentre of the two major earthquakes just over two weeks ago in southeast Turkiye. The winter cold is a huge challenge for displaced survivors and relief workers.

Feb 22: 10:35 UTC. UN experts estimate that 1.5 million people have been made homeless by the earthquakes in southeast Turkiye. At least 500,000 new homes will need to be built, reports UN News.

Feb 21: 10:15 UTC. There have been more than 100 aftershocks in the last few hours alone in Turkiye, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye – the country’s disaster relief agency.

Feb 21: 10:15 UTC. More than 47,000 people have now been confirmed dead in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic since two large earthquakes struck southeast Turkiye on February 6th. That number is likely to rise as authorities continue to clear rubble and a clearer picture of the extent of the catastrophe emerges. A new 6.3 magnitude earthquake also struck Hatay Province yesterday.

Nearly 65,000 buildings have been damaged and 18 million people have been affected by the earthquakes, according to data from UN OCHA and the government of Turkiye.

Feb 21: 10:00 UTC. The latest 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Hatay Province near Turkiye’s southeastern coastline yesterday affects more than 1 million people, according to an estimate from one disaster relief agency.

Feb 21: 09:55 UTC. The drone footage below of the post-earthquake landscape in Malatya shows the extent to which the catastrophic earthquakes that struck nearby two weeks ago devastated the city.

Feb 21: 09:50 UTC. 41,156 people have now been confirmed dead in Turkiye following the two devastating earthquakes that struck Turkiye two weeks ago on February 6th, according to the latest press bulletin (February 17th) from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. Four more people are reported dead and hundreds injured in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic following two smaller yet substantial earthquakes in Hatay Province – southern Turkiye – yesterday, February 20th.

Feb 20: 19:15 UTC. BREAKING: Two more powerful earthquakes have struck southeast Turkiye exactly two weeks after two larger quakes killed more than 45,000 people in Turkiye and Syria. Today’s 6.3 and 5.8 magnitude earthquakes struck Hatay Province in Turkiye, reports the Guardian. More details to follow

Feb 20: 12:00 UTC. MapAction teams working on emergency response are usually hybrid, with a mixture of frontline mappers working alongside the UN in-country and remote support provided by other members of our volunteer cohort. Chris Ewing (pictured below) is a MapAction volunteer and trustee who has been leading the MapAction remote earthquake response team for Syrian Arab Republic from his home in London.

Chris Ewing, MapAction remote leader for the earthquake response in Syrian Arab Republic.

Feb 20: 10:10 UTC. More than 38,000 people in Turkiye have now lost their lives in in the devastating earthquakes that struck the southeast of the country – formerly known as Turkey – on February 6th, according to the latest press bulletin (February 17th) from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye.

Feb 18: 11:15 UTC. New maps and decision support products are being published regularly. See many of them at https://maps.mapaction.org/. The map above is a Situation Overview of North West Syria, produced using the data available on Feb 17th. It shows which border crossings are open for aid flow, along with indicators of need shown by a combination of damaged house surveys and ‘access to basic services’ assessments. MapAction creates the maps but you can see from the list of Data Sources in the bottom left corner how much of a team effort this all is.

A collapsed building in Kahramanmaras.

Feb 16: 16:2 UTC. Dust is thick in the air in Kahramanmaras as Turkiye authorities begin to remove rubble.

A truck removes rubble from collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, southeast Turkiye.
A digger removes rubble in Kahramanmaras, southeast Turkiye, on February 16th.

Feb 16: 16:10 UTC. To carry on mapping the earthquake landscape and to strengthen the layers of data in the coming weeks and months, we urgently need funds to extend this mission. Please visit our appeal page if you, somebody you know or your company can help. Thank you.

MapAction has launched an appeal to cover the costs of this unexpected deployment.

Feb 16: 15:20 UTC. Survivors are still being pulled from the rubble by search and rescue teams 10 days after the earthquake, reports Al Arabiya.

Feb 16: 14:45 UTC. The MapAction team are working out of a container-turned-temporary-office in Gaziantep, mapping key data for UN relief agencies.

Mobile office.

Feb 16: 12:10 UTC. Any emergency operation as large as the response to last week’s devastating earthquakes requires extensive logistics. The Turkiye government has stated that more than 249,000 search and rescue personnel from AFAD (the disaster management agency), other Turkish emergency services and international supporting agencies are on the ground. Many relief operators in southeast Turkiye, where our MapAction team is deployed alongside UN agency UNDAC, have set up temporary operational and logistics bases.

