Eradicating polio with the help of remote sensing

Rhiannan PriceThe past two months have been major milestones for the eradication of polio for the entire African continent. As recently as July, Nigeria celebrated a year free of any polio cases. And yesterday on August 11, Somalia also achieved a year without a polio infection. These are major successes in the path to global eradication as well.

The progress in Nigeria and Somalia means there are only two remaining countries with polio. According to the CDC, in 2015 there have been 34 new cases worldwide – 28 of them in Pakistan and six in Afghanistan. As part of the global campaign to end polio worldwide by 2018, DigitalGlobe has been mapping every village and every home to ensure vaccination campaigns have the necessary information to find everyone who needs immunizing. Mapping settlements and populations is critical – you can’t immunize children if you can’t find them.

In isolated and often insecure areas of Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, remote sensing has enabled comprehensive mapping that helps immunization programs deliver vaccines. Health workers know exactly how many doses are needed for a community and how to best allocate limited human resources.

Settlement mapping in Kano, Nigeria
Mapping the most remote communities in Kano, Nigeria.

The work to accurately map all these populations isn’t easy. DigitalGlobe used advanced machine learning-based algorithms to evaluate terabytes of data and identify possible human settlements. To help eliminate any false positives, DigitalGlobe turned to volunteers in a public crowdsourcing campaign. Using Tomnod, volunteers worldwide confirmed whether or not an image contained a building. More than 45,000 volunteers helped validate the village detection results across Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan. For Somalia, the volunteer-driven campaign lasted three days and covered over 120,000 polygons. The end result was a map of 285,103 settlements that otherwise might not have been reached.

Big data analytics, in conjunction with crowdsourcing, offer solutions to information gaps challenging not only health campaigns but other development efforts. In anticipation of the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September, DigitalGlobe is delivering innovative solutions for global development organizations. From crop inventories to monitoring refugee camps, satellite imagery delivers scalable, accurate information to inform decisions on the ground.

Get involved! Join the crowd and start mapping on a Tomnod campaign.

Learn more about DigitalGlobe solutions for global development.