Friday, April 11, 2008

First Rate Overview Of Refugee Situation In Iraq, Chad, Columbia, Sudan (UNHCR And Google Earth)

The UN's High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has teamed up with Google Earth to produce a very informative overlay that provides general information about not only UNHCR activities in Iraq, Chad, Columbia and Sudan but also the challenges faced by refugees in those countries in meeting the demands of everyday life. In addition to the main countries listed above, the overlay also includes some UNHCR activities in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt (primarily in the context of the Iraqi refugee crisis).

The news and information is designed to inform rather than outline the specifics of each UNHCR mission. As a result, this overlay is perhaps best used as it was clearly intended to be used, as a background piece. Each individual entry is quite interesting, however, and, while it may take a moment to load, they are all worth exploring. It would be particularly helpful for individuals who were not at all familiar with the UNHCR and the work it does around the globe.

If you do not have Google Earth, then you will need to download it (its free). Once Google Earth is installed, you can download the .kml file that contains the overlay. Double clicking on the .kml file should open up the overlay and Google Earth. Within the "Refugee's Life" menu, there are a number of options (See image to the right). You can start at the top with the introduction or go straight to one of the other items by double clicking on it in the menu. I found the "Let's Visit A Camp" link to be particularly interesting (see image at bottom of post).

If I have one beef is is that double clicking on some of the items in the menu takes you to strange places. For example, double clicking on the "Regional Overview" item takes you to a spot over North Africa but at an elevation that does not allow you to see any of the UNHCR icons. My recommendation is to zoom in and out on the named countries in order to be able to see what is there. Aggravating, but not fatally so.

All in all, this is a good overview product and well worth a teacher's or a student's time. It might also a good way to orient young soldiers, analysts, contractors and others who might not otherwise be familiar with the UNHCR's activities using an engaging and interactive tool.


monicaeva said...

I believe you mean Colombia- rather than Columbia?

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

You are absolutely correct. My apologies.