Where will you be spending Christmas?

Followers of this blog will know that MapAction is a charity very close to our hearts. Not only have we been involved in fund-raising as a company but I also support them through regular monthly giving. So I make no excuse for mentioning them yet again and seeking your support towards their Christmas Challenge 2012.

MapAction works in disaster zones providing frequently updated situation maps showing where relief help is most urgently needed. In January 2012 they deployed to the Philippines in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Washi, which killed more than 1,250 people and displaced nearly three-quarters of a million.

On Sunday 2nd December MapAction have again deployed a team of two volunteers to the Philippines to help with the after effects of Typhoon Bopha. The typhoon made landfall on Mindanao early on Tuesday, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts of 210 km/h (130mph).

So far more than 40 people are known to have been killed and over 40,000 people have been moved into shelter. The death toll is expected to rise.

MapAction received the call for assistance from the United Nations on Saturday 1st December and immediately went to their highest level of alertness – Alert Active. This is where a deployment is imminent and volunteers are asked to post their availability. Equipment being taken is finalised and localised (such as making sure the right satellite communications and even plug adapters are ready). The whole process takes just a few hours.

During the Alert Active phase, MapAction also conduct a “data scramble”. The aim is to give the volunteers a head-start for when they arrive in country, so they can set to work immediately.  During a scramble, a team of volunteers at base will identify, collate and process map data relevant to the emergency and through experience also try to anticipate the needs of the field team for data that might be needed further into the mission.

Data collated typically falls into three categories:

  1. Base map – the vital foundations of the map. This includes administration boundaries, settlements, transport and physical geography.
  2. Baseline demographics – information about the population before the emergency, including population, health and nutrition data.
  3. Situational data – any early information about the emergency. The path of a typhoon, damage buildings and most importantly affected population.

Whilst the data scramble happens, an early overview or reference map is also produced. This is often used by the UN and other International organisations who may not be familiar with the geography of the affected area. For the Philippines, the data scramble involved sourcing, collating and uploading 7GB of mapped information within a matter of hours.

You can read more about the deployment on the MapAction website.

MapAction are also asking supporters to make an online donation which could be more than doubled through the Big Give Christmas Challenge – so every £1 donated could be worth £2.25, once you factor in matched giving and Gift Aid.

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