The news is constantly
showing us pictures of refugees. These mass population movements
can be caused by conflicts, political repression, famine, and natural
disasters. The people flee as long as they are in danger, then stop
as soon as they feel safe, forming camps that may or may not be
planned, depending on how fast the crisis develops;
humanitarian aid requires a good inventory of the theatre of operations.
This aid is often dispensed in remote areas for which large- and
middle-scale maps are non-existent or obsolete. Emergency mapping
then becomes necessary. Such mapping is based on recent satellite
images, to which one adds knowledge of the terrain resulting from
either field surveys, if possible, or data culled from an inventory
of various documents.
Remote sensing is
also suitable for ad hoc operations. So, studies and methods have
been developed to use satellite imagery to look for appropriate
sites for setting up refugee camps. Other studies show the usefulness
of remote sensing for monitoring the refugee camps impacts
on the local environment over the longer term. With the help of
aerial photography or high-resolution imagery, large-scale remote
sensing can also provide back-up for camp management and the detection
of risk area.
The various remote sensing techniques are
important logistic support tools. The expertise developed in this
field contributes to a whole set of means that Belgium makes available
for humanitarian aid purposes.