Awareness and outreach activities at the international and regional level serve to establish a critical mass of experts and practitioners from both the space applications- and disaster management communities. Based on awareness campaigns, outreach workshops and other related activities, UN-SPIDER offers Technical Advisory Support (TAS) at the national level. On request of the respective government, a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM) with an international team of experts is conducted, to identify capacity building needs and to lay the ground for establishing a subsequent programme of action.
Below is an overview of completed UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Missions.
Disaster management agencies in West Africa have to adapt to an increasing number of natural disasters caused by floods and drought. The effects of global climate change will most probably aggravate this situation. Disasters triggered by certain environmental conditions, such as locust plagues, also contribute to endangering the food security of the local population. In addition, vector borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including malaria, meningitis, and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and put a heavy burden on national health systems.
In June 2008, the Government of Burkina Faso requested a UN-SPIDER technical advisory mission to assess the existing use of space-based technology and information for disaster management and emergency response in Burkina Faso. Specifically, the mission was requested to identify potential areas where space-based technology and information could play a greater role, and propose recommendations how to improve Burkina Faso's access to and use of space-based technology and information.
Following a preparatory meeting at the end of August 2008 in Ouagadougou, held with the Permanent Secretariat of the Conseil National d’Evironnement et Développement Durable (SP/CONEDD), which is the governmental focal point for the mission, and other relevant institutions to discuss the mission objective and programme a team of five experts from Algeria, France, UNOCHA, and UN-SPIDER was fielded to Burkina Faso from 17 to 21 November 2008. A total of 15 institutions were interviewed by the mission team, including ten governmental institutions, four United Nations organizations (UNDP, UNOCHA, WFP, WHO), and one bilateral institution (FEWS NET).
The mission objective was to assess the existing use of space-based technology and information for disaster management and emergency response in Burkina Faso, identify potential areas where space-based technology and information could play a greater role, and propose recommendations on how to improve Burkina Faso's access to and use of space-based technology and information. The mission team is confident to have gained, despite the short time available for the mission activities, sufficient insight into the disaster management situation and the use of space-based technology in the country to come to the conclusions and recommendations presented below. The mission benefited from excellent support of the local counterpart SP/CONEDD. However, time was a serious constraint. A large number of institutions at different levels play a role in disaster management in any country, and one week of mission time was not enough to visit all of them. The large number of institutions to be visited made it necessary to limit visits to one to two hours of discussion with managers and experts. An on-site assessment/inspection of the facilities (hardware, software) was not possible.
The mission concentrated on governmental institutions and UN organisations active in the country. A total of 15 institutions were interviewed by the mission team, including ten governmental institutions, four United Nations organizations (UNDP, UNOCHA, WFP, WHO), and one bilateral institution (FEWS NET). A visit at the Inter-governmental Committee for the Fight Against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), was planned but could not be conducted due to time-constraints. Several organisations and institutions were not interviewed but they will be considered in follow-up activities and actions, including the Red Cross Society in Burkina Faso, and the Department of Hydrology.
The vulnerability of West African countries such as Burkina Faso is likely to increase as demand on natural resources continue to rise in association with a rapidly growing population. Global climate change and its impact on the environment will contribute to aggravating this situation. Climate projections for the region indicate increasing weather extremes. The disaster management agencies in the region have to adapt to the increasing number of natural disasters, ranging between the extremes of drought and flood. Secondary impacts triggered by environmental conditions, such as locust plagues, additionally deteriorate the living conditions and food security of the local population. Especially in climate sensitive regions, where rain-fed and irrigated agriculture is the main source of food security and income, concerns about the variability in rainfall, its temporal and spatial distribution, must be taken very seriously. This seems to be particularly true of West Africa where e.g. the causes of the great Sahelian drought of the early 1970s and 1980s bear evidence of the regions proneness to this particular hazard1. The most pronounced dry years were 1973, 1984, 1991,1994, 1998, and 2004. Fig. 1: West/Central Sahel Rainfall 1950-2004 (as standardized deviations from base period: 1950-1990) Source: IMPETUS Atlas 2007 Droughts and floods – both weather extremes have serious impact on the natural vegetation as well as on agriculture and livestock rearing: substantial losses in yield and cattle (20 – 30 %) resulting in food insecurity, population migration, and lowering of the groundwater table. Especially during the last two decades the number of inundations increased within the Sahel area. In Burkina Faso the following floods have been observed:
|Year||No. of affected provinces||Number of victims||Economic loss (US$)|