Tents for search and rescue personnel in Gaziantep, southeast Turkiye.
A view, from the MapAction temporary office in a container, of bottled water.

Feb 16: 10:05 UTC. RECAP. Nearly 40,000 people have lost their lives following two devatstating earthquakes that struck southeast Turkiye and northwest Syrian Arab Republic on Monday February 6th. MapAction mapping volunteers were requested at the emergency operations centre in Gaziantep, near the epicentre of the largest earthquake, by the office of the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team. A team of three experienced humanitarian mappers travelled to Turkiye last week to support the mapping of the disaster landscape and to help process the huge volume of incoming data.

The MapAction team has already created more than a dozen key maps for emergency relief field agents. These include maps documenting:

There are so many more things that will need mapping as the larger picture emerges from the earthquake landscape. From 11 previous earthquake relief efforts and 137 emergency responses in total, MapAction knows from experience that the following data points may turn out to be relevant (NB: this list is intended as a sample guideline and does not reflect the official priorities of any partners):

  • Medical locations and status/capacity/type.
  • Pharmacies
  • Helicopter landing zones – coordinates in degrees and decimal minutes
  • Needs Assessments
  • Vulnerable groups
  • Broadcast stations and ranges/ languages/status
  • Schools open/closed/damaged
  • EMT locations
  • Infrastructure damage – phone, power
  • Port damage
  • Protection
  • Border crossings and refugee camps

Each set of data points we can map gives relief agents a better understanding of the landscape they face and the decisions they have to make. More informed decisions means aid reaches those who need it most. In order to continue our current mission in response to the earthquake in Turkiye, we urgently need funds to rotate our teams and complete our work. Please donate to our APPEAL if you can. Thank you.

Feb 15: 16:20 UTC. Maps on the wall.

A team member guides a relief agent through the map wall at a UN emergency operations centre in Gaziantep.

Feb 15: 15:20 UTC. The Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shared his thoughts on a visit to Syria.

Feb 15: 14:35 Our team in southeast Turkiye, mapping the disaster landscape at the request of the office of the United Nations Disaster and Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team, has reported back from a field trip with the sad images below of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras.

Collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, southeast Turkiye.

Feb 15: 14:05 UTC. 31,974 people have lost their lives in the earthquakes in Turkiye, according to the latest press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from quake-hit areas in Turkiye, according to the same source.

Feb 15: 09: 40 UTC. At least 8.8 million people in northwest Syrian Arab Republic have been affected by the earthquake, with the majority anticipated to need some form of humanitarian assistance, according to UN OCHA. “Public service provision – water, electricity, heating, and social services – which were already under strain before the earthquake, are under severe pressure, and people’s access to emergency healthcare is limited with hospitals overwhelmed. Lack of fuel and heavy machinery and equipment are also major issues, hampering efforts to quickly reach those most in need,” states the update.

100 maps printed (in less than 20 minutes) last-minute for a field team in Malatya.

Feb 14: 16:10 UTC. The map below put together by our team supporting the UN in Gaziantep shows temporary camp locations set up in response to the earthquake near Osmaniye, southeast Turkiye.

At least 900 refugee camps were estimated to be across the border from Turkiye in Syrian Arab Republic according to MapAction research in 2020. Many are in or near areas affected by the earthquakes in the northwest of the country. A team from our cohort of more than 65 volunteer data software engineers, geospatial analysts and disaster data pipeline specialists were involved in mapping refugee settlements in 2020, revealing some of the data challenges. “Camps vary enormously,” stated the MapAction report from 2020, “from just a few tents to up to 93 separate sites within a single camp, and from long-term, static settlements to temporary ones.”

Feb 14: 14:45 UTC. Setting up the emergency relief operations in southeast Turkiye is a fluid, ongoing and challenging task.

“An air bridge has been built for the deployment of personnel and equipment. A total of 4097 sorties have been made with 170 helicopters and 76 aircraft from The Air, Land and Naval Forces, the Gendarmerie, the Coast Guard, the Turkish Police, the Ministry of Health and The Directorate General of Forestry,” clarifies the latest update from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye.

A total of 26 ships, 24 ships by the Naval Forces, and two ships by the Coast Guard Command were employed to deliver personnel and materials to the affected area, adds AFAD’s press update.

