Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/366
    14 March 2008

    United Nations Response to Combat Floods in Namibia

    VIENNA, 14 March (UN Information Service) -- This morning, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) triggered the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" to help Namibia in its combat against floods which were caused by heavy rain and have led to an outbreak of cholera. A request to provide satellite imagery for northern and north-eastern regions of Namibia that are most affected by floodwater, came to UNOOSA from the country office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia and will cover an area 100 km north from the Angolan-Namibian border to the northern shore of Etosha Pan in Namibia.

    The satellite imagery, provided free of charge through the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" will help the Namibian authorities who declared a state of emergency on 5 March, to assess the impact of the floods. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the increased floodwaters have inundated the sewage system. An increase in cholera and other water borne diseases is anticipated.

    UNOOSA has activated the Charter 48 times since it became a cooperating body to the Charter in 2003. Any entity of the United Nations system responding to an emergency and identifying the need for satellite data and information within the scope of the Charter may forward a request for assistance to the Charter through UNOOSA. This year, the Charter has already been triggered three times through UNOOSA: for floods in Bolivia in January, earthquake affecting Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and floods in Ecuador in February.

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    The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" was declared operational in November 2000, following the UNISPACE III conference organized by UNOOSA in Vienna, and aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through authorized users. Each one of 10 member agencies has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

    UNOOSA staff volunteer on a rotating basis as a 24-hour on-duty operator who receives the call, verifies the identity of the requestor and that the user request form has all the relevant information. The operator then passes the information on to an emergency on-call officer, based in Turin, Italy, who analyzes the request and the scope of the disaster and prepares an archive and acquisition plan using available resources. Data acquisition and delivery takes place on an emergency basis, and a project manager designated by the Charter qualified in data ordering, handling and application, assists the user throughout the process.

    To learn more about the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters", visit: www.disasterscharter.org

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    For further information, please contact:

    Romana Kofler
    Associate Programme Officer, UNOOSA
    Telephone: (+43 1) 26060-4962
    Email: romana.kofler@unvienna.org