Emu Analytics’ Senior Location Intelligence Analyst, Alice Goudie, has just returned from a weeks trip to Armenia with MapAction. This month’s blog is going to take a look at what she got up to!
MapAction is a humanitarian mapping charity. Its aim is to save lives and minimise suffering by making the response to humanitarian emergencies as efficient and effective as possible. MapAction responds to both natural disasters and conflict related emergencies as well as running preparedness initiatives and training courses. Alice joined MapAction at the beginning of this year and after a comprehensive training programme is now a deployable GIS volunteer.
Alice flew out to Yerevan, Armenia to attend the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Europe, Africa and Middle East (EAME) Regional Earthquake Response Exercise. This coincided with the 30th Anniversary of the Spitak earthquake, which hit Armenia on the 7th December 1988 and killed over 25,000 people, injuring over 130,000 more.
Like Emu Analytics, MapAction strongly believe in the power of data visualisation. By visualising data on a map they rapidly get across key information to key people regardless of language or technical understanding. Aid in the wrong place and at the wrong time is no use to anybody. By supporting the coordination of the humanitarian response through the use of data and mapping, MapAction ensures that the help gets to those who need it most.
In Armenia, a 2 person MapAction team were working with an UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination) team as well as collaborating with various Search and Rescue and Emergency Medical Teams from around the world. Many of them were astounded by the maps that were created and how they had a real positive influence on the work they were trying to do. These maps ranged from:
- general country situation maps
- post disaster logistic maps (e.g. showing which roads were shut)
- population maps showing the number of injured, killed, missing and displaced people in districts across Armenia
- maps showing the location of worksites of the search and rescue teams
- maps showing the distribution of destroyed buildings
- maps showing the location of health facilities and Emergency Medical Teams
- maps showing informal settlements set up by people who had been displaced by the earthquake.
As this was just a scenario all of the mapping and data preparation was done in just over a day and a half. In a real emergency a MapAction team would stay out for at least 2 weeks.
Whilst in Armenia a meeting was also set up with the GIS department from the American University of Armenia. Another important aspect of MapAction’s work is preparedness and making sure that datasets and methodologies are in place, where possible, to reduce the pressure after the onset of a disaster. The Ministry of Emergency Situations in Armenia (where the exercise took place) also requested to keep some of our maps. Again, MapAction put on a lot of training courses specifically for humanitarian situations so that countries have the ability in-house to do emergency mapping.
MapAction volunteers are often deployed within 24-48 hours of a disaster occurring, which means that they are often some of the first people ‘on the ground’ post disaster. Whilst travelling to the country the mapping and data collection will have already begun, so that by the time they reach the country we can hit the ground running in terms of assisting the coordinated response. There is also a team of volunteers back home who will always be on hand to support the deployed team. As the situation develops, MapAction helps national authorities, aid agencies and emergency teams to understand the fast-changing needs of affected communities. Due to the nature of the environments that MapAction work in it can be challenging, but the work is crucial.
In 2018 MapAction responded to 10 emergency missions, 6 preparedness missions, 18 training courses and fulfilled 29 remote support requests. Since 2003 MapAction has responded to more than 70 humanitarian emergencies, ranging from earthquakes, to Ebola, to conflict-related crises. To find out more about the great work that MapAction do, visit their website at www.mapaction.org
Also a big thanks to the team at Emu Analytics for letting me take time off to volunteer for MapAction and being supporters of the charity.