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UN aid work guided from space

United Nations-led development efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the globe are being guided by images from space. The ESA-backed UNOSAT consortium is providing an average of five new satellite-derived maps or data products to UN agencies and non-governmental organisations every week. The poor Nicaraguan highlands municipality of Matagalpa is just one site among many where UNOSAT-supplied GIS tools are being used in development projects. Here the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is using space-derived relief data that identifies areas most at risk of landslides to plan safe urban expansion and by use GIS tools to combine a satellite image of newly built-up areas with local data on the limits of the local water supply, zones most at risk of disease are highlighted for attention. Such Earth Observation (EO) services are being made available worldwide to United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with short-term emergency relief and longer-term development assistance. The provider is UNOSAT, a consortium funded by ESA’s Earth Observation Market Development Programme, together with the Centre National pour les Etudes Spatiales of France (CNES) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France.