Volunteer mappers help CDC, others find Ebola patients

Volunteer mapping efforts help the CDC and other groups find and treat Ebola patients in West Africa. | Courtesy of the CDC

Volunteers around the world are helping medical workers map countries in West Africa to help ensure remote areas with Ebola patients don't fall through the cracks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.

Countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and parts of Mali have individuals and communities in remote areas, and most maps don't include the details required to locate villages, roads, houses and other buildings, making it difficult to fight the virus.

To overcome this obstacle, volunteers around the world are using OpenStreetMap (OSM), an online, open-source mapping platform that can create maps of the countries in more detail.

The goal of OSM, commonly called the “Wikipedia for maps,” is to create an entire map of the world that would be available online for free. The U.S.-based nonprofit Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is using the map to prepare and respond to disasters.

The CDC said the mapping effort has been useful not only to its organization, but also to other international entities fighting Ebola, including Doctors Without Borders, the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization.

The CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine is coordinating with the U.S. State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) and HOT to promote volunteer mapping in West Africa. HIU created MapGive.org, a website that provides easy instructions on how to begin the mapping process quickly.

Over the last eight months, HOT has had about 2,500 volunteers map more than 750,000 buildings and hundreds of miles of roads in countries affected by Ebola.

Organizations in this story

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1600 Clifton Rd Atlanta, GA 30329

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