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Mapping connections for refugees and aid services

Mapping connections for refugees and aid services

unhcr

In areas inundated with refugees—like Jordan has become since the civil war in neighbouring Syria displaced millions of people—both humanitarian workers and people in need depend on aid services. Knowing where to access aid, what types of services are available, and when the organizations offering assistance are able to provide it—in real-time, with a map, and accessible on mobile phones—could make a huge difference in the lives of refugees and the capacity of humanitarian aid organizations.

Peacegeeks, an organization Affinity Bridge has worked with to develop the mapping piece of Project Amani, connects developers wanting to use their skills to help others with organizations in need of specialized technology and support. For this project, Peacegeeks brought Affinity Bridge together with GNUcoop to build a map called Services Advisor for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that can do just that—give refugees and aid workers a way to find available resources from wherever they are, using their smartphone. 

Services Advisor visually displays data from UNHCR's ActivityInfo system which provides information on sources of aid, locations and capacity of organizations offering assistance to refugees, and the kinds of resources available to those in need.

Map filters by region

Building blocks for a potentially vital resource

Our developers built a javascript map using the same core mapping technology developed in Amani designed to be viewed in any modern web browser—including mobile phones. The application is built using Leaflet and Mapbox as the base, Crossfilter to allow map marker filtering by several different criteria at once, and Browserify - a bundler for javascript libraries that helps keep the application stable and interoperable by preventing conflicts with other javascript found on pages where the map is embedded. GNUcoop helped with contributions of their development time to build user-location detection into the map, as well as a proximity filter.

The map draws its data from ActivityInfo as geoJSON feeds, uses font-icon markers to show the types of aid offered by a location, filters and text search functionality, and renders in English or Arabic. The layout is responsive and adjusts to the best option for the device in use, and the map will cache on modern browsers—so the data is still available if the user loses their internet connection or goes offline.

Why do we pursue this kind of work?

At Affinity Bridge we're motivated by our collaborations with organizations like Peacegeeks and the UNHCR—people working to help those in need. It's projects like this one—strongly aligned with our values and showing a need for the skillset we provide—that feed our passion for development and keep us engaged in our work.