19 August 2011, Geneva, Switzerland - As the international community and the public celebrate today the World Humanitarian Day the crisis in the Horn of Africa continues to unfold as humanitarian agencies step up their response. A catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought is gripping much of the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular. According to OCHA “this is the gravest food crisis in the world, and the situation is getting worse”. UNOSAT is working since July to help chart the extent of the emergency.

Since July UNOSAT has been tasked to produce maps for the humanitarian community focusing in particular on IDPs and refugees locations and movement in the context of the unfolding crisis in the Horn of Africa. To respond to the requests by UN agencies but also to meet the requirements coming from other actors and the crowd sourcing community, UNOSAT has put on line a data and mapping repository for the crisis in the Horn that carries all the data produced by UNOSAT analysts. This data can be downloaded freely from the UNITAR website and is constantly updated as analytical work generates new or more accurate information.

On the day of the public release of v4 of the geodatabase, UNOSAT has identified from a time series of crisis satellite imagery in three countries (Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya), 200 distinct IDP/Refugee sites with over 20,000 IDP/Refugee emergency shelters. In addition UNOSAT has mapped  over 1,100km of roads and identified 65 road obstructions.

Recent analytical reports by UNOSAT  highlight the changing face of the widespread crisis in Mogadishu where tens of thousands of IDPs in need of life saving help are forced to roam around the city trying to settle in formal and informal camps often exposed to direct gunfire from armed militias. Josh Lyons of UNOSAT says: “This is a dynamic situation with thousands of displaced people moving repeatedly within Mogadishu and dozens of informal camp sites opening and closing over the last few months. It’s clear that the traditional camp mapping approach of working with a single satellite image to produce one-off maps has very little utility in events such as in Mogadishu today”.

For this reason monitoring efforts by UNOSAT are focused on trying to identify, analyze and communicate these complex movements of people to the humanitarian community through a commitment of sustained operational support.

Follow this link for more information on the World Humanitarian Day

Image courtesy of OCHA