Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS), and the Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD), developed a cutting-edge mapping platform UNICEF-GIS. The programme enables real-time data collection through web and mobile applications.
In the pilot initiative, 111 young volunteers in five low-income communities – Morro dos Prazeres, Morro dos Macacos, Morro do Borel, Morro do Urubu and Rocinha – were trained to use UNICEF- GIS to assess the risks and vulnerabilities in their neighbourhoods.
The volunteers used mobile phones loaded with UNICEF-GIS to photograph problems; the photos were automatically tagged with GPS coordinates, enabling researchers and officials to pinpoint the problem areas. The adolescents then used cameras attached to kites to gather aerial images, helping to identify the presence or absence of drainage systems, the availability of sanitation facilities, impediments to evacuation, and other issues.
In February, UNICEF, volunteers and other partners presented their findings to local authorities from the Municipal Secretariat of Health and Civil Defense, the Urban Planning Secretariat, the Health Promotion Policy Coordination, the Environmental Education Coordination, and research and academic institutions.
With the mapping results, the volunteers were able to mobilise the Morro dos Prazeres community to clean accumulated garbage in high-risk areas, helping to prevent landslides and a variety of health hazards. They also advocated for the repair of the UGA-UGA Bridge, which has since been fixed.
The initiative will be expanded to five other communities in 2012. The programme, and the lessons learned from it, will also be used to create a national model for youth-led community mapping.