GMES Responds to Darfur Crisis - 10/03/2005
The Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security initiative (GMES) is setting up a number of services. Humanitarian aid is recognised as one of the main areas where GMES can provide services using satellite technology that answer real users’ needs. One of these, an operational service called Respond, provides mapping to humanitarian aid organisations in various operational and management roles. Respond is the first step towards a sustainable set of services offered by an ‘open service partnership’ that includes some 20 international members from the UN, the European Commission, news agencies (such as Reuters), NGO aid agencies, industry and space agencies. Infoterra (UK) is the prime contractor, whereas three other UK companies provide support. The main principle of Respond is to deliver the same high-quality map products to humanitarian actors, from the UN to a small NGO, and from a headquarters building to a crisis zone.
In August 2004, Respond received a set of requirements for mapping the Al Fashir region of Darfur from the German Red Cross and a German relief agency (THW). This assignment was expanded to include the needs of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In four weeks, the Respond Consortium provided maps ranging in scale from 1:200,000 for reconnaissance and route planning to 1:2,000 revealing tents within individual camps and clinics. These large-scale products based on rapid turnaround imaging enabled the identification of flooded areas that could block communication routes.This project has been achieved by the collaboration of eight industrial partners from five countries, co-ordinated by prime contractor Infoterra (UK). Ten different sensors from nine different spacecraft have been used, ranging from archived material from the space shuttle, to radar imagery delivered in near real-time from the ESA Envisat mission, to UK-built small satellites from the Disaster Monitoring Constellation. Many of these space assets were programmed in ‘rush’ mode especially for this work, through the International Charter for Space and Natural Disasters, an agreement between satellite owners to provide priority access to their assets in times of crisis.