Can maps save lives? They can certainly help – when a disaster strikes, the MapAction team synthesises incoming information from numerous sources into maps that can be used by people on the ground. This allows relief operations to run more smoothly and effectively.
Life-threatening emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes, illnesses and conflicts can strike with or without warning and quickly plunge an area into pure chaos. And while many organisations and people are willing to help the locals, the confusion that follows such events can hinder the effectiveness of this aid.
This is precisely what MapAction tries to solve. Since 2003, the goal of the disaster relief group is to gather crucial data and present it as a map in the early phases of a humanitarian response. The data presented on the map includes topographical and demographic information on the area as well as specific information related to the disaster, such as predicted hurricane paths, destroyed buildings, or infection cases. The maps are updated as the crisis evolves.
The maps can be used by governments, aid organisations and any other groups or individuals wishing to help. MapAction works with the United Nation’s rapid response Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the Red Cross and several other aid association.
At the moment, the MapAction team has a response delay of 24-48 hours. MapAction’s volunteers have been dispatched to all corners of the world in the past years, including in Jamaica to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, in Tanzania after an earthquake, in Paraguay due to floods, and in Fiji after the island nation was hit by cyclone Winston. You can see all the places they have already helped in an interactive map on their website.