Another important aspect within Burkina Faso is the appearance of vector borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including malaria, meningitis, and cholera, which cause massive disruption to societies and overburden national health systems. Whereas malaria has to be regarded as a more or less permanently existing disease within the region the occurrence of meningitis has a seasonal character and is obviously related to climatic conditions and the influence of the so-called ‘harmattan’, a very dry wind blowing to the Sahelian region from NE (central Sahara). Especially during the dry season from November to March the weather conditions are characterized by high daytime temperatures (33 to >40 °C), rather cool nights (10 to 15 °C), and occasionally very low relative humidity (<10%). The most devastating epidemics of meningitis were recorded in 1996 and 1997 when altogether more than 42,000 persons were affected with about 4,000 cases of death. Cholera, on the other hand, is an epidemic disease which is related to the rainy season. Due to the South-North motion of the sun during the first half of each year the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) moves from its position near the equator pole-ward to higher latitudes on the northern hemisphere. In consequence, from April/May to October the whole area of West Africa is getting under the influence of the moisture-laden south-west monsoon. This humid air stream blowing from the Gulf of Guinea is responsible for about 90% of the annual rainfall. In the case of regional floods, the impact of cholera is aggravated by the inundation of sanitary facilities within villages and cities. Finally, the impact of humanitarian crisis has to be mentioned. As one major incident the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire in 2002 caused a population movement due to socio-political turmoil. In order to help Burkinabe return to their country, on 19 November 2002 the Government launched the ‘Operation Bayiri’ (return to the homeland). This initiative was also supported by various contributions from individuals, private companies, international institutions and NGOs with donations of medicines, food, clothes, etc, as well as money. According to official numbers from the Government in Burkina Faso altogether 366,000 persons returned to their home country. This crisis also seriously affected the economy of Burkina Faso, especially the cotton sector, as the border between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire was closed in 2002, effectively cutting off cotton exporters from their main port of export Abidjan.
During the response phase the UN-SPIDER team directly supports disaster-stricken countries by ensuring access to the “International Charter Space and Major Disasters” and other existing international mechanisms or opportunities. To illustrate the extent of the support being routinely provided by UN-SPIDER the March 2008 floods in Namibia is detailed.
A severe flood in the central northern regions of Namibia, which started at the end of January, reached its peak around mid-March. The Namibian government declared a state of emergency on 5 March. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), southern Angola and northern Namibia were expected to receive heavy rains over the following days. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), asked for international support regarding satellite images and the involvement of an emergency mechanism to receive these images on a priority bass, of higher resolution and not obscured by cloud cover.
On 7 March the responsible officer was contacted by a UN-SPIDER expert via telephone and he was informed about the possibilities of activating the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" with the support of a UN agency located in Namibia. Furthermore, the officer from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry was informed about further potential data sources such as ALOS data from JAXA, the Dartmouth Laboratory with its global flood assessments, the Satellite Applications Centre in South Africa with its receiving station and the Center for satellite based Crisis Information (DLR/ZKI) including the access to radar images from the TerraSAR-X satellite.
During the subsequent discussions it became clear that due to the type of flooding, the vegetation cover, soil and weather conditions as further influencing parameters high resolution radar images were the favourable base. A request to provide satellite imagery for northern and north-eastern regions of Namibia came to UNOOSA from the country office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia. Subsequently, on 14 March, 2008, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) triggered the International Charter to help Namibia in its combat against the crucial impacts of the floods and the outbreak of cholera.
UN-SPIDER provided support and followed-up closely with both UNDP and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry of Namibia, helping the country to take full advantage of what the international community was providing. Two officials of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry also had the opportunity to participate in the Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop: "Disaster Management and Space Technology - Bridging the Gap" in Bonn, Germany, 13 to 15 October 2008 providing a feed-back on the lessons learned.
In addition to the Charter activation UN-SPIDER is involved in a range of activities to provide further supplemental information, data and imagery to the affected countries in the region. UN-SPIDER is actively working in the GEOSS Architecture Implementation Pilot projects context, co-leading some initiatives to better bridge between the available technical expertize and resources and the needs of the users in the field and at UN or national level. Additionally, UN-SPIDER is also cooperating with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Information Systems and Service (WGISS) experts in better using their capabilities and available space technologies and applications for disaster managment purposes. Based on these activities and contacts a community came together with the goal not only to support Namibia during the relief situation but to implement a pilot project that also supports in the aftermath of the floods.
Pilot project on integrated flood management and water related vector borne disease modeling
The main project idea is to combine high resolution satellite imagery with hydrologic ground data and modelling in order to derive useful flood forecasting tools for the next flood season in the sense of a transboundary flood management system for local decision makers.
