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Fall 2009
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MapAction Awarded for Applying GIS to Humanitarian Aid

During the User Conference Plenary Session, Esri president Jack Dangermond presented the Humanitarian Award to MapAction, an organization that helps governments and relief agencies coordinate aid and relieve human suffering. In his speech of thanks, MapAction chairman and volunteer Andrew Douglas-Bate praised Esri for its help to the charity by providing software and software maintenance. The brainchild of his son Rupert, founder emeritus, MapAction is feisty, driven, and just 13 years old.

MapAction has completed approximately 80 GIS deployments, 16 of which have been in response to catastrophes, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, or volcanic eruptions. The charity also uses GIS to respond to man-made crises, giving aid such as mine clearance or refugee movement. Other missions to help the human condition and design our future include teaching local communities how GIS works and how it can be used both as a first step and as disaster develops.

"We aim to help people to help themselves," said Douglas-Bate. "The power of GIS is step one in that equation. The first few hours after a disaster are crucial to saving lives. The disaster level and comfort of those in need have to be addressed with speed and effectiveness in situations where the whole landscape may have changed. A fog of uncertainty hangs over the scene of catastrophe. This is where GIS, arriving within hours and in the hands of highly trained, highly motivated, well-led MapAction volunteers, transforms humanitarian aid opportunity into delivery success."

When asked about financial support, Douglas-Bate said, "The MapAction service is free to recipients. While we rely on practical and technical help from organizations like Esri, we also depend on external funding from many sources. Several types of funding are required such as endowment sums for long-term infrastructure and specific project funding. The more we receive, the better we are able to serve our critical clients. I want to thank many users for their contributions. For example, a schoolteacher from Palm Beach said she would go home after the User Conference and raise hell with the local community to get money for us. We take away from San Diego an exciting GIS message, not only of what is happening today but its potential for the future of our planet."

To make a donation to MapAction, e-mail Douglas-Bate at or visit

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