Humanitarian aid

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    Image1 of 3Refugee camp during a crisis
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    Image2 of 3Message written by refugees during a crisis. It reads help us
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    Image3 of 3Multitudes on a square during a crisis

When disaster strikes, help needs to arrive fast to meet victims' basic needs and to preserve their dignity. Every year, GIS products based on satellite imagery interpretation are becoming more and more important in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. Whether derived from satellite, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or ground views, imagery offers event confirmation and impact, an early assessment, and a foundation on which to initiate response planning.

Refugee camps

A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees. Camps for refugees and the internally displaced are often established for security reasons and to ensure that humanitarian agencies can easily monitor the situation and deliver humanitarian assistance. Natural disasters, armed conflicts and epidemics cause humanitarian crises, leading to thousands of people fleeing their homes and ending up in refugee camps. At EU SatCen, high resolution satellite imagery is used to derive GeoInt products where information such as number of refugees, their provenience, and the existence of humanitarian or security facilities within camps is usually provided. The presence of paramilitary activity and potential attacks on refugee camps are also looked at.

State failure and insurgency

State failures are a consequence of total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict that overwhelms the normal coping capacities of the affected people and society. Failing states comprise the most dangerous long-term security challenge facing the global community today. Failed states become breeding grounds for instability and terrorism. They breed massive humanitarian disasters and major refugee flows, and host all kinds of criminal enterprises including narco-trafficking. Perhaps the most recent impacting example is the “Arab Spring” uprisings originating in Tunisia and spreading in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen or Bahrain. Satellite imagery has intensively been used to produce battle damage assessments and to provide geospatial intelligence on the presence of military and paramilitary troops, areas of influence or people gatherings.

Man-made and natural disasters

Disasters often follow man-made and natural hazards. A disaster's severity depends on how high impact a hazard has on society and on the environment, and how much it exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. Map products based on satellite data or other GIS data are a support for definition of priority areas, vulnerability areas (for example with maps of terrain subject to landslide) or safer areas in pre-event cases but also during the event and post-event situations with products such as flood extent, earthquake damage assessment or landslide extent.


Image copyrights:

© DLR/Distribution Airbus Defence & Space

© CNES/Distribution Airbus Defence & Space

© European Space Imaging/Digital Globe