Afghanistan - Expert Mission

Afghanistan is a country exposed to earthquakes, floods, droughts, mass movements and other hazards. Recent droughts in the years 2000, 2006, and 2011 have impacted millions of Afghans. Earthquakes have also caused fatalities, injuries and losses of various kinds. On 22 June 2009, UN-SPIDER was invited to a briefing among United Nations agencies in Kabul to discuss how best to make use of spatial data/mapping tools to support disaster-risk reduction and emergency response activities in Afghanistan.


Mon, 22/06/2009

Host Institution: 

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Mission Expert: 

Shirish Ravan, UN-SPIDER

Mission Profile: 

The mission was conducted via an inter-agency meeting with representatives of United Nations agencies in Afghanistan that contribute to disaster-risk management and emergency response efforts in this country.

Mission Outcome: 

The mission allowed UN agencies working under the umbrella of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to become aware of UN-SPIDER, its mission, and the type of technical advisory support that it can provide to countries such as Afghanistan. The important role of remote sensing in humanitarian response and planning was underlined through examples provided by OCHA concerning recent floods that impacted this country, including the most recent one in May 2009, where UN-SPIDER was requested to provide technical support. UN-SPIDER pledged additional technical expertise to support both the Government and the United Nations Country Team in Afghanistan to ensure this forum is closely linked to available resources; and encouraged the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority to establish a working group as a way to promote the sharing of information as a way to improve efforts targeting disaster-risk reduction and emergency response.

Ecuador - Technical Advisory Mission

Ecuador is exposed to a variety of geologic and hydro-meteorological hazards, including many active volcanoes. In addition, it is exposed to climatic events such as El Niño and La Niña. At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Integration (MRECI), UN-SPIDER conducted a Technical Advisory Mission to Ecuador. The mission aimed to identify strengths and weaknesses regarding the access to and subsequent use of space-based information in activities carried out in all phases of the disaster cycle.


Sat, 03/10/2009 to Thu, 08/10/2009

Host Institution: 

National Secretariat for Risk Management (SNGR) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Integration of Ecuador (MRECI)

Mission Team: 

The mission was led by two experts from UN-SPIDER who were accompanied by one expert from the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil (INPE) and one expert from the National Commission for Space Activities of Argentina (CONAE).

Mission Profile: 

The mission included visits to 12 Government agencies and representatives of agencies of the United Nations in Ecuador. It benefited from the fact that UN-SPIDER conducted its regional workshop for Latin America and the Caribbean a week before the mission took place, which allowed Ecuadorian agencies to showcase how they were using space-based information for a variety of purposes targeting all phases of the disaster cycle.

Mission Findings: 

Ecuador is fairly well advanced in the use of information for a variety of purposes. In addition, the government has recognized the need to target disaster-risk management at the highest political level.

The Government has also recognized the need to highlight the profile of risk management by transforming the Technical Secretariat for Risk Management into the National Secretariat for Risk Management, hierarchically at the level of a Ministry;

Synergies among many international agencies under the umbrella of the National Secretariat for Risk Management are allowing for a more efficient coordination of activities targeting all phases of the disaster management cycle.

The National Secretariat for Planning (SENPLADES) has established the National System for Territorial Information, which is promoting the establishment of standardized Spatial Database Infrastructures to ensure compatibility and easy exchange of information among agencies. In this context, SENPLADES has established the National Geo-informatics Council (CONAGE) as an inter-institutional body to administer the National Geospatial Database Infrastructure. SENPLADES is also channeling financial resources to many agencies to assist them in upgrading quality standards in the acquisition, processing, and dissemination of information.

For more than 30 years the Armed Forces of Ecuador have operated both the Military Geographical Institute and the Centre for Integrated Remote Sensing Applications for Natural Resources (CLIRSEN). CLIRSEN is recognized by many government agencies for its contributions to promote the use of space-based information for a variety of purposes.

The Government is establishing the Ecuadorian National Space Commission as a vehicle to thrust activities in this area and to take advantage of the benefits that space applications offer in many sectors of development.

Mission Recommendations: 

Taking note of the fact that many government agencies in Ecuador are fairly well advanced in the use of information for a variety of purposes, the mission recommended the Ecuadorian Space Commission (CEE) to institutionalize of the use of space-based information.

The mission recommended CEE, the National Secretariat for Risk Management (SNGR) and CLIRSEN to design a strategy to facilitate access to and use of space-based information, particularly in the context of land-use planning as a way to reduce the exposition of communities to natural hazards and in the context of assessment.