The second pillar of the project is to explore possibilities of water related vector borne disease modelling. A strong collaboration with already existing networks, e.g. employed by WHO, is absolutely necessary. Moreover, the second focus should be extremely user-oriented, thus recommendations from the respective institutions in Namibia such as the Ministry of Health and Social Sciences are prerequisite in order to successfully integrate any approach/result of this project into the National Health Emergency Prepardness and Response Plan (NHEPRP).
UN-SPIDER is co-leading the coordination of this project together with scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and from the NOAA-Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (NOAA-CREST) and in close collaboration with responsible institutions in Namibia. UN-SPIDER especially fosters the dialogue at the national level and with other UN agencies, such as UNDP, UNOCHA, UNISDR, WMO and WHO which are engaged in this area. As a general agreement, the mutual effort of this project is intended to produce valuable and tangible results that will be used in Namibia and surrounding countries such as Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. Bringing together the international community and expertise is of increasing importance since the disaster management agencies in Southern Africa have to adapt to a rapidly growing number of natural disasters caused by floods and droughts. The effects of global climate change will most probably aggravate this situation. In addition, vector borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including malaria, meningitis, and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and put a heavy burden on national health systems.
Institutions involved in disaster risk reduction and emergency response
Although several institutions play a role in disaster management in Togo, four institutions remain at the apex coordination level. These are the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Defense.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources (MERF)
MERF has been trusted with the responsibility for disaster reduction in Togo since October 2006. The Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources hosts the DRR platform and nominated the Focal Point to ISDR for the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for action. Following are mandates of the Ministries:
The role of the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources (MEFR) in the field of Disaster Reduction is regulated by law No. 2008-005 (30 May 2009), which aimed at setting a framework for the Environment, and which declares MEFR responsible for disaster reduction in Togo. Along these lines, it ensures:
Activities of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR platform activities in Togo). The Togo platform was established in April 2007. The main activities of the platform are:
Ministry for Civil Defense
The Ministry for Civil Defense manages the ORSEC Plan (Plan d’Organisation des Secours), the plan to respond to any emergency situation. Other activities are:
Ministry of Social Affairs
The Ministry of Social Affairs created the Department for Coordination and the Department for Management during the flood situation in December 2008. Following are initiatives of the department
Ministry of Security and Civil Protection
The Ministry of Security and civil protection established the Department of Civil Protection in 2007. The department understands the importance of spatial technologies and however it lacks the mechanism to get reliable information to mobilise resource which hampers their activities. Key functions are:
Besides these four main players, there are several other departments contributing to disaster management.
National Meteorological Department
The National Meteorological Service in Togo, declared as Direction Générale de la Météorologie Nationale (DGMN) has the classical function of providing meteorological information and weather forecasts for Togo. DGMN is responsible for the national station network comprising 9 synoptic stations, 19 climatological stations and about 200 precipitation points. The instrumentation of the stations is rather oldfashioned and needs to be updated. The DGMN focuses on 3 main components, namely agro-meteorology, climatology and research. It receives MSG satellite images every 15 minutes, however, the institute has not the capacity or infrastructure neither to adequately analyse nor to store these data and to deliver its mandatory services.
University of Lome
The University of Lome regularly performs research activities that contributes to the knowledge base for disaster management. The university has several research projects on monitoring coastal processes and erosion activities. Some technical capacity regarding the use of space-based technology and satellite image processing was identified at the university. Satellite image processing is mainly based on the use of medium and low resolution images such as LANDSAT (and partly ENVISAT). Regarding geospatial analysis, GIS is applied for land cover/land use change analysis, digital elevation models, and risk mapping especially along the coastal area. There is also an ongoing effort to establish a larger data center that might play a major role within the development of a national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI).
The equipment of the national fire brigade located in Lome is currently at a state that seriously needs to be improved and modernised. Although the department is lead by a very experienced and engaged head who is supported by well-trained team members, there are crucial gaps especially in the field of using modern GPS and satellite-based communication technology. The technology was put in place by international humanitarian agencies, however, nobody trained the staff to use the respective technical devices. At this point the mission team suggested an introductory training course led by the regional partners from RECTAS.
Department of Cartography and Cadastre Department of Cartography and Cadastre (Direction Générale du Cadastre et de la Cartographie) within the
“Ministère de l’Urbanisme et de l’Habitat” is strategically placed as it is custodian of crucial geographical information such as topographic maps and maintain archives of aerial photographs. Department of Cartography and Cadastre is composed of 3 engineers and 9 technicians. It has no GIS equipment, hence the cartographic work is currently held by hand (no electronic data available). It needs to be modernised and staff to be trained which should be the case through the SIGIT project. It has logically been identified to host the DIGIT project until a new independent structure such as a Cartographic National Institute is established.