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Friday, 21 November 2008 22:51

SERVIR now in Africa to help with diseases, disasters

NASA and USAID have expanded their global information system, called SERVIR, into Africa in order to provide African countries with previously inaccessible information on such national concerns as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and climate change.

The NASA news release “NASA and USAID bring Earth-observation benefits to Africa” reports that SERVIR-Africa was dedicated on Friday, November 21, 2008, in Nairobi, Kenya.

USAID is short for the United States Agency for International Development, which is a U.S. government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance to the world's peoples.

The NASA report states, SERVIR, Spanish for 'to serve,' has been in operation in Central America, the Caribbean and southern Mexico since 2005."

"Now, through the support of multiple government agencies and other organizations, NASA and USAID are expanding the system to Africa in partnership with the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development [RCMRD] in Nairobi. The center, an intergovernmental organization with 15 member states in eastern and southern Africa, is a leader in geospatial mapping in the region.”

RCMRD director of remote sensing and geographic information systems Tesfaye Korme, stated, “A satellite birds-eye view can provide an overall picture of a natural disaster, such as a flood, and its consequences. Using the SERVIR-Africa platform, we will be able to develop near-real time maps of flood-affected areas to estimate the number of displaced people and locate potential transportation disruptions."

SERVIR-Africa will help Africa, for instance, better predict areas that are at risk of flooding, along with provide an early-warning system to predict vector-borne diseases such as Rift Valley Fever.

In addition, SERVIR-Africa will have the ability to use the Internet to gather data from numerous satellites and ground-based Earth observation sites in order to assist in natural and human-made disasters and other environmental, ecological, and natural resource situations that may arise.

Page two continues.

The NASA reports states: “The strength of the SERVIR system is in its diverse international team of scientists, developers and researchers. SERVIR-Africa builds on existing capacity at the mapping center in Nairobi."

"The center, together with SERVIR's lead partner in Central America, the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, are jointly developing an integrated system."

"These two regional organizations are standardizing database management and evaluating common methods for predicting severe weather events, analyzing impacts from climate change and working to understand health and ecosystem interactions.”

To learn more about SERVIR from the perspective of the Central American country of Panama, read the NASA article “Floods! Fire! SERVIR.”

The NASA article concludes with: "It is important that people learn how to use these tools.... Since SERVIR's inauguration in February 2005, we have been holding regional workshops to train government representatives in how to use this environmental visualization data."

“And the best part about SERVIR? It is active and available to anyone.... SERVIR is an open system, free, and its data can be downloaded any time."

This is another important example where international cooperation helps to achieve a better world, both globally, locally, and everywhere in between.

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