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Using satellite data to track the humanitarian impacts of flooding, particularly on schools, hospitals and roads.

Photo by Kafeel Ahmed

In this project, we used earth observation data from satellites and geo-located data on schools, hospitals and roads in Pakistan to map the impacts of the 2022 floods on South Sindh and Punjab, the worst affected regions.

In the immediate aftermath of flooding and other climate-induced natural disasters, the distribution of relief and rehabilitation efforts are a key priority which requires rapid, reliable and comprehensive information on the impacts of such events. However, especially in the Global South, the ability to access such information is not always straightforward.

two blue boxes representing the satellite flooding imagery from 3 sources, and the geo-located infrastructure from 3 sources being linked

Therefore, in this project we trialled mapping satellite-detected flooding estimates with geo-located data on schools, hospitals and roads, to estimate the proportion of infrastructure which was flood-affected in Punjab and South Sindh.

Our findings indicate over a quarter of basic health facilities were flooded, and made inaccessible due to the flooding of almost 1500 km and over 500 km in Sindh and Punjab, respectively. Also, in South Sindh, around a quarter of schools were flooded. 

Multi-panel figure showing maps of Punjab and South Sindh with hospitals, schools, roads and populations highlighted in either red or green, depending if they were impacted or unaffected

Overall, our mapping model independently verified estimates that 10% of the population, totalling over 20 million people, were directly impacted by the floods in Pakistan. This included 28% of the population in South Sindh and 4% in Punjab.

This form of earth observation can provide timely information for critical disaster management and rescue efforts, with disruption to schools, basic health facilities and road access able to be monitored in near real-time. This could allow immediate relief and longer-term resilience efforts to be undertaken more effectively, especially in resource-limited settings.

As this paper reaches publication, this permalink will include further details.