One month supporting humanitarian agencies in Vanuatu

Well over 100 volunteers from across the globe dedicated their time and skills online over the past month to support the humanitarian response in Vanuatu.

One month ago a category 5 storm swept across many of the islands that make up Vanuatu affecting 166,600 people.

Activation one

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs requested help through the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN). Standby Task Force undertook two of the three tasks requested of the DHN.

Standby Task Force volunteers created a database of information needed by humanitarian aid workers based in or arriving in Vanuatu. The database contained contact details for international staff actually in Vanuatu, assessments undertaken by humanitarian agencies, relevant maps, details of which agencies across the globe said they were responding and what they were doing. Within five days the database contained over 5,000 separate pieces of information. Simon Johnson from British Red Cross created this tool which is based on some of the data in the Stadby Task Force database.

Graph to the left and a map to the right








Standby Task Force volunteers also searched for tweets about the storm. They identified pictures and videos of damage and flooding. Then they verified, categorised and mapped the images.

The resulting maps can be seen online here: and here:

Map of damage photos









The Standby Task Force stood down at 2200 UTC on Mar 22 2015.

Activation Two

We were then activated again on April 5 2015 by the Government of Vanuatu and the World Bank via the DHN. Our task on this occasion was to examine photographs taken from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that had flown over many of Vanuatu’s affected islands. Volunteers traced the outlines of damaged properties and logged the degree of damage. We used the MicroMappers platform which ensures that each picture was assessed by at least three different volunteers. Micromappers is developed by QCRI

Over 2,500 different images were assessed in this way. Volunteers identified and traced 1,696 destroyed houses, 1,298 partially damaged houses and 3,967 houses with little-to-no damage (note: these figures do not correspond to unique houses). The platform ensures that each picture is seen by at least three people so volunteers actually traced 7,500 images. This was the first time UAV tech was used for crowdsourced assessment and verification. Patrick Meier has written more about this on his blog.

The resulting maps can be seen here:

The Standby Task Force stood down at 0900 UTC on April 14 2015.

Vanuatu still needs help

The people of Vanuatu still need support from the global community. Standby Task Force volunteers have helped to strengthen and improve the humanitarian response.

The UN estimates that US$29.9m is required immediately and has launched a flash appeal.

We are a global network of digital humanitarians ready to respond at short notice to support humanitarian agencies on the ground in disaster zones to process open source data and create crisis maps and databases.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *