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Disaster Response: Cyclone Idai

HOT Program

Mozambique Zimbabwe Malawi


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Cyclone Idai caused widespread damage across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. HOT and partners have been busy creating a basemap critical for first responders and aid organizations providing relief efforts in the region.

Almost a month after the Cyclone Idai disaster, humanitarian agencies on the ground are still using information from HOT to provide life-saving aid to people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Over five million people across the three countries are affected by the deadly Cyclone that landed in mid-March, in what has been termed as one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere. Contaminated water supply systems and stagnant water following the cyclone, later caused a devastating Cholera outbreak.

How has HOT helped? Following requests from the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF), HOT activated to assist humanitarian agencies with their response to the impact caused by the cyclone. We mobilized over 5,723 mappers from across the globe to respond to their requests to map the most severely affected locations. Our community added over 25,700 square km to the map, information that both organisations used to plan their humanitarian response.

“Maps are becoming so ubiquitous, people expect there to be a map now. It’s an essential part of the response,” said Lauren Bateman, IFRC Information Coordinator for the Cyclone Idai response, who has been using data collected by the HOT community. “My colleague on the ground is using the maps we’re sending them as a focal point for conversations and planning meeting.”

“[Once the flooding started, we] overlaid OSM building data onto the flood extent, so we could get a ballpark figure of how many people were affected, displaced, and how many homes were impacted by the flooding. Later on in the response, we had requests to identify where certain buildings were located, such as health centres or hospitals for our health team.”

“We also went up in a helicopter [to carry out an aerial assessment] and identify the areas that were more affected, then sent requests to the OSM community to focus on mapping the more impacted areas, to get a detailed sense of where roads and buildings are, so our team can navigate, drive and access areas.”

Get involved!

For mappers:

  • We need more mappers and every little bit helps. Start mapping by going to the HOT Tasking Manager.

  • Information is available at the Cyclone Idai Wikipage.

  • For more information on how to map, visit: LearnOSM.

  • Expert mappers: We need to put good quality maps into the hands of frontline responders, so we need validators! Ask the project manager for more information.

For first responders:

  • A full list of ongoing and completed projects can be found on our activation wiki page.

  • Get daily updates of roads and buildings on HDX for Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

  • Quickly start using our mapping data by downloading on your phone.

  • Create custom extracts for offline navigation with the HOT Export Tool.

  • HOT offers free short trainings on how to work with, update or request OpenStreetMap data, and support to integrate other data sources agencies may have or be planning to collect. Contact info[at] for details.

“OSM is not only the very foundation of all of our maps but by asking HOT to add to those base maps, we can also use it to identify and map severely affected communities,” said Lauren. “It’s hard to overstate that how useful HOT is for providing the starting point for us. We’re all big fans!”

We would like to thank the H2H Fund, supported by DFID, for the funding received for this activation.

Recent news from Disaster Response: Cyclone Idai (View all news)

Maps in action: How maps help the aid response for Cyclone Idai

How do humanitarians use the data and maps provided by HOT and OpenStreetMap? Lauren Bateman, Remote Coordinator for Information Management Team for Cyclone Idai Response, American Red Cross, talks about how the IFRC used the maps on the ground during Cyclone Idai.

Alex Glynn — 29 April, 2019

Cyclone Idai: how can you help by mapping?

Volunteers, we need your help! Over the past few weeks, Cyclone Idai has caused widespread destruction across Mozambique and Zimbabwe, destroying homes and infrastructure. The situation on the ground is constantly changing and the humanitarian teams responding need up-to-date information at their fingertips. We need your help to update maps of the areas affected by the Cyclone. This is a critical time in the lives of millions of people and you can help humanitarian responders provide lifesaving aid.

Rebecca Firth — 1 April, 2019