Satellites to the Rescue

Satellite image of Muzaffarabad region of Pakistan showing landslides caused by the 2005 south Asian earthquake. Map created on 13 October 2005

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation on how satellites and space technology are helping, and might help, in the case of big medical emergencies, from earthquakes to Ebola. It’s a slightly different tack for me and perhaps not the usual fare for loose wire blog, but I thought I’d throw it in here anyway.

When former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was seen leaving a conference in Geneva in November 2005 clutching maps of the south Asia earthquake disaster, it was evidence that satellites – as a key weapon in humanitarian emergencies – had arrived.

In the hours and days after the October 8 quake struck killing more than 73 000 people and injuring some 150 000, experts from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United Nations scrambled to gather and interpret images data from satellites to assist rescue workers on the ground from local authorities to nongovernmental organizations (NGO), like Télécoms Sans Frontières.

WHO | Space technology: a new frontier for public health

The World’s Smallest Mobile Clinic

JP/J. Adiguna

I love this kind of stuff, and wish these kinds of initiatives got better support from government, NGOs and companies:

Harun checks the blood pressure and weight of a customer in a park in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. He has offered the mobile service for the past 10 years, charging Rp 5,000 (about 60 US cents) per checkup.

We found dozens of these kinds of businesses in a pretty small patch of south Jakarta, and there are probably hundreds more, from guys renting out their cellphones to doing tailored alterations to clothes. Cellphones have improved their business a lot, but imaginative use of technology could help them a lot more, I suspect. But most of these guys fly under the radar of those who might be able to offer support and help.

The Jakarta Post – The Journal of Indonesia Today