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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.


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.

Recruiting for a Operations Director

13 Nov - Are you first among equals – an exceptional leader who can inspire confidence in your team and make them partners in your organisation’s endeavours? Can you deliver operations under any circumstances and think out of the box for the occasions you didn’t prepare for? Does a small ‘family feel’ organisation that is growing but not too fast - appeal? Do you want to join a globally respected team of high calibre humanitarian information management specialists?  If you answered yes to the above, we are looking for someone who can do the following:-

  • Deliver operations through a volunteer team of high calibre GIS specialists to humanitarian organisations in disasters and conflict.
  • Maintain and develop the volunteer team ensuring it is operationally ready at all times and can deliver on the organisation’s five year strategy.
  • Operationalise the organisation’s five year strategy, promoting innovations and partnerships
  • Manage organisational resources effectively

For a full role profile and information on how to apply please see MapAction Operations Director Role Profile

About MapAction

MapAction ( is a leading humanitarian mapping charity. It deploys skilled volunteers to international humanitarian emergencies to map priority needs. This mapped information helps responders target their response effectively, contributing to saving lives and minimising suffering.

MapAction has built a strong reputation in the humanitarian sector and is a technical partner of the United Nations. The charity has attracted funding from UK Government (DFID), EU and other major donors. HRH Prince Henry of Wales has been the charity’s patron since 2007.

The role is pivotal in leading, implementing and developing the charity’s operational capacity, particularly through its largely Volunteer work force. It ensures the effective coordination of day-to-day operations, and deployments.

  • The role is full-time (37.5 hours a week)
  • Must have the right to live and work in the UK (MapAction is unable to consider candidates who do not already hold appropriate permissions)
  • The job holder will be required to work from the MapAction offices
  • Flexibility and willingness to work outside office hours including evening and weekends, attending monthly weekend training events.
  • Note: this is a highly operational role in a small, highly specialised charity and an appreciation of, and affinity with, the humanitarian purpose of the charity is essential.
  • Must have a full, clean driving licence

This advert will remain open until the right person is identified.

Run the London Marathon for MapAction

UK, 13 Nov - MapAction 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:

Places are limited, so please register by Monday 24 November to be in with a chance of joining Team MapAction!

Match funding opportunity this December

UK, 12 Nov – MapAction is delighted to announce that it will be taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge this December. From 10am on Thursday 4 December, MapAction supporters will have the chance to more than double their donation, 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 on Thursday 4, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 December. To be in with the best chance of doubling a donation, MapAction supporters are encouraged to sign up for a reminder email using the form below.

MapAction would 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 in Sierra Leone.

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

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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.”

Click here for the deployment map catalogue

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Recruiting for a Fundraising Assistant

UK, 13 Oct – MapAction is recruiting a part-time Fundraising and Marketing Assistant. This is a new role that has been created to boost income-generation and support key marketing activities as the charity rolls out its ambitious new strategy to double its response capacity by the end of 2018.

Key responsibilities will include:

  • Writing compelling copy for newsletters and web articles
  • Uploading web content and updating social media
  • Supporting fundraising activities with a specific focus on Community & Events (London marathon etc)

The full job description and person specification can be found here - Fundraising Assistant job description

It is a part-time role (15 hours per week), based at MapAction’s office in Saunderton, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

How to apply

Please send a CV and covering letter to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by 10am on Monday 27 October 2014. Interviews are planned for Monday 3 November 2014. Please indicate in your application if you are NOT available on this day.

If you would like to discuss the role prior to applying, please contact Chloe Browitt, Fundraising & Marketing Director, on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or telephone 01494 56 88 99.

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