2014 West Africa Ebola Outbreak Response

Posted by:
pierre.beland
Date posted:
Mar, 31 2014
Related Project:

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team was asked to coordinate for the OpenStreetMap contributors to support the humanitarians by mapping in detail various towns where they operate.  CartONG does the GIS support for MSF-CH for this operation. They have bought Pleiades imagery for 3 towns that we mapped at the beginning. We were also able to anticipate the needs of the humanitarians and to start mapping for 3 other towns where the Bing Imagery was available.  The reactivity of the OpenStreetMap community was awesome with 244 contributors and almost a million objects edited in 5 days.

VISOV, a group of international volunteers helps us by monitoring the media news about this event. This Map summarizes the reports they produce.

VISOV Ebola Follow-up Map

As the Ebola Outbreak is expanding in neighboring countries, humanitarians will need various kind of geographic information. We started this activation in response to a request from CartONG and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). MSF-CH was already operating in the area and was asked to respond to this humanitarian emergency for MSF.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also started to deploy last week. The Red Cross Societies from the US and UK are supporting the GIS needs of the ground teams.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO)  Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever in Guinea, Situation report, friday 27 March 2014 list several towns of interest for mapping for this epidemic situation and response.  Since the beginning of the outbreak, most of the cases have been reported in three districts in south east Guinea (Guekedou, Macenta, and Kissidougou districts). There are now cases confirmed in the capital Conakry. The total number of suspected and confirmed cases in the on-going EHF outbreak in Guinea has increased to over a 100.

WHO has alerted countries bordering Guinea about the outbreak and to heighten surveillance for illness consistent with a viral haemorrhagic fever, especially along land borders. Both Sierra Leone and Liberia have reported suspected cases and deaths consistent with EHF to WHO among people who had travelled to Guinea before symptoms onset.  Given that the incubation period is up to 20 days, the situation may change rapidly. We are following this and will add new Mapping jobs when necessary.  We plan to start mapping in the Lofa region of Liberia wich borders the south of the most affected zone of Guinea.

WHO map of Affected Districts


Mapping Effort

As usual for these operations, the HOT Task Manager is used to coordinate the mapping effort for this activation. From the Task Manager a List of Jobs for the Ebola Outbreak, OSM contributors are invited to select a task and participate in support of the humanitarians.  A job will be added soon for Mamou. We also expect to add tasks for neighboring countries where confirmed cases have been reported.

The OSM contributors are supporting us in various ways other than mapping. Some are running scripts to update OpenStreetMap data (GPS, Android OSMAnd and other formats), processing Imagery or looking for other Imagery to support us. Other OpenStreetMap services offered are described in the wiki page for the 2014 West Africa Ebola Response.

ReliefWeb is publishing the MSF Base map of Guéckédou produced by the OpenStreetMap community.


The response of the OSM contributors has been fantastic. Various OSM african communities have organized Mapping parties to support this action. Others joined in through our Mumble Text / Voice discussion tool to discuss and coordinate.

Some are supporting Andrew Buck with his Project to estimate the population of villages using the surface of the landuse polygons. If there are university groups interested in collaborating for this, they are welcome to contribute. In the rural areas where no Bing Imagery is available, we use Landsat Imagery prepared by Jean-Guilhem Cailton to identify the landuse areas. This is done using two different bands of the Landsat imagery. We ask the contributors to circle the residential areas and create a landuse area polygon. 

The highway network is also and important aspect of the Base map. The Landsat imagery can be used when the Bing imagery is not available and the support of experienced mappers for tracing roads would be welcome.

Cumulative statistics from March 25 to March 30 shows significant effort from the OSM community : 244 OSM contributors,  888,600 objects, 92,900 buildings and 3,300 landuse area polygons.

Thanks again to all the contributors.

Coordinators of this activation for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
Pierre Béland
Andrew Buck
Mamadou NDong