LISTEN: A MapAction volunteer in Turkiye spoke to BBC Radio Scotland about the work mapping the earthquake landscape (starts at 01:36:35)

Feb 14: 12:05 UTC. RECAP: A team consisting of three humanitarian mapping volunteers from MapAction has travelled to the emergency operations centre in Gaziantep, southeast Turkiye, at the request of the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) office. Working out of a temporary operations centre less than 20-kilometres from the largest of February 6th’s two earthquakes – which have already claimed more than 36,000 lives – the MapAction team has already created more than a dozen key maps for emergency relief field agents. These include maps documenting:

There are so many more things that will need mapping as the larger picture emerges from the earthquake landscape. From 11 previous earthquake relief efforts and 137 emergency responses in total, MapAction knows from experience that the following data points may turn out to be relevant (NB: this list is intended as a sample guideline and does not reflect the official priorities of any partners):

  • Medical locations and status/capacity/type.
  • Pharmacies
  • Helicopter landing zones – coordinates in degrees and decimal minutes
  • Needs Assessments
  • Vulnerable groups
  • Broadcast stations and ranges/ languages/status
  • Schools open/closed/damaged
  • EMT locations
  • Infrastructure damage – phone, power
  • Port damage
  • Protection
  • Border crossings and refugee camps

Each set of data points we can map gives relief agents a better understanding of the landscape they face and the decisions they have to make. More informed decisions means aid reaches those who need it most. In order to continue our current mission in response to the earthquake in Turkiye, we urgently need funds to rotate our teams and complete our work. Please donate to our APPEAL if you can. Thank you.

LISTEN: More about our appeal on the BBC (starts at 01:07)

Feb 14: 11:40 UTC. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated that the earthquakes that struck Turkiye last week constitute “one of the worst disasters this century.” The latest combined casualty estimate from Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic exceeds 36,000, although the actual number of those who lost their lives in this tragic event is likely to be far higher, warn relief operators.

Feb 14: 10:35 UTC. The video below, by our team on the ground in Gaziantep, maps all earthquakes and aftershocks since February 5th in Turkiye, highlighting that after shocks are still hitting the area.

  • Data from USGS
  • Size of circle = magnitude of shock
  •  Colour = depth from surface (darker red is closer to surface)
  •  Points are displayed over a 12hr period
A map of the earthquakes and aftershocks since February 5th in Turkiye. Map: MapAction.

Feb 13: 15:50 UTC. The casualty rate continues to rise and is now nearing 40,000 in both affected countries. “We learn geology the morning after the earthquake,” said the US writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. We will only really understand the destruction these earthquakes have wreaked in the coming weeks or months as the larger picture becomes clearer. MapAction’s humanitarian mappers process the incoming data and create maps along key themes for relief agents, helping to shape that picture and create a better understanding.

Feb 13: 15:00 UTC. We have never received a philanthropic cheque from an anonymous businessman for $30 million, yet we do appreciate every donation, large and small, because it allows us to support unexpected, emergency operations like the current ones in Turkiye. If you or anyone you know can support the work of our humanitarian data mappers, we have launched an appeal here. Hear on the BBC about (starts at 01:07) why our work makes a difference in emergency relief operations.

Feb 13: 14:45 UTC. More than 4,300 deaths and 7,600 injuries have been reported in north-west Syria, as of 12 February, reports UN OCHA in it latest update. “52 trucks loaded with aid provided by five UN agencies so far crossed to north-west Syria, over a period of four days since the earthquakes,” states the update.

Feb 13: 14:15 UTC. 31,643 people have now been confirmed dead in Turkiye by Turkish authorities, according to the latest update from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. Nearly 160,000 people have been evacuated from quake-hit areas in Turkiye. Approximately 240,000 search and rescue workers from around the world are involved in the emergency response to last Monday’s two major earthquakes (and 2,700+ aftershocks).

Feb 13: 11:00 UTC. While a lot of our work is currently focused on the response to the earthquakes that have devastated southeast Turkiye and northwest Syrian Arab Republic, MapAction is also working on other projects. Follow the link to see some of our latest mapping work on the Cholera outbreak in Malawi.

