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How mapping worked in fighting Ebola

West Africa, 17 Dec - Since September MapAction has been actively involved in helping tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with deployments to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Ghana, as well as remote support for coordination efforts.

Our first mission was to Liberia, where 4 volunteers and 2 staff worked with the United Nations and International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP) to help coordinate the national and international Ebola response. At the time of the deployment 3,280 cases and 1,677 deaths had already been reported in-country, making it a priority to identify transmission routes and prevent further infections.

Shortly after more MapAction volunteers were deployed to Sierra Leone to work in the government’s National Ebola Response Centre in Freetown for a period of a month. Our mission was to use our mapping skills to help decision-makers ensure that adequate treatment facilities were being provided in the right places and to identify the most effective means of stopping the transmission of Ebola.

Working closely with the UK Department for International Development, our volunteers began by focusing on data management, providing reference information on administrative units and place codes at district and province level (crucial in making sure we were all making reference to the same places). We also provided information on the number of cases of Ebola, by gender and location, and identified where treatment centre were and how many beds were available.

This work was supplemented by mapping the number of cases against building density in Freetown and advising the water and sanitation authorities where to put fresh water tap stands. Our highly experienced volunteers briefed senior Sierra Leonean government ministers and the country's president on our work.

On a regional level, two MapAction volunteers have been working on data management for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Accra, Ghana. A further volunteer has recently deployed to Mali to support preparedness activities to pre-empt and contain any future outbreak in-country.

Alongside this work in the affected area, MapAction is also supporting the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) – a network of volunteer-based information management organisations like ourselves. One of our volunteers is currently holding the post of Network Coordinator. MapAction is also hosting the online network on our server, enabling round-the-clock communication between members globally on data sourcing and management.

Thanks to the support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) we are funding an Ebola response coordinator for DHN for six months. The role is supporting humanitarian responders by facilitating effective information-sharing.

 
Run the London Marathon for MapAction

UK, 15 Dec - Final chance to run the London Marathon for MapAction! The charity has been lucky enough to secure guaranteed places in the Virgin London Marathon for next April. You can find out more about what it means to join Team MapAction and register your interest at: www.mapaction.org/marathon.

Places are limited, so please register by 12pm GMT Wednesday 17 December to be in with a chance of joining Team MapAction!

 
MapAction continues to support Ebola response

Bamako and Accra, 10 Dec – In response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, MapAction has deployed two further skilled volunteers to the region – bringing the total deployed since September to 13.

Following on from an earlier mission, a MapAction volunteer has deployed to Ghana to support the regional response being coordinated by United Nations’ Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). UNMEER is the first ever UN mission for a public health emergency and has the stated aims of stopping the spread of the disease, treating infected patients, ensuring essential services, preserving stability, and preventing the spread of Ebola to unaffected countries. Although progress has been made in establishing treatment centres and tracing transmission routes, it remains a priority to establish the information flows and data management structure which is where MapAction's expertise will be of particular benefit.

A second volunteer has deployed to Mali to help government authorities prepare for the risk of a future Ebola outbreak. Although 8 cases have already been reported in Mali, thus far they have been successfully contained. This mission is therefore to provide expertise in data preparedness and emergency mapping skills so that authorities can establish an Emergency Operations Centre and are prepared to respond if a more significant outbreak ensues.

According to the World Health Organization, 17,145 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases have been reported within this current Ebola outbreak up to the end of 30 November 2014. There have been 6,070 reported deaths.

Jonny Douch, MapAction’s Operations Director, commented: “I am incredibly proud that, as most of the UK busies itself with preparing for Christmas, two MapAction volunteers are stepping up to help in the ongoing battle against Ebola. Both missions will be strategically important. The role within UNMEER will be pivotal in getting to grips with the current outbreak, and the Mali deployment is an exciting opportunity to put measures in place before the situation in-country escalates. In both cases, I am sure that MapAction’s volunteers will make an important difference in helping to tackle this devastating health emergency.”

 
Match funding opportunity goes live

UK, 8 Dec – Matched funds are still available!

Thank you to all our supporters who have donated via the Big Give Christmas Challenge. So far we have raised over £7,000 including matched funds and Gift Aid - a fantastic result! Matched funding is still available, so if you were not able to give earlier, there is still the opportunity to double your donation via: MapAction - The Big Give. Thank you for your support.

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From 10am GMT on Thursday 4 December supporters have the chance to double their donation to MapAction thanks to matched funding provided by Esri UK and the Big Give.

A £10 donation could become £22.50 once you add matched funds and Gift Aid*.

Matched funds are limited and will be released in tranches at 10am GMT on Thursday 4, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 December. To be in with the best chance of doubling their donation, MapAction supporters are encouraged to sign up for a reminder email using the form below.

All donations should be made via MapAction - The Big Give.

