The map is not the territory, runs the famous quote, but maps do represent an unparalleled tool for emergency management. Nobody knows this better than humanitarian organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, whose work often occurs within territories without any usable maps whatsoever.
ESA has been working in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium to remedy this. The result is the Medical Humanitarian Disaster Mapping Service (HUMAN). Since last year the service has been using satellite imagery to prepare on-demand maps of remote areas for humanitarian organisations. Now HUMAN has gone one better, enabling those organisations to make their own customised maps across most of Africa.
Arnold is an emergency officer at the MSF headquarters in Brussels. He recently received a call from the Congolese field team reporting new cholera cases near the city of Luebo. The immediate question is; Where is Luebo? There will soon be demands from the office, as he will have to inform his counterparts of the developing situation. But there is no detailed map of the Congo in the office library and it is too costly – and too long – to order a special reproduction of a new map when the team has no idea of the seriousness of the crisis. The need is for something quick and simple.
Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
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