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UN development work guided from space

United Nations-led development efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the globe are being guided by images from space.

The ESA-backed UNOSAT consortium is providing an average of five new satellite-derived maps or data products to UN agencies and non-governmental organisations every week.

The poor Nicaraguan highlands municipality of Matagalpa is just one site among many where UNOSAT-supplied geographical information system (GIS) tools are being used in development projects. Here the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) is using space-derived relief data that identifies areas most at risk of landslides to plan safe urban expansion.

And by using GIS tools to combine a satellite image of newly built-up areas with local data on the limits of the local water supply, zones most at risk of disease are highlighted for attention.

Such Earth Observation (EO) services are being made available worldwide to United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with short-term emergency relief and longer-term development assistance. The provider is UNOSAT, a consortium funded by ESA's Earth Observation Market Development Programme, together with the Centre National pour les Etudes Spatiales of France (CNES) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France.

"UNOSAT is operated by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which provides technical support and advice for other UN agencies involved in reconstruction projects," said Alain Retiere of UNOSAT. "It's often true that maps of remote areas are outdated and unreliable so that led us to take an interest in the potential of EO data."

Service born out of a hurricane

The catastrophic experience of Hurricane Mitch - which killed 10,000 people and destroyed 150 bridges as it crossed Central America in November 1998 was actually helpful
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Contact: Philippe Bally
philippe.bally@esa.int
39-069-418-0537
European Space Agency
9-Jul-2003


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