Open Steet Map team working hard to update Gaza map

I just heard from Mikel Maron that the OpenStreetMap team is working hard to update routes within Gaza in an effort to provide better data sets for humanitarian groups.  I love this type of on-the-fly work and I have a lot of respect for the OSM team and their willingness to drop what they are doing and start working on a critical map feature.  The flexibility OSM has shows it’s value as a quickly adaptable humanitarian tool.  I believe Deir al-Balah camp was just added a short while ago:

OSMOSM is looking at ways to quickly purchase satellite imagery to support their emergency mapping efforts.  If you are interested in helping raise funds for their efforts or IF YOU HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF GAZA STREET NAMES AND FEATURES add your name to their Wiki or drop me a line at  I should have more information shortly on how they’re planning on handling offers of assistance.  In the mean time, you can follow developments over at their OpenStreetMap Gaza Wiki.

UPDATE: Reuters AlertNet has a write-up on the OpenStreetMap Gaza intiative which you can link to here.

‘MSF adapting to worsening conditions in Gaza Strip’

Photo courtesy of MSF

Photo courtesy of MSF

I have always looked at MSF as the canary in the coal mine of humanitarian aid.  If they say it is getting bad then other folks should start lining up.  They don’t stray far from their mandate of providing medical aid in the world’s worst situations.  Gaza did not is not on their Top Ten Humanitarian Crises even thoug they were working there full time.  Now, in light of recent events they have switched into emergency mode and is attempting to get additional medical teams into Gaza.  From their site:

More than a week after the first air strikes on Gaza Strip and following the beginning of the land incursion of Israeli forces, surgical services are overwhelmed and in need of surgeons specialised in vascular surgery in order to deal with the number of wounded. In Gaza city, the intensive care unit of Shifa referral hospital has reached the limits of its capacity. The insecurity is preventing patients needing post operative follow up and health personnel from reaching health structures.

Three MSF expatriate volunteers – a field coordinator, doctor and nurse) arrived in Gaza Strip on Wednesday, December 31, to reinforce the local teams composed of 35 health personnel.

Read on…

Picasa for Mac is out!

I have been waiting for a long time for this one!  Download it hereHere is the Picasa team’s write-up over at Google Photos Blog.  Here is the Techrunch review.  Thanks @steverubel.

Lives of the Saints – International hardship duty in Chad.

Bredjing, a refugee camp in eastern Chad, close to the border with the Darfur region of Sudan. Twelve camps in the region house a quarter of a million Sudanese who have fled to the area and are now caught between warring armies. Photograph by Christoph Bangert.

The New Yorker has a lengthy article about aid workers in Chad.  @aidworkersntwk Twittered this a few hours ago.  I worked with Yvan in Chad in the early days of 2004.  Like others in my line of work I arrived alone at 3am with a backpack and a hotel reservation to set-up operations before our advance team arrived a week later.  Ah, fond memories of brutal heat, great food and lots of sand.  But are we really saints?  When I have time I’ll read it in full.  From the article:


Everything is fine, until the moment when it is not. And when that moment comes it can be very quick and very bad.

This is what Aiméry Mbounkap tells me on a Saturday afternoon in November of 2007. Mbounkap works as a site planner for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is a robustly built man of about thirty, an architect by training and saturnine by disposition. We are sitting in the common room of a U.N.H.C.R. field office situated on the eastern frontier of the African nation of Chad, thirty-five miles from the Darfur border. Along that border, the U.N.H.C.R. oversees the operation of twelve refugee camps with a population of nearly two hundred and fifty thousand Sudanese who have fled to Chad to escape death, mayhem, and ethnic cleansing.

Read on…

Gaza map comparison – Google Maps vs Microsoft Virtual Earth vs Open Street Map

While I am not running off to the field these days I still want to what is out there for us to use.  A simple comparison between Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth and Open Street Map:

Google Maps

Google Maps

Virtual Earth

Microsoft Virtual Earth


Open Street Map

Google Maps is the clear winner.  However,  when you drill down the streets have limited detail and few street names.  Still, it is nice to see that someone took the time to map a bit of Gaza and provide us with a few tools.

‘Al Jazeera Labs is Testing Ushahidi’

Peter over at The Road to the Horizon Tweeted earlier that Al Jazeera is using Ushahidi to track events in the Israel-Gaza conflict.  The Ushahidi blog has the details but here is an excerpt:

It made sense that Al Jazeera’s new media team got in touch with us via Twitter – email and Skype came later. A week ago they asked us for the alpha code to see what they could do with it around the recent activity in Gaza. This was the first time a non-Ushahidi team had deployed the alpha-level software. You can see it at

Instructions from Riyaad on the Al Jazeera team:
“If you’re anywhere in the world and an event is taking place to do with #gaza #israel send a text to: +45609910303 – Start it with GAZA.” You can also, SMS 37191 / +45609910303 – Twitter: @ajgaza

Read on…

UPDATE: You can also follow Al Jazeera’s Gaza conflict Twitter feed @ajgaza

BBC – Strong earthquake rocks Indonesia

Tragically, the year is getting off to a busy start.  The BBC has the latest:

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 has rocked eastern Indonesia, seismologists say.

The tremor struck south-west of Manokwari, West Papua province, at 0443 on Sunday (1943 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.

Residents ran outdoors and to higher ground, but a tsunami alert was withdrawn within an hour.

The Indonesian archipelago lies over several continental plates where seismic activity happens regularly.

While the local seismology agency said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2, the US Geological Survey put the quake at a stronger 7.6.

Hasim Rumatiga, a local health official, told Associated Press that electricity went off and residents ran to higher ground.

A policeman said that without power it was difficult to check for damage in Manokwari, the seaside capital of the province, AFP news agency reported.

He added that the police and military had been helping people get to higher ground.

A huge quake off western Indonesia on 26 December, 2004 caused a massive tsunami that killed around 230,000 people around the region.

Read on…

UPDATE:  Here is the latest from the BBC.