November 2011, Geneva, Switzerland – This type of assessment conducted on the basis of imagery acquired from commercial providers allows humanitarian agencies to take informed decisions and have a better grasp of humanitarian needs in areas of difficult access or presenting high risk for humanitarian workers. The reports offer also insight into some specific aspects that can be inferred form UNOSAT observations such as the presence of emergency tent shelters, which is a barometer of active support from international aid organizations and NGOs.

Satellite imagery acquired in time series is compared and analysed at UNOSAT over the course of weeks and sometimes months to draw situation maps and analytical reports which are then disseminated via the internet to the mainly concerned agencies of the UN and to the large number of humanitarian entities involved in the Horn of Africa.

Complex emergencies the size of that in the Horn of Africa unfold over long periods of time and require special expertise and attention in the area of geospatial information, over and above the occasional surge of interest and mapping that occurs in coincidence with media announcements and humanitarian appeals, which normally occurs in the early phases of this type of emergency. In a recent comment to the BBC, Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian affairs co-ordinator in Somalia, said: "I have to say that Somalia still remains the world's most critical situation. There are more people needing assistance than any other part of the world and the rates of malnutrition are still unacceptably high."

As per the situation in the IDP shelter camps in the urban area of Mogadishu, a UNOSAT report being released this week documents a 57% increase in the total number of IDP shelter sites visible from space, from 226 to 353 during the period September-October 2011. A projection of the total number of shelter structures in Mogadishu as on 18 October 2011 showed a minimum estimate of over 2,000 IDP structures located within in the 353 identified sites across the city. This estimate was based on a methodology employed in coordination with UNHCR. An earlier shelter estimate for 22 August 2011 resulted in a figure of approximately 41,000 shelters. This suggests an increase of several tens of thousands of Somali IDPs within Mogadishu between September and October this year.

Click here to access UNOSAT maps on the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

UNOSAT supports crowd sourcing efforts and contributes actively satellite imagery to volunteer mappers around the world in partnership with the US government.

In keeping with its commitment to sharing its data and vectors, UNOSAT  maintains also a complete download page on the Horn of Africa.