SNGR and CLIRSEN should improve their links with international mechanisms such as the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters and with UN-SPIDER in case of emergency response. In particular, the incorporation of a task within the Manual of Emergency Operations of the National Emergency Operations Centers targeting this issue explicitly is recommended.

CLIRSEN and CEE could benefit from the design of an architecture for the catalogue of archived and recent space-based imagery and information. CONAGE could design strategies to facilitate the compatibility among databases generated by government agencies through a policy that targets the generation of metadata. SNGR, CLIRSEN and CEE should design strategies to enhance the skills of staff in government agencies on the generation and use of space-based information with particular emphasis on disaster-risk management and emergency response.

Finally, CEE, SNGR and CLIRSEN could benefit from the bridge function provided by UN-SPIDER as a way to establish contact with space agencies from countries in the region and around the world.

Togo - Technical Advisory Mission

The Republic of Togo is prone to frequent floods and droughts. Locust plagues contribute to endangering the food security of the local population. In addition, vector borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases cause massive disruption to societies. At the invitation of the Government of Togo, a UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission was requested to identify potential areas where space-based technology and information could play a greater role, and propose recommendations how to improve Togo's access to these resources.


Tue, 14/07/2009 to Fri, 17/07/2009

Host Institution: 

Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources

Mission Team: 

Under the coordination of UN-SPIDER, the mission team comprised 10 experts from the UN-OCHA Regional Office West Africa in Senegal, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) of Nigeria, the Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS) and from the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in French Language (CRASTE-LF) based in Morocco.

Mission Profile: 

The mission included meetings with representatives of various government agencies including the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resource, the Department of Cadastre and Cartography, the Fire Department and with representatives of UN organizations in Togo (WHO, FAO, UNDP, OCHA etc.). The mission also included a two-day workshop with representatives from more than 30 governmental agencies and national institutions involved in disaster management activities.

Mission Findings: 

The expert team found that:

  • Recognizing the need to reduce the impacts of events such as floods, Togo is shifting efforts from emergency response to disaster-risk management (DRR). Such efforts include mainstreaming DRR activities in development plans, risk assessment, early warning and preparedness.
  • The government of Togo is in the process of updating disaster management plan with the support of UNDP consultants.
  • While several organizations are involved in disaster management, none of them use space-based information in their planning or implementation. The main reasons include the lack of awareness amongst decision makers about the usage of space based information in disaster management, the lack of opportunities to access space based information, the lack of technical expertise to make use of such information, and the lack of financial resources.
  • In Togo several government institutions have the capacity to use GIS including the Department of Cartography and Cadastre (DCC), the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources, the Water Commission and the University of Lome;
  • In the context of remote sensing, both the DCC and the University of Lome have the capacities to process remote sensing data;
  • There is a need to generate geo-spatial data to be used in disaster-risk management and emergency response efforts. Nevertheless, the mission took note of the fact that The Surveyor General is implementing a national spatial data infrastructure. The project called SIGIT will be hosted by the National Geographic Institute. When the project is completed, all available space-based data will be available in digital format and new data will be collected and thus update existing database;
  • Currently no Government institution is in the position to activate the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters.


Mission Recommendations: 

Given the efforts conducted by several institutions on DRR, a recommendation is made to these institutions to use space-based technology and information for disaster risk reduction in a systematic way, e.g. through risk mapping and analysis;

Political actors need to be mobilised and get their support so that government agencies can implement the SIGIT project focusing on the spatial data infrastructure, and facilitate data development and capacity building on the use of space based information for disaster management and emergency response;

Government institutions should conduct an inventory of the existing spatial data (topographic maps, thematic maps, satellite imageries, aerial photographs, orthophotos and geodetic data) and identify the producers and users of spatial data;

Spatial data should be available at all levels of the cycle of disaster (prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation) and this needs to be incorporated in the strategic plan;

UN-SPIDER, the International Charter and other mechanisms in place should provide spatial data with a minimum of processing requests: It is recommended that disaster management agencies/authorities keep record of the support offered by UN-SPIDER and establish mechanism to coordinate with UN-SPIDER in case of disasters;

The government agencies should facilitate institutional strengthening through the training of their staff on the use of GIS and remote sensing applications in the areas of disaster risk reduction and emergency response;

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