Community Mapping Uganda is an initiative created by the MCGIS Research Group in the Department of Geography at the University of Manchester in order to provide detailed maps of the Acholi region of North Uganda through a series of ‘mapathons’. A mapathon is an event where volunteers gather together and create maps of areas that have not previously been mapped, normally for the purposes of humanitarian work. Around the world it is estimated that over 200 million people are affected or displaced every year by conflict or disaster, and many of the impacted regions do not have good quality mapping, which can hamper humanitarian responses.
In the case of Community Mapping Uganda, we are focussing upon the Acholi region of Northern Uganda, which is a fertile but impoverished place with a population of approximately 2 million people and a land area of approximately 28,000km2. The small town centres and the surrounding remote villages were badly affected by a prolonged civil war (1986-2006), which has left people of all ages suffered from poverty, malnutrition, disease, mutilation and Major Limb Loss (MLL) related to gunshot wounds, mines and punishment amputations. Unfortunately, the majority of victims in this region have no access to health or rehabilitation services and the level of requirement for those services is currently unknown.
Because of this, the Acholi region is the focus of a multi-disciplinary research project that was recently funded by the MRC/AHRC, which seeks to provide the first systematic study of the prevalence of these injuries, as well as the installation of an orthopaedic workshop in the town of Gulu, the construction of a mobile orthopaedic clinic, and the provision of 50 prosthetic limbs using an outreach service delivery model. Further funds are currently being being sought to fit limbs to hundreds or thousands more victims, as well as address numerous other endemic post-conflict health issues that we have encountered in this region.
One of the greatest challenges to this research is that detailed maps of the area have never been produced, with the only previous attempt being by the British Army in the 1960’s . These maps, however, are very outdated and lacking in detail, and without detailed maps we cannot model population distribution, understand the level of requirement for prosthetic limbs and orthopaedic care, and access the people who can benefit from healthcare provision.
As such, we created a series of events where volunteers can contribute to a new, freely available map of the area by drawing around huts, buildings and tracks on satellite photography. No skills or experience are required, you simply need to turn up (with a laptop if you have one) go to our website (huckathon.org) and get mapping. The map data that is created goes to OpenStreetMap, meaning that it is freely available to anyone that wants it, and we are going to produce a series of map sheets for the Acholi Region, which again will be freely available to anyone. Click the buttons below to have a go!
We are always on the lookout for new members and volunteers! If you would like to know more information about the mapathons, or indeed about the ongoing research into healthcare provision in post-conflict Uganda, then please do not hesitate to contact Dr Jonny Huck at the University of Manchester. To find out about how to join in at the next event keep an eye on our research group Twitter account @UoM_MCGIS.
In May 2018, the team was lucky enough to win the University of Manchester 2018 Making a Difference Award for Outstanding Contribution to Social Innovation, the citation for which can be viewed below: