Mapping the Bijagos islands

By Scott Tytheridge, MSc Medical Entomology for Disease Control

The Missing Maps project was created to map areas of the world that lack comprehensive maps, particularly for the purpose of humanitarian aid.  The first stage, which is the ‘mapping parties’, is the initial and basic laying down of buildings and roads in the open-source map,, in order to assist humanitarian teams on the ground to find communities and deliver health interventions.  The two preceding stages are for the on-the-ground teams to accurately record what those buildings are and then to update the map with other information such as water and sanitation use.

The School has been involved with two mapping parties but these are not directly involved with the main Missing Maps project.  The Bijagos islands were mapped by the team at the School on Friday 12th May.  There is a large two-year project in the Bijagos archipelago, Guinea-Bissau entitled, “Towards elimination of diseases in the Bijagos archipelago”.  These islands are ideal settings to study disease transmission as well as improve the lives of people living there by reducing disease burden.  Mapping the islands will aid research teams, including myself and 4 other MSc students, to navigate the islands as well as identify potential disease hotspots.

The 40 or so people that turned up began the evening with a quick introduction on the Bijagos Islands with some photos including of the local people, buildings the group would be mapping and some nice photos of Bijagos paradise!  Then it was on with the mapping until halfway through when pizza arrived but there was no rest and we cracked on with pizza in one hand and computer mouse in the other.  These evenings are normally broken up by a lightning talk from someone currently involved with the Missing Maps project, one of the humanitarian groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders or researchers who use the maps we produce.  But not tonight, we just carried on mapping the 300 or so squares that needed mapping.

In the end, we managed to map 70% of the islands which is a fantastic achievement!  The mappers continued mapping in their spare time the next couple of days and we reached 100% by Monday. The maps will not only provide navigation but for many researchers, including the MSc team of 5, it will help with sampling procedures including GIS sampling of houses for surveillance purposes.

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