Why Mapping Is Integral

Maps are integral to aid workers both in the field and at headquarters.

Key advantages of relief maps


Presentation of data through the use of icons, shading, hatching, colour, contrast and scale enables people, regardless of language, to understand the information.

Data compression

Maps concentrate large quantities of information onto one page, enabling data to be rapidly cross-referenced and acted upon.


Interchangeable sectoral overlays enable timely and accurate decisions on populations, markets, logistics, strategy, security or policy. Sectors may be integrated and interrogated to meet specific user requirements.

Environmental linkage

The environment, including resource use, and communities exist in parallel, if the needs of either suffer, they both suffer. Maps can help define those needs and highlight mutually compatible solutions.


Coordination between all decision makers, in-the-field, field-to-HQ and HQ-to-HQ, depends on good communications. Accurate maps act as a focus for cooperation in the field, allowing various stakeholders to be ‘on the same page.’

Logistical accuracy

Sectoral data presented in graphic overlays enables locations of greatest need alongside quickest routes to be swiftly identified.

Public awareness

Donor and media use of maps clarifies public perceptions of humanitarian emergencies, speeds up responses and reduces donor fatigue.

Economies of time and money

Near real-time updates and the concentration of data in graphic form stops duplications of needs-assessments on the ground and facilitates swifter, co-ordinated, strategic decisions in different locations.


Accurate mapping of minefields and military no-go zones improves the security of relief workers, local resident populations and victims or refugees. Minefield maps are made with data from highly specialised de-mining NGOs such as HALO or Mine Action Group.


Maps encourage greater openness, improving assessments of the effectiveness of relief operations and enhancing donor commitment.

Lives saved

Quicker response times and better-targeted relief make the difference between life and death in complex emergencies.

Act local. Think global.