In a change of focus determined by the conclusion of search and rescue operations in Haiti, UNOSAT closed its Rapid Mapping activation and embarked at the request of UNDP on a comprehensive damage assessment analysis over Port-au-Prince and neighbouring cities. The analysis, which builds also on parallel work performed by the European Commission JRC, French company SERTIT, Germany’s DRL/ZKI, Italy’s ITHACA and others, will contribute substantially in firming up the number of buildings affected by the tremor and will lead to a more precise estimate of the resources required to rebuild Haiti.

Geospatial information has become an important part of large scale damage assessments because of its ability to provide rapid, objective information on large territories. The accuracy of the assessment depends essentially on the professionalism and methodology used for the analysis of the satellite images. UNOSAT is using the experience accumulated in previous cases including in Lebanon and the Gaza strip. The work will feed into the initiative called for by the Montreal ministerial conference of 26 January which invoked the need to objectively assess the actual damage before unblocking donor funding.

The US government was particularly vocal on this point. The New York Times reported Secretary Clinton as saying: “We’re trying to do this in the correct order. Sometimes people have pledging conferences and pledge money, and they don’t have any idea what they’re going to do with it. We actually think it’s a novel idea to do the needs assessment first and then the planning and then the pledging.” At the conference, donor nations called for an independent damage assessment, which could begin as early as next week, made up of experts from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program. UNOSAT has been already tasked by the latter in this context and will release initial results already this week.

The scale of the disaster prompted several actors to produce geographic info, this gave rise to the need to take stock of diverse sets of data and proceed to an integration of the best available information. Based on the request made by UNDP, UNOSAT applied its methodology to carry out a rapid integration of all available sources. The positive cooperation among all actors involved helped speed up production and avoid duplications. UNOSAT and JRC have maintained very close consultation during the process. Other actors lent essential support as well, from swisstopo of Switzerland, to Google, to the US OFDA.

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