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  • Haji Wamala Fawaz, Makerere University

YouthMappers Supporting COVID-19 Relief Through HOT Rapid Response Microgrant: COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting communities across the globe in many shapes and forms. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is ensuring that disaster relief data and maps can be produced to support vulnerable communities living in areas where an existing crisis may be intensified by the outbreak. Living in unmapped areas could mean that these communities are left out of COVID-19 assistance programs enrolled by governments and well-wishers. As part of the response, HOT launched Rapid Response Microgrants: COVID-19 whose funds are to be designated specifically for remote-based activities that focus on improving the community and global response towards this pandemic.

Geo YouthMappers Icon

Geo YouthMappers (Makerere YouthMappers Chapter) in collaboration with Map Uganda (OpenStreetMap Uganda), was lucky to be awarded a micro-grant to carry out their project- supporting the different national and humanitarian bodies at the frontline, with data and maps to enhance the relief and risk management response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, thanks to HOT! Through this project, the two teams aim at creating OSM data of Uganda’s 40 cross border entry points to help create detailed maps, that will support and retool the Uganda Red Cross Society and Ministry of Health surveillance efforts, against the spread of Coronavirus. This is mainly due to the results that these border points are becoming the main source of identified infected persons, putting the border communities at a very high risk of infection.

Map showing Uganda's cross border points

Uganda’s recognized cross border points were closed to restrict entry of people other than cargo truck drivers; however, community members still use illegal points of entry into and out of the country, hence elevating the risk of importing the disease into the country border. There is great need to identify these porous routes as well as the community distributions to support better and informed decision making by the national task force on COVID-19 prevention. The cross-border towns include Malaba, Busia, Suam, Moroto, Ngom Orom, Nimule, Vurra, Oraba, Odramachaku, Lia, Goli, Wanseko, Tonya, Busunga, Mpondwe, Ishasha, Bunagana, Cyanika, Kamwezi, Mirama Hills, Kikagati, Mutukula among others. Highly exposed towns are Mutukula, Busia and Malaba, (add one from Ntungamo) where a number of COVID-19 patients have been identified. Mapping these communities will support the Ministry of Health and Uganda Red Cross to reconcile the risk and threat to these communities, as well as, derive strategies based on the maps to counteract the illegal immigration through porous border points. The team hopes to execute the project while indoors, due to the current lock down situation in Uganda and restrictions on public gatherings and unnecessary movements.

The team hopes to execute this project for a period of four months by: mapping about 40 tasks using the HOT Tasking Manager, conducting mapping with the different YouthMappers chapters and OSM community members, creating training webinars involving communities members from the Uganda Red Cross and the ministry of Health and also creating detailed datasets on OpenStreetMap. The teams looks forward to creating data for over 25,000 buildings and 200 kilometers of road and other Points of Interests on OpenStreetMap.

The data will be made available to OpenStreetMap, in order to support further innovation and ideation for Uganda and the different countries that may wish to learn from such approaches in the fight against COVID-19.

Geo YouthMappers believes that participation in this exercise, will highly empower and retool all YouthMappers chapters at different universities to continue mapping towns and villages in close proximity to the border towns and districts in general. The teams hope to maintain an update the system on all the successes and challenges as the projects progresses. Follow us at @youthmappers, @GeoYouthmappers, @mapuganda.

Haji Wamala Fawaz is the Geo Youthmappers President. He studies Land Surveying and Geomatics at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. His Facebook account is Haji Fawaz Wamala and his Twitter account is @HajiFawaz.

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