Accurate maps play a critical role in understanding communities, particularly for populations at risk. Much, but not all, of the United States has been mapped with incredible detail. However, this is not the reality for billions of people in vulnerable areas around the globe. These individuals are often less visible to decision-makers because their communities do not exist on any maps. During disasters or epidemics, unmapped communities may receive less assistance because first responders have less information about them.
Launched in 2014, Missing Maps is a collaborative humanitarian project that aims to preemptively map populations at risk. Using satellite imagery and OpenStreetMap (OSM), remote volunteers create a base map of features like roads and buildings. Next, volunteers and partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use their local knowledge to fill in data gaps, such as health facilities, water points, places of worship and other important community resources. Data from this co-produced resource is vital to the Red Cross and Red Crescent network, as well as other NGOs and government agencies, as they plan and carry out disaster preparedness and response programs. The collective now includes 20 global NGOs including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Canadian Red Cross and Netherlands Red Cross.
To help address this critical need, approximately 125 Red Cross North Texas youth volunteers (ages 13-18) participate in weekly Mapathons whereby they work to fill in the missing map information. Between June 2020 and November 2020, these youth volunteered nearly 100 hours to the Missing Maps project, helping create maps covering parts of Indonesia, Vietnam and Colombia. These teams are committed to continuing their efforts in support of vulnerable populations around the world.