i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

World Cup 2010 in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

This post is a look at how space assets can be used in the planning of urban centers that are humane, livable, and yet productive and vibrant. It is no news that many parts of the continent are increasingly becoming urbanised and there is a steady demographic shift towards more urban lifestyles with their attendant health effects.

NASA Image of Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg

The planning of urban centers needs to incorporate the presence of many factors, some of which are listed here:

1. Sports and recreational facilities to promote healthy lifestyles.
2. Industrial centers that are reasonably displaced from residential locations.
3. Effective waste treatment and management to avoid pollution of air, water, and food.
4. Transportation networks that are easy to navigate and reduce the stress of commuting.
5. A credible vision of expansion or attrition, as the case may be, to make room for change and embrace the future.

The advantage of having satellite imagery is to help provide a better view of the land, to help guide the planning and integration of requisite features for a worthwhile and enlivening urban experience.

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Early Warning Systems

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 1, 2009

As it is said, “Prevention is better than cure”. This shows the necessity of looking at healthcare interventions beyond the limited scope of activities aimed at arresting a situation that is already in progress. The planning of healthcare interventions for disaster management relies also on the existence of reliable early warning systems that would provide information about the likely occurrence of hazards. This would enable the institution of an appropriate plan that would adequately address the dangers posed by the impending event. As stated in the United Nations report on the World Conference on Disaster Reduction that held in Kobe, Japan a few weeks after the Asian Tsunami of December 2004, “Effective early warning systems have been widely recognized as worthwhile and necessary investments. Such systems, coupled with humanitarian aid and better preparedness, have greatly cut the number of people dying from famine, saving two million lives over the last 20 years” (Leoni, 2005).

The framework of early warning systems is composed of four phases (Bogardi 2006) namely:
1. Monitoring of precursors
2. Forecasting of events
3. Notification of a warning or an alert should an event of catastrophic proportions take place
4. Onset of emergency response activities once a warning has been issued.

Each phase requires coordinated action, and the responsible actors in each phase should endeavour to ensure that there is seamless flow of interaction and understanding between them. Such that the information passing from one to the other is clearly understood and results in the desired response. This is accomplished through preparatory meetings, formal and informal education etc.

The use of satellite-derived information for meteorology and earth observation provide useful tools for keeping watch over trends and changes in the earth’s environment and serve as useful indicators of what to expect. Since most disasters are of hydrological, geological or meteorological origin, a system based on satellite monitoring of the features that lead up to these events would provide a foundation for such an early warning system.

This would provide information on the hazards and vulnerabilities of the communities, which are based on not only environmental but also on human and socio-economic factors. This vulnerability assessment would generate the information needed to determine the scale of disaster preparedness efforts to be put in place as pre-emptive guides. Following which, a monitoring system capable of providing accurate warning on potentially catastrophic events, by the monitoring of various hazards, can then be relied on to give timely alerts. This is completed by the planning of evacuations, briefing and deployment of trained teams to give appropriate medical support, and other activities which ultimately save time in the relief process.

The role of having early warning systems is crucial for African states, these systems are needed to support the efforts at strengthening emergency response. This should be the proper approach. Infrastructural develoment efforts for developing earth observation systems utilizing both space based and in-situ platforms are necessary. Capacity buiding initiatives training personnel in the development, testing and validation of hazard prevention models to form the basis for decision support tools providing active surveillance of hazards are all needed. This should be part of our focus as we seek to contribute to ensuring global security.

References
BOGARDI et al. 2006. Early warning systems in the context of disaster risk management. [Online]. Available at http://www.unisdr.org/ppew/info-resources/docs/ELR_dt_23-25.pdf.

LEONI B,. 2005. Global Early warning system launched at conference on disaster reduction [online]. Available at http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2005/iha998.html.

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Another look at Space and Health in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 11, 2008

As it is known ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. Space technology has the potential of detecting the environmental factors responsible for the spread of disease. These factors are now compared with existing institutional health records and ground evidence to develop models that depict the patterns of disease spread. The models are further tested and validated to prove their accuracy and predictive capability. The ensuing systems can be used in simulating disease epidemiology (eg. the effect of climate change), thus acting as decision support systems to aid in preventive efforts.

(Source: Action Team 6, Communications Research Centre, Canada)

These systems vary in complexity due to the relationships between the vectors or host characteristics studied, the influencing environmental factors and the mathematical tools used in modelling the disease for the Geographic Information Systems. Some can even predict disease epidemics months before they occur, in which case preventive measures such as education, immunization and active surveillance can be instituted. This would certainly reduce the morbidity and mortality due to these preventable diseases and as the disease burden reduces over time, the chances that effective control measures can eventually result in extinction of some of these diseases exist. Climate change, globalization, and urbanization are some of the factors responsible for the emergence and re-emergence of certain diseases in places around the globe where they were previously unknown. SST can be used to predict and monitor these changes in global trends of disease spread and assist in developing the institutional capability to handle these threats. This challenge is a major reason why there is renewed international interest in disease epidemiology in Africa.

Development of the field of landscape epidemiology (tele epidemiology) as this area is known is gaining increasing interest from various space agencies and research institutions. Below are links to some of the centres involved in this field.

National Aeronautic and Space Administration: Malaria, ArboNET/Plague surveillance system, Public Health Applications in Remote Sensing (PHAiRS), Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN/HELIX Atlanta), European Space Agency (ESA), French Space Agency(CNES), UNITED NATIONS.

These are just a few. There are programs going on in almost every other space agency (some links are in an earlier post). Our aim therefore would remain to increase awareness and strengthen commitment to further propagate these reasonable and efficient uses, that have without doubt proven to be potent tools in enhancing the science and practice of both epidemiology and disaster management.

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I believe

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 7, 2007

The ‘i’ in ‘i initiative’ stands for three principles
1) Information- that sine qua non of sustainable development, of which space technology is the most effective and powerful means of dissemination, and which Africans are yet to imbibe a culture of.
2) Innovation- Information, creative reasoning, high-tech, these are some of the drivers of the space industry and elements of innovation that are crucial needs in re-engineering African society.
3) Integration- Outer space is the common heritage of all mankind. It is a major area of international cooperation and serves as a binding force for all nations.

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