UN using drones to help displaced people across Africa


The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is using drones to help in assessing the needs of people fleeing conflicts and persecution in Mali, Nigeria and South Sudan.

Drones are also increasingly in use in countries like Niger, Burkina Faso and Uganda to help map huge populations of displaced people, assess their needs and figure out how best to get assistance to them. They are also being used to evaluate environmental damage caused by displacement.

“There are numerous peaceful applications of this technology, whether in human rights, aid delivery, or settlement mapping,” says Andrew Harper, head of UNHCR’s Innovation unit, noting that the potential use for drones is “overwhelming.”

While the technology was hugely used for bomb deployments before, its new usage in helping the refugee situations across Africa should be commended.

“With the use of the drone images, we want to provide a new level of mapping to strengthen our analysis of the context,” said UNHCR External Relations Officer Benoit Moreno.

The images captured by the drones enable the UN Refugee Agency and its partners to visualize the situation in the sites and identify and meet needs for multiple services, including water systems, latrines, education facilities and health care. It also aides registration of the displaced.