Missing Maps 2: Putting the West Africa Ebola Outbreak on the Map

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Humanitarian mapping is one of the latest tools to be used to tackle highly contagious diseases like Ebola. Satellite images are being used to document buildings like schools and roads and small towns affected by the virus. The collective data help aid agencies navigate around the area of where the infected populations are and where the disease has spread to.

Author Louisa Wong -, 07.10.15

Humanitarian mapping is one of the latest tools to be used to tackle highly contagious diseases like Ebola. Satellite images are being used to document buildings like schools and roads and small towns affected by the virus. The collective data help aid agencies navigate around the area of where the infected populations are and where the disease has spread to.

Nowadays, anyone can consult the free global OpenStreetMap Online maps, and install the maps on their smartphone. For a crisis like the Ebola outbreak in 2014, thousands of voluntary contributors from across the globe rapidly gathered the data from satellite imagery in order to support humanitarian organisations in making detailed and accurate maps to place the right resources at the right place at the right time.

Humanitarian organisations such as Médécins Sans Frontières, CartONG and Red Cross are working closely with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to coordinate a mapping community and deliver maps to field workers. The team works in close collaboration with MSF and the British Red Cross on the Ebola response mapping work with contributors who coordinate with aid workers from INGOs and UN agencies on the ground.

“Government administrations in these countries are quite limited, and it takes too much time to obtain from them essential databases such as town place-names, geolocalization of hospitals,” said Pierre Béland, a Montreal based HOT activation coordinator who is coleading the Ebola response.

Click here to check out our blog story on HOT “Missing Map 1: Putting vulnerable people of map” in November 2014.

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