Feb 13: 10:10 UTC. “Today we are doing a lot of work on establishing where the emergency shelters have been set up.” MapAction’s Alice Goudie spoke to BBC Good Morning Scotland (starts at 01:36:35) today from the emergency operations centre in Gaziantep about the kind of data MapAction’s humanitarian mappers are mapping for emergency relief field agents.

A MapAction map of temporary camp locations in the earthquake-hit areas in southeast Turkiye (accurate as of 11/02/2023).

Feb 13: 09:40 UTC. Good and well-arranged data can save lives. MapAction has prepared packs with 12 key maps for emergency respondents working on relief efforts in southeast Turkiye. These include maps of:

The MapAction map shows average forecasted temperatures for quake-hit areas in Turkiye in the coming days, with lows of -23C expected.
Printing maps for emergency relief operators to better navigate the earthquake landscape.

Feb 13: 09:20 UTC. More than 22,000 people have been confirmed dead in Turkiye following last Monday’s devastating earthquakes and approximately 2,000 aftershocks, according to the latest press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. 80,278 individuals have been rescued from debris in Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Hatay, Kilis and Malatya and Elazığ and more than105,000 people have been evacuated from quake-hit areas, according to the same source.

Feb 12: 12:45 UTC. Temperatures are set to drop to as low as -23C in the next four days in some of the earthquake-hit areas in southeast Turkiye near the border with Syrian Arab Republic. This map from MapAction charts the highs and lows for average daily forecasted temperatures in the next 96 hours.

Feb 11: 16:05 UTC. Much of MapAction’s work in such an emergency response focuses on finding the gaps in data. “Data and maps may be updated following aftershocks or to add additional analysis layers, including for example assessed landslide risk zones, vulnerable infrastructure (e.g. dams), or population baselines,” state MapAction’s guidelines on earthquake response. One example of a challenge for data responders will be to triangulate satellite imagery on physical damage and population density with baseline source information from the ground. Some things are not clearly viewed or verified from space. 

Feb 11: 16:00 UTC. Media outlets are reporting that the combined death toll in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic has surpassed 25,000, although that number is likely to rise according to frontline workers. “I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble but I’m sure it will double or more,” Martin Griffiths, a UN emergency relief coordinator in Adana, told Sky News.

Feb 11: 16:00 UTC. Nearly 19,000 people have been confirmed dead in Turkiye and more than 75,000 have been injured, according to the latest press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. More than 80,000 people have been evacuated from quake-hit areas in Turkiye.

Feb 11: 15:50 UTC. MapAction’s team of humanitarian mapping volunteers are busy working on incoming data with UN partners at an emergency operations centre in Gaziantep, less than 20 kilometres away from last Monday’s largest of two earthquakes.

Mapping aid solutions.

You can read more about our earthquake appeal here.

Feb 10: 18:00 UTC. “For this earthquake to occur in a war-shattered region is nothing short of a catastrophe,” remarked the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) talking from Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic.

Feb 10: 18:00 UTC. More than 17,000 have been confirmed dead and 70,000 injured in Turkiye by the government, according to the latest press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. More than 30,000 people have been evacuated from earthquake-hit areas, according to the same source.

Feb 10: 17:45 UTC. If you haven’t yet seen our Turkiye/Syrian Arab Republic appeal, it’s perusable here. The nuts and bolts are that however much we try, we can’t predict unexpected disasters like the earthquakes that struck southeast Turkiye on Monday February 6th. But we do often get asked to bring to emergency response operations our 20 years of knowhow in creating maps of disaster landscapes for relief agents. We need emergency deployment funds to cover our work in this and future emergency responses, as well as our training and resilience work with local partners. Hear more about why it matters on the BBC (starts 01:07).

Feb 10: 17:45 UTC. “To give you an idea of the sheer scale of the Turkey earthquake, if we overlay the USGS ShakeMap onto the British Isles, the fault (red colours) would have ruptured from the Severn Estuary to the Humber Estuary. Much of England would have seen at least Intensity Level 7 shaking.” Seismologist Stephen Hicks.

Feb 10: 11:10 UTC. Here is MapAction’s latest newsletter.

Feb 10: 10:25 UTC. Listen to a MapAction team member working on relief efforts in Gaziantep, southeast Turkiye, talk to the BBC World Service about the work the humanitarian mapping charity is doing alongside UN agencies in response to last Monday’s devastating earthquakes (12:00-17:20).

