Sri Lanka + 5 more

Capabilities summary - MapAction support for emergency operations

News and Press Release
Originally published

1. MapAction is an international NGO, headquartered in the UK. MapAction's vision is to apply the skills of professionals from the rapidly-evolving geo-informatics sector to help to relieve suffering and safeguard livelihoods in humanitarian emergencies. Its operational capacity is founded on a pool of volunteers who maintain readiness to deploy worldwide, together with a small full-time staff providing leadership and operational and administrative support.

2. MapAction's core mission is to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian disaster and other emergency operations by providing rapid, on-site mapping and information management support.

3. Beneficiaries and operational partners of MapAction are, potentially, any organisations operating with a legitimate humanitarian mandate. In an emergency environment this typically includes government and international agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, and donor representatives. MapAction has an informal but strong relationship with UN OCHA and MapAction volunteers attend and instruct on several UN Disaster Assessment and Cordination (UNDAC) training courses each year.

4. MapAction receives funding support from a range of sources but most notably from Vodafone Group Foundation and UK Department for International Development (DFID).


5. Coordination of national and international response in emergencies is dependent on effective situational information. Much of this information has a spatial component. In complex and dynamic emergency environments, maps have been shown to be an excellent tool for analysing and communicating situation information. They have particular value in creating a 'common operational picture' which facilitates coordination between agencies and organisations.

6. MapAction maintains a standing capacity to deploy rapid-response mapping/information support teams anywhere in the world for short missions, most often in sudden-onset disaster emergencies. Teams can comprise from 2 to 8 personnel and can be mobilised within 24 hours. To Field team in Pakistan, Oct 2005 achieve this, MapAction maintains a pool of 30 deployable volunteers who commit to training together regularly. They are fully equipped to operate in any field environment and carry their own satellite voice and data communications.

7. The mapping team normally establishes a field base near or within a key coordination focal point, which is typically a local or national disaster management centre, or UN On-site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC). The team then delivers mapping and other information support for all operational stakeholders. Maps are produced on-site and distributed on paper, and uploaded to the internet for wider dissemination. Map themes typically include: general situation updates; distribution of affected population; 'who-what-where' (activities of response organisations); infrastructure status; ground and air navigation.

8. A key function of the mapping team is data collection. Baseline GIS data (for example, coordinates of settlements) may be available from institutional GIS users in country. Situation data is obtained from agencies and NGOs and extracted from rapid assessment reports. Also, MapAction personnel can conduct GPS surveys, working independently or accompanying partner organisations' assessment missions.

9. MapAction's deployment duration tends to be short - typically 3 weeks or less. This provides necessary 'first response' information management during the search-and-rescue and early relief stages of an emergency. A handover/continuity plan is always formulated: in cases where a Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) is deployed this provides an ideal transition.


10. Since becoming operational in 2003, MapAction has deployed teams to the following emergencies.

- Asian tsunami (Sri Lanka), 2004
- Niger drought, 2005
- Pakistan earthquake, 2005
- Suriname floods, 2006
- Indonesian earthquake, 2006
- Kenya floods, 2006


11. MapAction is building its rapid response capacity to be able to deploy to two emergencies simultaneously: this will be facilitated by establishment of overseas sections including formation of a Latin America & Caribbean team early in 2007. MapAction is also seeking to strengthen interoperability with its partneragencies to maximise coordination value-added.

12. Also, MapAction's work in capacity-building will increase, building on experience in 2006 which included a successful mission to train national staff in Tajikistan in use of GIS and GPS for disaster response. MapAction is in discussion with prospective partners to enhance use of geotechnology in disaster risk reduction and intends to undertake several such projects in 2007.