A charitable trust has done a deal with the European Space Agency in an attempt to improve the speed and accuracy of aid agencies' response to disasters.
Aid agencies in-country, which may not always be able to access the immediate scene of a disaster, will now be provided with up-to-date satellite images of terrain, floods, earthquakes and droughts. The pictures and other data from space could also enable NGOs to track the movements of displaced people, according to the director of the Reuters Foundation Maureen Marlowe.
The space agency has agreed to supply the imagery to a pre-existing web site, which already works as a central information point for international aid agencies (www.alertnet.org).
International NGOs have been consulted about the plan. Nick Roseveare, deputy humanitarian director of Oxfam GB, welcomed the move, saying satellite imagery was important to improving data about humanitarian disasters.