Feb 9: 19:55 UTC. If you haven’t seen our Turkiye-Syrian Arab Republic appeal, it’s right here. However much we try, we can’t predict unexpected disasters. But we do often get asked to bring to emergency response operations our 20 years of knowhow in creating maps of disaster landscapes for relief agents. We need emergency deployment funds to cover our work in this and future emergency responses, as well as our training and resilience work with local partners. Hear more about why it matters on the BBC (starts 01:07).

Feb 9: 19:50 UTC. First UN aid convoy reaches Syria’s quake-hit northwest since disaster.

“According to UN aid coordinating office, OCHA, six trucks carrying “shelter items and non-food item kits, including blankets and hygiene kits” reached Bab al-Hawa on Thursday, the only UN Security Council border crossing authorized for aid delivery.” UN News.

Feb 9: 19:45 UTC. Dedication to the job. A MapAction volunteer working on emergency response in Turkiye below takes a break after a 60-hour transit and a long shift today in the temporary MapAction field office at the UN operations centre in Gaziantep.

Feb 9: 16:45 UTC. Nearly 8,000 have been rescued from the rubble of buildings as of today, including – reports the Independent – a two-year-old boy who had been trapped for three days.

Feb 9: 16:25 UTC. The geospatial department at MapAction is busy and continues to publish new maps every day of the affected regions. Today from our Turkiye map repository we have:

A map published yesterday (February 8th) by MapAction. The map shows population data and shake intensity in Turkiye in regions affected by Monday’s earthquakes.

Feb 9: 16:10 UTC. Our head of communications spoke to the BBC yesterday about MapAction’s role in the Turkiye earthquake response (02:23). Our Head of Income Ian Davis was on the air (01:07) today for MapAction explaining why MapAction has launched an appeal to support our work in this unexpected catastrophe.

Feb 9: 14: 45 UTC. MapAction’s team are setting up their gear at the UN’s emergency response centre in Gaziantep, southeast Turkiye, less than 20 kilometres from the epicentre of one of last Monday’s two major earthquakes that devastated the region. For anyone wondering, there are roughly 60 kilograms of tech gear in that mobile office.

There are approximately 60 kilograms of tech gear in that mobile office.

Feb 9: 14:15 UTC. MapAction arrives at the scene of any disaster relief effort with pre-prepped laptops, hardware and customised tech gear. We have learnt a thing or two from 136 previous emergency responses. Our frontline operators are always supported by a dedicated remote team, as well as an amazing community of between 65 and 80 volunteers from various sectors.

“MapAction is one of the few entities that can use data analysis to quickly inform strategic decisions when data is limited/dirty/unstructured,” says one information management and analysis expert at the UN.

Find out more by navigating this 3D globe marked with details of our previous missions about the disaster relief efforts MapAction volunteers have been involved in over the last 20 years of our work.

Feb 9: 13:00 UTC. MapAction has launched an appeal in order to continue to support the vital response efforts to this unexpected disaster. Read more – or perhaps donate kindly – here.

Feb 9: 13:00 UTC. Nearly 13,000 people in Turkiye alone have been confirmed dead and more than 60,000 injured, according to the February 9th press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye. More than 113,000 rescue workers are now working on the response in Turkiye, according to the same source. International media estimate the total combined number of people confirmed dead in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic to be between 16,000 and 17,000, although that number is likely to rise as search and rescue operators get a better view of the disaster landscape.

Feb 9: 12:55 UTC. MapAction’s Ian Davis spoke to the BBC today (01:07mins in) about our team’s deployment to Turkiye to support UNDAC’s emergency relief operations.

Feb 9: 12:50 UTC. The MapAction team in Turkiye getting ready to travel closer to the epicentre with UN partners.

Feb 9: 10:45 UTC. The MapAction team at work with UN partners in Adana.

Feb 8 15:00 UTC. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) filed an update yesterday evening regarding access to key areas in the affected earthquake zone.

“Local sources report that the road conditions to the border-crossing are impaired and therefore the cross-border response is temporarily disrupted . In particular, the road connecting Gaziantep to Hatay, the most affected district in Türkiye by number of deaths, is reportedly not accessible. Hatay is also home to UN Transshipment Hub where aid is monitored, verified, and loaded into trucks as part of a UN monitoring process before crossing to Syria. The UN and partners are currently exploring other routes and conducting feasibility assessments.

The first two days of the emergency have added enormous pressures to an already overstretched response in north-west Syria, compounded by snowy weather and electricity cut in many areas,” states yesterday evening’s update from the UN agency.

