UN-SPIDER accomplished Technical Advisory Mission to Namibia and co-leads pilot project on flood management together with Namibian officials and NASA / NOAA

UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission to Namibia

In January 2009 the Government of Namibia requested a technical advisory mission of UN-SPIDER to assess the existing use of space-based technology and information for Disaster management and Emergency Response in Namibia. Specifically, the mission was requested to identify potential areas where space-based technology and information could play a greater role, and propose recommendations how to improve Namibia’s access to and use of space-based technology and information. Following a meeting during the UN-SPIDER workshop in October 2008 in Bonn, held with the governmental focal point for the mission, the Department of Water Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry (MAWF), to discuss the mission objective/programme and the contents of an adjacent training measure, a team of three experts from UN-SPIDER and the German Aerospace Center's crisis information team (DLR/ZKI) was fielded to Windhoek, Namibia from 27 January to 2 February 2009 to provide technical advice and train local experts in remote sensing techniques for flood mapping. A two day kick-off workshop on 29 and 30 January 2009 brought together relevant disaster management stakeholders to evaluate past experiences and formulate lessons learnt. A field visit to the flood-prone region with hands-on training on GPS applications for disaster managers followed by a training for technical experts to improve end-user adapted geospatial emergency response products and services completed the mission. The workshop and training were funded by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

 The support to Namibia started during the floods in March 2008 when the UN-SPIDER team was instrumental in ensuring access to the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” and other existing opportunities to support the Namibian government. A severe flood, which started at the end of January 2008, reached its peak around mid-March. The Namibian government declared a state of emergency on 5 March. A request to provide satellite imagery for northern and north-eastern regions of Namibia came to UNOOSA from the Department of Water Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry (MAWF) and the country office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia asking for international support regarding satellite images and the involvement of an emergency mechanism to receive these images on a priority bass, of higher resolution and not obscured by cloud cover. Subsequently, on March 14, 2008, UNOOSA triggered the International Charter to help Namibia in its combat against the crucial impacts of the floods and the outbreak of cholera. UN-SPIDER provided support and followed-up closely with both UNDP and the Department of Water Affairs of Namibia, helping the country to take full advantage of what the international community was providing. Also in 2009 severe flooding affected northern Namibia in the aftermath of heavy local rains and inflow of water from northern regions during late February and March 2009. Due to the complex drainage pattern in the region satellite observation is an important tool to provide an overview of the large area flood situation, which is of very patchy and persistent character in the areas affected. Additionally, heavy rains in Angola and parts of Zambia's Western Province led to flooding in Namibia's north and north-eastern parts within the Caprivi region. On March 18, 2009 emergency was declared in the concerned areas, where floods have caused large-scale destruction to homes, schools, health facilities, mahangu and maize fields and infrastructure. On February 27, 2009, UNOOSA triggered the International Charter, and the accepted call was extended in time for specific regions in Northern Namibia. A second call followed for the affected area bordering the Okavango and the Zambesi rivers in North / Northeastern Namibia. In addition to the Charter activation UN-SPIDER is involved in a range of activities to provide further supplemental information, data and imagery to the affected countries in the region. UN-SPIDER is actively working in the GEOSS Architecture Implementation Pilot projects context, co-leading some initiatives to better bridge between the available technical expertize and resources and the needs of the users in the field and at UN or national level. Additionally, UN-SPIDER is also cooperating with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Information Systems and Service (WGISS) experts in better using their capabilities and available space technologies and applications for disaster managment purposes. Based on these activities and contacts a community came together with the goal not only to support Namibia during the relief situation but to implement a pilot project that also supports in the aftermath of the floods.  

Pilot project on integrated flood management and water related vector borne disease modelling

The main project idea is to combine high resolution satellite imagery with hydrologic ground data and modelling in order to derive useful flood forecasting tools for the next flood season in the sense of a transboundary flood management system for local decision makers. The second pillar of the project is to explore possibilities of water related vector borne disease modelling. A strong collaboration with already existing networks, e.g. employed by WHO, is absolutely necessary. Moreover, the second focus should be extremely user-oriented, thus recommendations from the respective institutions in Namibia such as the Ministry of Health and Social Sciences are prerequisite in order to successfully integrate any approach/result of this project into the National Health Emergency Prepardness and Response Plan (NHEPRP). 

UN-SPIDER is co-leading the coordination of this project together with scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and from the NOAA-Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (NOAA-CREST) and in close collaboration with responsible institutions in Namibia. UN-SPIDER especially fosters the dialogue at the national level and with other UN agencies, such as UNDP, UNOCHA, UNISDR, WMO and WHO which are engaged in this area. As a general agreement, the mutual effort of this project is intended to produce valuable and tangible results that will be used in Namibia and surrounding countries such as Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. Bringing together the international community and expertise is of increasing importance since the disaster management agencies in Southern Africa have to adapt to a rapidly growing number of natural disasters caused by floods and droughts. The effects of global climate change will most probably aggravate this situation. In addition, vector borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including malaria, meningitis, and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and put a heavy burden on national health systems.