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Mapping towards Crisis Relief in the Horn of Africa

(Cross-posted from the Google Lat Long Blog)

In the wake of intense drought, the Horn of Africa is gripped by its worst famine in more than 60 years. Over 12.4 million people across Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are threatened with hunger and disease as they are unable to access basic survival means. UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations are rallying to support refugees on the move, particularly to the thousands fleeing Somalia. Valerie Amos, OCHA Emergency Relief Coordinator, has stated that “This will not be a short crisis.” The emergency is expected to persist at least three to four months, and the number of people needing humanitarian assistance could increase by as much as 25 percent.


Ethiopia/Somali refugees. Water point in Kobe camp. Dollo Ado Region. UNHCR, G. Puertas, July 2011.

Fresh and accurate maps are among the many critical factors in assessing such a state of crisis, as they provide vital information to facilitate emergency response and planning. Thanks to the efforts of our satellite imagery partner, GeoEye, we now have high resolution imagery of locations with the most pressing humanitarian needs. This has made Google Map Maker community mapping efforts even more effective, by allowing the creation of improved maps over refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and the city of Mogadishu. Volunteers are mapping roads, hospitals, schools, community centers, and water resources, among other vital landmarks. The map data contributed is being shared periodically with the UN agencies engaged in this crisis. Google has also donated 1 million USD to help local and international organizations provide famine and drought relief support in the Horn of Africa.


Bokolmanyo Refugee Camp, Ethiopia. IKONOS imagery, July 29th 2011, © 2011 GeoEye

You can help the Horn of Africa during its time of crisis by creating detailed maps using your local knowledge of places, such as cities, roads, and natural landmarks. If you’re unfamiliar with the region, try pairing up with people who have local knowledge, who can help by reviewing and correcting your edits. To participate in these ways and more, and offer feedback, please join our Africa mailing list and visit the Horn of Africa community mapping site as we all map the way toward crisis relief.

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