Feb 8: 14:05 UTC. More than 60,000 search and rescue workers from Turkiye and around the world are working on rescue operations in Turkiye, according to a press bulletin from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at the Ministry of the Interior of Turkiye.

Ten Turkish provinces are affected by the earthquake, according to AFAD: Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Hatay, Kilis and Malatya. Many media outlets are now reporting more than 11,000 people confirmed dead in Turkiye and Syrian Arab Republic following two devastating earthquakes and many aftershocks on Monday February 6th.

Feb 8: 13:10 UTC. Teams of humanitarian data respondents from MapAction have been involved in more than 130 disaster relief operations in the last 20 years. Navigate this globe in 3D to find out where, when and how.

Accurate as of August 2022. The total is now in fact 137. Photo: MapAction.

Feb 8: 12:00 UTC. MapAction publishes a map on population data and shake intensity in Turkiye, displayed by regions. A repository of relevant maps for the Syrian Arab Republic is also currently being populated.

Feb 8: 11:55 UTC. “The earthquakes are estimated to have directly impacted 23 million people,” states The Red Cross.

Feb 8: 10:00 UTC. MapAction’s team of three humanitarian mappers are in Turkiye. Their presence and support was requested by the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team. Details on the mission below.

A MapAction team member with equipment, prepares to fly to Adana to join UNDAC’s emergency operations centre in Gaziantep. Photo: MapAction.

Feb 8: 08:45 UTC. Some images from our team on the ground in Turkiye as they prepare to fly from Istanbul to Adana, in the southeast of the country. The MapAction team of volunteers will then join UNDAC at their emergency operations centre in Gaziantep, less than 20 kilometres from the epicentre of Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Frosty temperatures complicate disaster relief efforts in Turkiye. Photo: MapAction

Feb 7: 22:50 UTC. The combined death toll from Turkiye and Syria nears 8,000 as disaster relief workers continue search and rescue operations.

Feb 7: 16: 30 UTC. MapAction announces deployment of team of three to support UN emergency operations centre on site, two more supporting remotely

Three experienced MapAction emergency mapping and geospatial responders will fly out of Heathrow & Manchester today to work alongside partners in relief efforts for the earthquakes that have already claimed nearly 5,000 lives in southern Turkey and northern Syria. 

The team will deploy alongside staff from the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) office, initially working with search and rescue data. MapAction’s data and mapping work will also inform what data is used to assess primary needs throughout the emergency relief operations. 

Ready to deploy: MapAction volunteers are travelling to Turkey to support UN relief operations in the areas affected by the devastating earthquakes. Photo: MapAction.

The team of three will be supported remotely by other MapAction volunteers, as well as MapAction’s tech, innovation and geospatial support staff, who have begun creating a repository of maps for response coordinators.

“Search and rescue teams require rapid detailed maps of collapsed site locations and search sector boundaries, as well as hospital locations and status, base of operations and other resources,” according to MapAction’s guidelines on mapping needs in search and rescue operations. The status of all key data points like roads, transport hubs, hospitals and urban landmarks will all need to be mapped. MapAction collates multiple secondary forms of data, such as roads and transport hubs or physical access constraints, to create, in real time, the most up-to-date maps possible for emergency respondents to make the right decisions in any situation, to ensure aid gets where it is needed, fast.  

A MapAction volunteer’s kit for their deployment to Turkey. Photo: MapAction.

Experience with earthquakes


MapAction’s position in the ‘navigators seat’ of more than 130 major emergency responses worldwide has enabled it to constantly hone its capability, providing mapping, data and information tools to disaster relief agencies coordinating key emergency responses in 11 earthquakes in the last 18 years. From Haiti, to Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal and more, MapAction has accrued extensive know how in the way responses to earthquakes develop, as well as an understanding of the most urgent mapping and data needs for disaster agencies coordinateing them.

Feb 7: 07:30 UTC. Confirmed casualties surpass 5000.

Feb 6: 19:30 UTC. UN agencies and international media report that the total number of people confirmed dead has surpassed 3000.

Feb 6: 15:00 UTC. United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) office officially requests MapAction’s support on mapping and data management at emergency operations centres in Turkiye.

