Satellite data helps understand Southern Africa heavy rain accumulation

28 March, Geneva, Switzerland - The rainy season in Southern Africa is often the cause of flooding with widespread impact on population and agriculture. Countries usually affected include Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. In some instances the impact may cause serious humanitarian consequences as it was the case in 2000 and again in 2013.

In these days UNOSAT is gathering satellite data over Southern Africa to generate rainfall accumulation maps. These are then distributed to UN agencies and national experts in the region and through ReliefWeb. They help understand the situation and quantify the amount of precipitation in various parts of the country and the region.

Over the years UNOSAT experts have worked repeatedly on areas of the world affected seasonally by heavy rains and monsoons. In most cases, the intervention of UNOSAT is requested by UN agencies during the planning or implementation of relief operations. In case of urgent  needs UNOSAT deploys its rapid mapping service. The service is also useful for preliminary damage assessment. In other cases, UNOSAT proceeds to the compilation and mapping of satellite data available, ahead of the declaration of an emergency. Rainfall accumulation maps like the latest one over Zambia, are useful to track the evolution of a situation before heavy flooding sets in.

The wealth of data and information accumulated over the years has additional value for specific areas whose vulnerability to floods is a constant threat. UNOSAT says They are looking at how to combine this data with digital elevation modelling so to help estimate the vulnerability of strategic locations like IDP and refugee camps to returning floods.