On behalf of all the staff and volunteers at MapAction, thank you for any support you can give.

MapAction would also like to thank Esri UK and the Big Give for enabling the charity to benefit from this exciting fundraising opportunity. Such support is always vitally important, but particularly at the moment with MapAction’s key role in the Ebola response across West Africa.

* Gift Aid can only be claimed on donations from UK taxpayers

I would like to be reminded about the Big Give Christmas Challenge

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Reflections on the Ebola outbreak

Freetown, 19 Nov - The following reflections on the Ebola outbreak were written by Andy Kervell, MapAction's Team Leader in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They were originally drafted to update friends and family members on the team's progress in the field. Any opinions are Andy's own.

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On my arrival in Freetown I couldn't help but be struck by the heartbreaking stories of loss, pain and misery from the communities affected by this terrible virus. This must in some ways be on a par with the horror stories following the Sierra Leonean civil war. This battle though is against one of nature’s most lethal biological weapons, and here in Sierra Leone it really is being treating by the government and population like being at war.

MapAction is working out of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) in Freetown, which has been set up to coordinate and support the courageous efforts of the many medical and support staff (cleaners, ambulance drivers, burial teams included) battling it out on the front line. They all deserve a medal and the world’s respect for the personal risk they are accepting in carrying out their essential work.  In our back office function we don’t feel at any risk – the only thing is that you have to wash your hands every time you enter a building and have your temperature taken.

Working within the NERC, the daily routine involves a number of meetings and briefings, covering subjects ranging from ambulance distribution to the implementation of burial policies. It is not easy debating distressing subjects like ‘dead body management’, but is essential that such things are done with the professionalism and dignity required to generate the right support, action and authority.

So what role has MapAction played in all of this? Like many emergencies, information management and its visualisation plays such a key role in the response. Fighting the spread of the virus is as much about information management as it is logistics and epidemiology. The processing of data about a suspected case, from the call to the 117 helpline set up to report possible cases, through to their isolation, the laboratory testing of their samples, subsequent treatment, and unfortunately in some cases, the safe burials, must be recorded and collated.

MapAction has been advising the NERC team on how such information can be best managed, and how to visualise it in useful ways. This then provides experts such as the UK epidemiologists, the World Health Organisation and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) with essential information about how the virus is spreading, its rate of infection and how the country is implementing the control measures required. Key indicators such as number of cases, treatment beds available, safe burials within 24 hours, etc are all being reported daily to the NERC. Bringing these numbers down below target levels is essential in slowing transmission rates and therefore stemming the spread of the virus.

MapAction’s field team has presented its maps to the Sierra Leone President and Minister of State for Defence and the British High Commissioner at various briefings, so we certainly have been in the thick of it! It was very heartening to hear Palo Conteh, Chief Executive of the NERC, comment on one of our presentations: “This is a fantastic picture. I can sit here and see everything.”







Freetown itself is an amazing city, clinging Rio-esque to the steep hills plummeting towards the Atlantic Ocean, it makes for a really spectacular journey from our lodgings to the office each day. The roads are fairly chaotic and full of enormous pot holes, and you see from the houses by the roadside the limited development of this country.

However life appears to be carrying on, although it is apparently much quieter than normal owing to the fear of Ebola. Large gatherings have been banned, so spectator sports such as football games, and even the Hash House Harriers have been postponed. There is a growing frustration in the community that they would like to get back to normal. But unfortunately for this country, already blighted by poverty, it will be many months yet before this occurs.

I will have to return quickly back to everyday life after my two-week deployment is up, but the mission will have a lasting memory and impact on my life. This, though, is what being part of MapAction is all about and it is again a privilege to represent such a great charity and perform its role as we have been trained to do. Hopefully our short input will have some positive impact to the response, and this amazing country and people will be rid of this terrible virus.


 
Responding to Ebola in Sierra Leone

Freetown, 22 Oct – Following on from the charity’s recent deployment to Liberia, MapAction has deployed a highly experienced team to Sierra Leone to help coordinate the response to the Ebola outbreak there. The team will provide mapping support to the Ebola Operations Centre in Freetown. The deployment has been primarily funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The Ebola outbreak is unprecedented in scale and geographical scope. Not only has it already claimed thousands of lives, but it is also impacting on the security, economy and livelihoods of communities across the affected countries. Within this complex and challenging context MapAction’s mapped situational analysis can help make the response as targeted and effective as possible.

Jonny Douch, MapAction’s Operations Director, commented: “This deployment follows quickly from our recent mission to Liberia. The needs are great and the situation is extremely complex. I am very proud that MapAction’s volunteers continue to step up to the plate and offer their skills in this most challenging of emergencies. This is a tremendous opportunity to support the work of national and international organisations, including many from the UK public sector, to scale up activities and overcome this deadly disease.”

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