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A problem, a phone, a software platform: crisis relief in Pakistan

Posted: 08/27/10 06:00 AM

If you go to, you’ll see a map of Pakistan riddled with red dots. Click on one, a little dialogue box pops up.  “under 9 feet water. 400 stranded near Qaim Bhawana ‘Bund’. Food & medicines urgently needed.  Disease everywhere. Relief camp in QB town in name only.”

This is all direct information about conditions on the ground in Pakistan sent for free by text message to number called a short code. 

We’re coming up on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The storm slammed into the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1700 people, displacing hundreds of thousands of others.  In the aftermath, just trying to find people, getting information about who needed what, where, was a major challenge.

Now, in flood-ravaged Pakistan, volunteers have a way to get people on the ground directly involved in the information sharing, and this weekend, they’re going to make a big push to make sure people in Pakistan know about it.  They’re using Ushahidi, a platform for collecting and visualizing information. 

Patrick Meier, Director of Crisis Mapping and Strategic Partnerships at Ushahidi, and Anahi Ayala Iacucci, volunteer coordinatorfor PakReport explain how it all works and how it helps in crisis situations.

BASEERA, PAKISTAN - AUGUST 26: Flood victims head back home on a flooded road as the water level goes down August 26, 2010 in Baseera, Punjab, Pakistan. Pakistan is suffering from the worst flooding in 80 years, with government officials claiming as many as 20 million people have been affected by the flooding with 15 million seriously affected. The U.N has described the disaster as unprecedented, with over a third of the country under water, and the country’s agricultural heartland has been devastated as rice, corn and wheat crops have been destroyed by the floods. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

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