Crowd, the Cure to Ebola Outbreak?


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned that the Ebola crisis in West Africa is “unprecedented, absolutely out of control.”

Cases of Ebola have been confirmed in more than 60 locations across the three affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. As MSF work to contain the Ebola outbreak, the geographic vastness of the situation is presenting an unprecedented difficulty. Aid workers in the region are becoming increasingly reliant on The Crowd to collate data and map these broad regions.

One example is Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). It is a Crowdsourced project to provide mapping and tracking to the region.

A New Scientist article from earlier this year outlined how doctors from MSF upon arriving in Guinea were initially deprived of the data and mapping required to coordinate their efforts. The organization turned to the HOT, to map the city of Guéckédou, in southern Guinea. Sylvie de Laborderie who coordinated the effort with HOT said “the map showed two roads maybe – nothing, nothing.” HOT within 20 hours had mapped 100,000 buildings across three cities.

The epidemic has to spread to neighboring countries and with MSF and World Health Organisation indicating that they have reached the limit of their resources. A new urgency has emerged to contain the outbreak and educate the population in vast unmapped areas. HOT has been reactivated and are currently mapping Sierra Leone. Along with a twitter campaign #map4ebola, HOT are providing aid organisations with interactive maps to help track outbreaks.

As doctors and aid workers in these regions go to sleep hundreds of people around the world are tirelessly working to bring clarity to a desperately complex situation. If we are to cure and contain Ebola in West Africa The Crowd is going to be a critically important facet.


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