In the lead up to the first ever #MapLesotho mapathon on the 25th of July Colin Broderick started to engage with Medecins Sans Frontiers on twitter. In particular Pete Masters, creator of the excellent Missing Maps project (as seen here), offered to hold a large Mapathon in London, albeit it four days later on the 29th of July.
The London Mapathon was held at Medecins Sand Frontiers offices in London, where Pete had the headache of squeezing 60 mappers into a small mumber of rooms available. The effects were dramatic, with the Urban #MapLesotho task rising about 4% further in just three hours. With the help of the mappers from the other venues on the 25th who were still glued to their tasks activity in Lesotho continued for about another five days.
Pete was very happy to take on Lesotho as a task in parallel to the Ebola-inspired mapping of parts of West Africa. While there was no pressing humanitarian situation in Lesotho, the kingdom is vulnerable to the effects of more extreme climactic events, and in the past has suffered the effects of lowering food security. And on a day to day basis aid agencies and NGOs lack an up to date map of the areas they are trying to understand for the purposes of child health and vaccination drives. Many of the organisations providing assistance have started to turn to openstreetmap as the one way in which their on-the-ground knowledge, and logistical needs can be shared between themselves.
Contact with Pete and MSF serves as a reminder of the multiple purposes to which maps have to be put, and the often stark consequences for people who suffer disasters when maps aren’t readily available.