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South Sudanese sing and map their way to independence

(Cross-posted from the Google Latlong Blog)

On July 9, South Sudan will officially be independent, becoming Africa’s 54th state.

In anticipation of this significant development, the World Bank, UNOSAT, RCMRD, Satellite Sentinel Project and Google organized a South Sudan Community Mapping event in Nairobi on June 30. This was the second in a series of mapping events intended to encourage local people to create accurate and detailed maps of South Sudan, to help them navigate their path to independence. There were over 100 attendees in the room, mostly Sudanese -- university students, humanitarian workers, journalists, developers, donors, citizens -- coming from Nairobi and its surroundings, but also as far as Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

The lives of the South Sudanese are anchored to their history and land. The event started with the sharing of prayers, stories and songs, allowing each of us to visualize the rivers, sheep, roads, and people. Drawn from these songs, the mapping of South Sudan with Google Map Maker began. I was excited to see schools, roads, rivers, historical monuments, and cemeteries being mapped over cities such as Aweil, Boma, Bor, Malakal, Rumbek, Tonga, Torit, and more.

Community Mapping Event in Nairobi on June 30, 2011

Many were interested in health resource mapping which can dramatically impact the lives of their new countrymen. Every year in South Sudan about one in every seven children dies before the age of five; the maternity mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, and only 30% of the population has access to health care. For Charles Mona, Director GIS, Remote Sensing & Cartography of the South Sudan Government, quality health resource maps would be great tools for improved health care planning, resource allocation, advocacy, and also increased access to health services for the local population. This is only one example of how accurate maps can help various organizations provide better services to the the South Sudanese.

Happy independence day to the South Sudanese! Together, let’s continue mapping, and stay connected via our Sudan-specific email discussions. The next Community Mapping event will be in Juba, so stay tuned for more details.

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