SANSA uses satellite imagery to map COVID-19 risk areas in South Africa

Information from SANSA

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has been mapping and monitoring human settlement developments in the country using high-resolution imagery to provide base data required for spatial planning, environmental and disaster management. This data can be used to support campaigns aimed at managing the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 to ensure that all communities are reached during mitigation and management of the disease.

Even though access to basic services and overcrowding cannot be directly detected from satellite imagery, several studies have concluded that these are common characteristics of informal settlements in South Africa. In 2011, only 31% of households in Gauteng informal settlement had piped water in their yards while 23% had flush toilets. It is therefore important to map the location of informal settlements and assess their socioeconomic and environmental conditions to support the South African Government’s service delivery objectives and reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is also known.

Earth observation technology enables the use of high spatial resolution and up-to-date satellite imagery to be used to map the indicators within communities that may have limited means to practice basic hygiene and social distancing measures among citizens. The following maps illustrate some of the available data and applications that may support the management and containment of the coronavirus, such as identifying high risk areas.

The SANSA maps show the spatial distribution of human settlements and informal settlements, including the density of dwelling structures such as that in Monwabisi Park informal settlements in Cape Town. The information on density of structure can support the provisional planning of required services such water provision in areas that do not have access to water.

SANSA said it will continue to support the South African Government with information to assist with interventions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and relieving pressures on health care facilities (“flattening the curve”).

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