As part of its humanitarian relief and coordination efforts, UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT) introduced the GeoTag-X platform: a pilot project designed to research potentially novel, viable means of data collection, while raising awareness to the rather harsh conditions of people caught up in disaster situations. During disasters, there is a massive surge of time-sensitive information that needs to be sifted through and having a system that quickly examines and produces pertinent data sets from this information could greatly aid humanitarian response efforts. GeoTag-X aims to open the analysis of this information to a wide audience of participants with an interest in humanitarian relief efforts, hoping to minimise the time it takes to find, analyse and provide data with real value.
Since June 2014, when the surge in violence caused a fresh wave of mass internal displacement across Iraq, REACH — a joint initiative of two non-government organisations, ACTED and IMPACT; and UNOSAT — has been collecting and analysing primary data on displacement trends, needs and intentions of displaced families in order to inform the humanitarian response. Iraq was already home to an estimated 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) prior to the current crisis, as well as over 200,000 refugees from Syria. In August 2014, following the fall of Mosul, the UN declared the situation a level 3 crisis, the most severe type of humanitarian emergency.
Data collected by REACH includes the mapping of key facilities and evaluating the functioning of basic services within the sites. The information is recorded in camp profiles, such as for Mamilian, Arbat and Garmawa, which provide an overview of conditions in the camp, highlight key gaps in the response, and have already been used to successfully advocate for improved conditions.
Mapping displacement in Iraq © REACH Initiative.
REACH has been conducting regular mapping of displacement sites, which currently house an estimated 226,000 displaced persons in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq alone. While 149,000 of these individuals are staying in formal camps, a further 77,000 live in informal settlements, staying in tents, makeshift shelters or unfinished buildings. Lacking the financial resources to rent accommodation in the host community, and often without the support from friends or family, displaced families in camps and informal sites represent a particularly vulnerable group.
Mass displacement in Iraq © REACH Initiative.
The Emergency Shelter Assessment project on the GeoTag-X platform allows volunteers to evaluate the suitability of emergency shelters in camps and informal settlements. Its aim is twofold: first to see whether the GeoTag-X platform can provide reliable responses to these assessment questions, and second to raise awareness of the difficult situation of those affected by disasters and the work undertaken to help them. The project is comprised of a set of simple questions about photographs taken by REACH data collection teams in Iraq and Jordan. These observation-based questions — an important component of humanitarian assessment — are used to understand people’s needs and vulnerabilities, and are based on global indicators used by shelter actors in an humanitarian response. Data collected from needs-assessments like this help local populations, governments and humanitarian actors plan an emergency response for the benefits of the displaced population.
By Megan Passey and Jeremy Othieno