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Bridging Data Gaps: Mapping Refugee Contexts in East Africa

HOT Project

Uganda Tanzania


East Africa (and Uganda specifically) continues to be the center of one of the world’s largest and fastest growing refugee crises. Uganda’s progressive open-door policy alone has led to an influx of approximately 1.4 million refugees into the country. High mobility of refugees means distribution and size of refugee settlements changes constantly and the need for standardized accessible information to make timely informed decisions about where services need to be planned and built becomes more crucial than ever.

Since 2015, HOT has worked to address these challenges in Uganda; highly dynamic situations require creative approaches to capture population, infrastructure and services data and such information must be kept updated and publicly available for use by other actors in order to be useful. Through the use of open-source technical tools combined with a community-based methodology, HOT has been able to address the critical data gap in these contexts by increasing real-time comprehensive data production on infrastructure and services where refugees and host communities reside. To ensure that government and organizations involved in the refugee response know that, first, this data exists and, second, how to effectively use it, HOT has worked extensively to support and train actors on how to systematically incorporate citizen-generated data into their programs to address and fill existing gaps.

With 1,500,000 buildings and 36,000 km of roads digitized using satellite imagery and more than 4000 facilities and services mapped across refugee communities and hosting districts for the first time, this project has generated base layer maps that can now be used to guide government agencies and organizations in the design and implementation of interventions to respond to the refugee crisis in East Africa. Our field activities spanned 52 sub-counties and 33 refugee zones and engaged more than 550 refugee and host community members to map the services and facilities within these areas. Through our trainings with more than 20 partner organizations and government agencies, these beneficiaries learned to use a multitude of technical tools to leverage the use and value of the open data generated through our field mapping activities. These datasets are now available through OpenStreetMap, and exports via platforms such as the Humanitarian Data Exchange. Trainings have been designed for and provided to 23 partner organizations across Uganda and in Tanzania.