UNHCR Refugee Google Earth Layer Released

UK Guardian: The new Google Earth layers weave together satellite maps, photos, videos and eyewitness accounts to give viewers a close-up look at the refugee crises in Iraq, Chad, Columbia and Darfur in Sudan.

They allow users to find out about UNHCR operations, locate refugee camps and discover the impact of the humanitarian crises on neighboring countries such as Sudan, Syria and Ecuador.

Users can explore the lives of those in exile by clicking on exact locations in the refugee camps to see photos of the facilities, such as health clinics, schools, water taps and sanitation. There are pop-up videos of specific operations and events, such as a visit to a Chad refugee camp by the actor and UN goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie.

The UN deputy high commissioner for refugees, L Craig Johnstone, said: “Google Earth is a very powerful way for UNHCR to show the vital work that it is doing in some of the world’s most remote and difficult displacement situations. By showing our work in its geographical context, we can really highlight the challenges we face on the ground and how we tackle them.”

A UNHCR spokesman said the programme could soon develop further. “With the new generation of cameras with GPS, we can foresee taking photos of a place and uploading it directly to Google Earth. For our planning, mapping and communications unit, that would be an amazing tool.

“Over time, we can envision increasing the number of elements shown that will certainly increase the ‘live’ experience of the platform.”

The next step for an iRevolution is to enable refugees to access this information on a regular basis. This need not require high-technology. The information could be broadcast by radio, for example.

Patrick Philippe Meier

3 responses to “UNHCR Refugee Google Earth Layer Released

  1. Pingback: United Nations mashups: Visualizing world challenges : crisscrossed blog

  2. Patrick, I love the fact that the article is about a UNHCR layer, but the picture has the UNICEF data. Can you tell us any more about how the UNICEF stuff got up there (on Google Earth, not the blog)

  3. Thanks for your note, Nigel. Believe it or not, I chose that screen shot on purpose precisely to display the fact that other agencies are clearly involved. But to answer your question, I don’t know what the protocol is for other UN agencies to provide georeferenced information. I imagine Luc St-Pierre at UNHCR would know, I’ll drop him a note.

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