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News — 08 September, 2010

Fourth deploy of the HOT to Haiti: camp mapping project with IOM

It has been one week since Kate and I came back from Haiti where HOT deployed to grow OSM capacities within the Communication Unit of the International Organization of Migrations (IOM-CU) in support of its community information kiosk project. This project aims at rolling out community information kiosks in more than 200 camps by the end of December. This network of kiosks will allow for two ways communication between international and national relief and reconstruction workers and affected populations. Responders will use these kiosks to disseminate key messages (including mapping products) to affected persons living in the camps which in return can propagate their own messages back to responders. Maps of the camps featuring key information for both responders and inhabitants are one of the information items that will be published as hardcopy through this kiosks network. This cartography will result from community mapping scheme lead by the IOM-CU kiosk mapping unit and its partners powered with tailored data collection and cartographic materials assembled by HOT.

Surprisingly, eight months after the quake, little of the reality of these hundreds of sites bearing more than 1 million of Haitians has been mapped besides their location. Not that the life of the camps has been left undocumented, it's rather the contrary but this information is aggregated and visualized at the level of the camp. This makes the camps look like empty spots on the map when they have been and are likely to remain a new strata of the Haitian urban landscape which need to be mapped in relation with its neighborhoods. This also creates a bias in their representation which is mostly seen through the categories of the responders providing a portrait of its inhabitants as passive victims leaving out of sight the spatial signature of their individual or collective coping capacities. This is for these reasons and for the strong potential in mobilizing community actors around bottom-up base line mapping that the IOM kiosk mapping project caught our interest.

The activities we undertook during this mission proceeded along two parallel plans: organizing the mappers and setting up the technical infrastructure for this mapping to happen.

Leveraging on the legacy of our past missions we worked hard to establish a functional mapping unit within the Communication Unit of IOM. We constituted a group of mappers gathering the individuals and groups from the Haitian civil society trained in precedent missions of the HOT. This way, we will have people from the communities mapping for the communities and with the communities. Jean and Antoine, both in their last year at the French Naval Military Academy and enrolled in an internship program with HOT and IOM completed this team as junior GIS/ cartography experts. This unit was expected to be active

  • surveying humanitarian and base line features in camps with partners from the government (DPC, DINEPA), the United Nations, communities (Forum Communautaire of Cite Soleil) and camp resident committees.
  • uploading and editing surveyed information in the OpenStreetMap platform
  • deriving mapping products
  • delivering training to IOM-CU partners
  • performing ad hoc surveying work based on capacities

Together we developed a surveying and mapping package suitable for infra camp mapping. Semantics was generated by confronting top down data models like the survey framework of the Camps Coordination Management Cluster (CCCM) lead by IOM (Displacement Tracking Matrix - DTM) and the Humanitarian Data Model (HDM) with bottom up empirical findings resulting from our field surveys in camps and group discussions to identify the map features relevant for this exercise. This formed our tagging scheme on which were built questionnaires for field data capture and presets for data entry in JOSM. The field work underneath this data modeling served as well to make emerging the most efficient processes for surveying in camps on which the unit would base its future operational practices. It's important to highlight how facilitating our strong anchorage within grassroot communities has been in this process. It helped out in ensuring smooth access to camps in difficult areas making it unnecessary to operate under peace keepers escorts.  Also in ensuring the adhesion from camp resident committees to the OSM approach at large and the specifics of surveying and tagging discussion. Any camp survey ended up more or less on spontaneous mini mapping parties. This is encouraging for the next phases of this project which plans to leverage more strongly on communities from the camps and the neighborhoods to use OSM for base mapping. Through our connections in the UN Log Base, we ultimately secured for this mapping unit a dedicated office space at the Joint Operating Task Centre (JOTC) of the MINUSTAH for the first 3 months of the project. We were also active securing GPS units to the IOM kiosk mapping project through direct procurement (HOT and UNICEF-Watsan), loans (CNIGS, WFP and UNICEF-Heatlh). This, the HOT hardware kit stationed in Port Au Prince as well as the hardware purchased by HOT for this mission would ensure the operations of this mapping unit in the early stage of this project.

The group has been active training on the use of this camp mapping package a wide range of partners to increase its capacities and be able to scale up its efforts if hardware and workspace would be provided at a later stage through this project. We reached out successfully to partners from IOM (staffers from other GIS groups, field workers, community mobilizers), UNOPS and Direction de la Protection Civile, communities (Forum Communautaire of Cite Soleil, individuals from urban and rural areas of Cite Soleil and from some camps), development projects (WINNER project and its partners in the mairies). This happened through ad hoc training to individuals or formal sessions accommodating from 6 to 60 persons and we focused our efforts on regular sessions with the individuals from the communities with whom the mapping unit was likely to collaborate on a regular basis. We also made sure to pass this camp surveying and mapping package to the mappers already hired by IOM in other GIS units. These efforts resulted into the creation of a network of partners with whom the unit already started to cooperate surveying and editing in OpenStreetMap.

By tying to field surveys, the setting up of this mapping unit and the forging of its network of partners through real surveying and editing work, the team was successful in covering most of the camps defined prioritary by IOM in Cite Soleil as well as running data collection in camp Corail and other high risk prone camps in Petionville.

In parallel, some tech work was invested to furnish this mapping unit with the right infrastructure:

  • a specific instance of MapOSMatics hosted on a server provided through the CrisisCommons network was set up to allow for automated rendering of humanitarian and base line camp map features.
  • all laptops of the units were set up with the OS Geo stack and the latest versions of the QGIS plugin and python script written by Dane Springmeyer to allow retrieval of any OSM tags and values into handy GIS format in a smooth manner.

Kate and I left Haiti with the feeling that the IOM kiosk mapping project provides another bridgehead for the OSM project and could work as an incubator for the local OSM community. The potential for synergies is high with groups already trained in OSM throughout the whole country or already mapping the OSM way (like the group of mappers active within the DTM team of IOM): joint survey and training programs were initiated in Port Au Prince and in Jacmel and are expected to develop and grow throughout the whole country. This constitutes a follow up of the first three missions of the HOT. What appears most promising is to witness the ever strong social network dynamic at work throughout these days and the ability of mapping ala OSM to create professional and personal links. All Haitian mappers involved in these activities conveyed in LogBase for a vivid and well participated afternoon dedicated to structuring the OSM community in Haiti so that it can best support the growth of the project in Haiti.