By @SimonCockingMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF): Providing emergency medical aid where it’s needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial. Irish Tech News Business Showcase  special on the new MSF MapSwipe Mobile App to allow people to join humanitarian response efforts.

Describe the organisation– the elevator pitch?

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid in nearly 70 countries worldwide. We provide emergency medical care to people caught up in war, disasters and epidemics. We are funded primarily by donations from the public which gives us the independence to provide quality medical care wherever it’s needed most, free from political, military or religious agendas. We currently have 446 projects in 69 countries.

When was the app launched?

Launched this week, MapSwipe allows users to choose a crisis prone part of the world who they want to help. They must then swipe through satellite images of the region, tapping the screen when they see features they’re looking for including settlements, roads and rivers.
This is fed back to mappers who need this crucial information to build detailed and useful maps. At present, mappers have to spend days scrolling through thousands of images of uninhabited forest or scrubland looking for communities that need mapping. Now, members of the public can directly contribute to MSF’s medical activities by locating people in need more quickly so the mappers, and ultimately medical professionals on the ground, can get straight to work.
‘MapSwipe’ is available to download for free from or from your relevant app store.

What will it do?

Shockingly, MSF estimates that the homes of hundreds of millions of people from the world’s most vulnerable communities are not mapped. It’s impossible for aid workers to know exactly where and how many people are living in these parts of the world. This makes it difficult to plan mass vaccination campaigns, understand how diseases are spreading as well as deliver other life-saving activities.

On ‘MapSwipe’, developed in collaboration with the MissingMaps project, users choose a crisis prone part of the world they want to help, such as spotting villages at risk from a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They must then swipe through satellite images of the region, tapping the screen when they see features they’re looking for including settlements, roads and rivers.

What have been your biggest wins to date?

During a crisis, disaster or epidemic, maps are crucial for aid workers to plan their response. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a lack of information about the layout of Port-Au-Prince led to the NGO community to start using OpenStreetMap software (a map of the world, where the data is created by its users) to plot roads, street names and buildings. This information meant that people could receive vital supplies more quickly.

MSF epidemiologists discovered an outbreak of measles in an area of DRC where accurate population estimates are difficult to come by. Vaccination campaigns are 80% logistics, ensuring the cold chain is maintained in the most remote parts of the world. The cold chain is the process of shipping and storing vaccines kept at temperatures between 2°C to 8°C from the point of manufacture until reaching the recipient. For a measles vaccination campaign to be successful, 95% of the people within the area need to be vaccinated in order to stop the spread of the disease.

Without the maps you may get to a village expecting there to be 2,000 people and find there are actually 5,000, which would impact the cold chain. MSF teams got in touch with the missing maps project in order to map Idjwi Island, DRC.

In three days, volunteers around the world mapped the entire area for the vaccination campaign. One week later MSF teams in the field had validated maps in the field in order to respond to the outbreak.

What type of people are you trying to attract to your product?

Missing Maps aims to map remote, vulnerable areas in advance of outbreaks so that the maps already exist and can help the relief effort straight away. It aims to attract volunteers, everywhere in the world, to swipe and locate remote areas which may be vulnerable to conflict, epidemics or disasters.
“It’s a really energising experience, knowing that the maps you are creating have such a tangible effect on the important work of MSF and the other Missing Maps partner organisations,” mapathon organiser Duncan on having a direct impact towards MSF’s field work.
“People are very keen to take part because the outputs are so important, and the whole process offers a fantastic middle ground of support between donating to MSF and volunteering as part of their field operations.”

Tell us about your team?

The Missing Maps Project is an open, collaborative initiative founded by Médecins Sans Frontières, the British Red Cross, the American Red Cross and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).

The maps we create will be available to use by everyone, everywhere, benefitting NGOs like MSF but also local people; helping them to have something so fundamental that most of the world take for granted.

What are your long term plans?

To reach our goal, we need the Missing Maps Project to be the biggest instance of digital volunteerism the world has ever seen. The most crisis-prone parts of the developing world will be mapped within two years which will directly improve the lives of some of the planet’s most vulnerable people.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

A recent innovation was a unique collaboration between MSF and Google to develop new technology for use at the height of the Ebola epidemic. Medics working in the West African heat could spend only an hour at a time inside the personal protective suits, and usually spent the final 10 minutes of their shift shouting basic patient notes over a fence to a colleague on the other side – as even a piece of paper leaving the high-risk zone posed an infection risk. This wasted precious time that medics wanted to spend with patients and impacted the quality of care we could provide.

As cases of Ebola reached their peak in September 2014, MSF reached out to the tech community, appealing for a way to help medical staff quickly and accurately record patients’ notes whilst in the high-risk zone of an Ebola management centre.

In response to MSF’s call for help, a group of tech volunteers formed, who were later joined by a team from Google. The team developed a waterproof tablet that can be dropped into chlorine, sterilised and safely taken out of the high-risk zone.

The technology will be open-source and MSF is now appealing to the tech community to adapt the software for use in other humanitarian emergencies, such as cholera outbreaks, nutrition crises and in refugee camps – any settings where detailed medical notes will make a difference to patient care.

How do people get in touch with you?

For more information on MSF’s work, to sign up for our e-newsletter or to donate visit:

1800 905 509
Twitter @MSF_ireland
Instagram @doctorswithoutborders

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!