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News — 27 June, 2010

Haiti mission 3 - Training and Mapping Party in Gonaïves

The first actual mapping party of this mission was scheduled for 25-27 June in this town of Northern Haiti. In OpenStreetMap a mapping party is a group of people getting together to map an area. Mapping parties happen for silly reasons, such as to map a zoo and more serious such as an area has poor mapping coverage. Tomorrow's mapping party is because Gonaïves has poor map coverage and it is an opportunity for people to use their newly acquired surveying and editing skills.

Gonaïves was not damaged by the earthquake, but its vulnerability to hurricanes was the primary reason H.O.T. felt there was a need to stop here on this mission. In 2004 the town was devastated by Hurricane Jeanne and every building in the city was damaged. Over 2,000 people in Gonaives died from Hurricane Jeanne and 250,000 in the city were left homeless. In 2008 it was hit by another hurricane which also greatly damaged the city were 456 people died and another 48,000 needed shelter. (source Wikipedia article on Gonaïves) This vulnerability makes it essential to have a decent map of the area. Not only is this useful in response, but can also assist in identification of risk. A good basemap is a vital tool in disaster response. It allows navigation to those needing rescue, assists in coordination of logistics and gives a common base for planning other aid. Currently there is basic road coverage available for Gonaïves in OpenStreetMap. Most of the coverage comes from imagery of the area after the earthquake. Since it wasn't damaged by the earthquake not as much of the international OSM communities' focus was here compared to other areas in Haiti.

This is the reason why IOM supported this trip by making possible for a team of 10 to reach the town and organize training and surveying work for large audience which has been gathered for this purpose in their sub-office. All the actors engaged in those 2 days were grateful to the coordination, preparation and support work done by Frederic Moine in Port Au Prince and Drew Kutschenreuter in Gonaives.

On 25-June, members of OpenStreetMap Haiti (Forum Communautaire of Cite Soleil (FOCS), individuals from IOM, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and community members from Gonaïves travelled in a convoy (a mini bus and a pick up) to improve upon the vital basemap of the area. The Gonaives experience started off 25-June afternoon with a training to Drew's Haitian co-workers (mostly civil engineers) in the large villa IOM is using as its operational base. 10 to 20 showed off during this session and joined the follow-up activities scheduled for the mornings of 26 and 27-June. The 26-June was  the big day in Gonaives: the OSM training stack got passed to 30 individuals from local organizations, local communities, MINUSTAH, WFP, Ministry of Environment and 2 lieutenants of the Argentinian battalion stationed in the town. The schedule of the sessions allows for the 2 groups of 15 to run a mini mapping party in the surrounding of the IOM Office in compliment of their training on surveying before converging on the exercises centered on editing techniques on JOSM. In front of the enthusiasm showed by this audience a follow-up session was organized the 27-June morning and its organization and animation left entirely in the hands of Senatus (FOCS), Jonas, Presler and Steeve (our three local facilitators from Gonaives), Kate and myself from HOT and Fred from IOM being there as support.

To wrap up these days, the attendance was huge as well as the interest, the talent of IOM and FOCS and Gonaives facilitators is certain and thanks to Drew who accepted to offer office space to OSM Gonaives and host a HOT hardware kit comprising laptop/ GPS units and printers, one can think that mapping in Gonaives will continue after the mission. This will result into a more accurate baselines and a community skilled with surveying and editing and agile with humanitarian data models connected to some of the international organizations working in the town. This can only result in an increased readiness to respond in case of a cyclone was to hit the town in the coming months. Check back here for updates on how much the map is improved or see for yourself at http://www.openstreetmap.org.

Kate and Nicolas for HOT