public health

Doctors Without Borders to hold Southeast Asia ‘Missing Maps Mapathon’

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Doctors Without Borders to hold Southeast Asia ‘Missing Maps Mapathon’
The mapathon is part of the organization's Project Mission Maps, a project founded in 2014 that aims to 'create digital maps of the world's 'forgotten' places through crowdsourcing'

Nongovernmental organization Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) will hold a “missing maps mapathon” on Saturday, August 1, with volunteers from all over Southeast Asia.

The mapathon is part of the organization’s Project Mission Maps, a project founded in 2014 that aims to “create digital maps of the world’s ‘forgotten’ places through crowdsourcing.”

The maps can then be used to better plan risk reduction and disaster response activities. This is done for areas that have never been mapped before.

The mapathon uses a tool called OpenStreetMap, where volunteers are tasked with putting details on the maps, which are then validated online by remote experienced mappers, and locally by volunteers.

This year, the organization hopes to map out Nigeria.

Doctors Without Borders said it first worked in Nigeria in 1971, in response to the Biafra conflict. Since then, it has been in the country to help in various health emergencies such as malnutrition, measles, malaria, meningitis C, cholera, and lead poisoning.

The mapathon will focus on the Niger state, which the organization said has “seen outbreaks of measles and lead exposure in the past 10 years.”

“With a few clicks and some hashtags, both beginner and expert mappers will be able to put Nigeria’s isolated communities on the map,” the organization said.

“Maps help us save lives. I saw this myself firsthand in the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, when we used digital mapping to help us plan lifesaving logistical support in Guinea,” said Sam Taylor, executive director of MSF Hong Kong.

With proper mapping, workers can help prevent a disease from spreading, find people who are quarantined, and get them access to water, food, and health care.

“Having proper maps really made a big difference to using our time and resources more efficiently,” said Theresa Berthold, project coordinator for MSF’s Chad Emergency Response Unit.

“We could plan according to the confirmed locations of villages and draw up our schedule accordingly. With proper maps, our surveyors could easily navigate their way to the villages and the selected households, making the work much easier and quicker.” –

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