Feb 6: 13:00 UTC. MapAction remote geospatial analysts and volunteers start publishing relevant maps for disaster relief agencies in Turkiye on the ground: Turkiye earthquake maps.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: MapAction to provide support to earthquake emergency response operations in Turkiye and Syria

Feb 6: 10:24 UTC. A second 7.5 magnitude earthquake strikes in southeast Turkey.

Feb 6: 01:17 UTC. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Kahramanmaras Province in Turkiye, affecting millions of people and a vast area in southeast Turkiye and northwest Syrian Arab Republic.

MapAction to provide support to earthquake emergency response operations in Turkiye and Syria

MapAction’s team in training for disaster response.

At least 5000 people have been confirmed dead (updated: Feb 7, 09:30 GMT) after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and subsequent aftershocks, struck southeast Turkiye (formerly known as Turkey) and northwest Syria on Monday February 6th. That seismic event was swiftly followed by a second 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the same region and dozens of aftershocks, according to UN agencies and mainstream media, including Al Jazeera and the Guardian.

Humanitarian mapping and data charity MapAction began working in the early hours of Monday Feb 6th, as team members saw early news of a devastating earthquake near the Turkish/Syria border. With remote work already underway on updating of key maps and data, MapAction has been planning with UN and other emergency response partners and its own standby team members.

The first earthquake struck Kahramanmaras Province in southeast Turkiye in the early hours of this morning, states an initial report from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). The same source estimates that 4.8 million people who live within 100 kilometres of the epicentre will be exposed to the disaster, many of whom live in temporary camps and are facing sub zero winter temperatures. 

“It’s a very shallow earthquake beneath highly populated areas and in a region which the buildings just can’t stand this level of shaking,” Stephen Hicks, a computational seismologist from University College London (UCL), told Sky News of the largest quake, adding that this earthquake – the “worst kind” – had ripped through an area 400-kilometres wide in under two minutes. “When we talk about earthquakes this large, the epicentre is not a single point. It’s actually ruptured along a fault of about 400km,” explained Hicks. 

The EU and UN jointly-run GDACS assessment team has declared the disaster level as red, the most severe for an earthquake. Many governments have already offered assistance. Disaster relief agencies have deployed teams to the area and MapAction is coordinating with partners on how to best support the emergency response. 

MapAction: 11 earthquake responses

MapAction has been involved in providing mapping, data and information tools to disaster relief agencies coordinating key emergency responses in 11 earthquakes in the last 18 years: from Haiti, to Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal and several other countries, MapAction has accrued extensive knowhow in how responses to earthquakes develop, as well as an understanding of the most urgent mapping and data management needs for disaster relief agencies. 

The initial response to such an earthquake focuses on search and rescue operations, as well as damage assessment. The two major earthquakes, and subsequent shocks (reported to be up to 40), have affected a very wide area, much of which lies within conflict zones. 

“Search and rescue teams require rapid detailed maps of collapsed site locations and search sector boundaries, as well as hospital locations and status, base of operations and other resources,” note MapAction’s guidelines on mapping needs in search and rescue operations. The status of all key data points like roads, transport hubs, hospitals and urban landmarks will all need to be mapped. 

Please stay tuned for updates and further information about MapAction’s response in the coming days.

This work is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

MapAction’s partnership with Asian disaster reduction & response network ADRRN is part of ‘global localisation’ strategy

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.

A hurricane. Photo: WikiImages/Pixabay.

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. 

Geo-surgery date

A screenshot of a 3W dashboard MapAction produced for CDP in the Philippines in December 2021 following Typhoon Rai. 

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. 

This work is funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

How maps helped the response to the Haiti earthquake

MapAction volunteer Chris Jarvis and a colleague from the Americas Support Team.

MapAction has been involved in the response to the earthquake that took place in Haiti on 14 August, helping our partners with data processing, analysis and mapping. This has helped those coordinating operational teams to understand what types of aid are needed in different locations and what other organisations are already doing to help. At the time of writing, this work is ongoing.

At the end of August, we scaled up our support to the UN Disaster Assessment & Coordination (UNDAC) and other responding organisations. Two MapAction volunteers traveled to Haiti to provide in-person assistance, supported remotely by our wider team. As well as using their annual leave to do this, both were required to self-isolate for 10 days after returning to the UK, in accordance with COVID rules. We are grateful to them both for their invaluable efforts.

This StoryMap looks at some of the maps that have so far been created during the response to the earthquake and how they have been used to help the situation on the ground.