One stop repository for flood events data in West Africa

A repository of historical and present flood events data has been developed for West Africa by the the GMES and Africa CSSTE-led Consortium. 

(c) Institut de recherche pour le Développement

Have you ever had cause to search for information about past and present flood events in a country and you had to spend hours online trying to get relevant information? It’s a herculean task! Information gathering and data retrieval on past and present disaster events particularly on flood in West Africa can pose a real challenge. A one-stop shop platform available to the public for well-coordinated information is hard to find or even practically non-existent. As we know, in the event of any disaster, the four stages of a disaster management cycle - Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery - can not be effectively addressed without adequate data. Availability of data that can be scientifically analyzed is crucial to any decision making in the 21st century. Anyone looking for data either for research purposes or for some level of decision making in governance would have a very high mountain to surmount and would have to burn some extra candles to get all needed information. 

(c) Jarivs Photography; Riverine type flooding

Well!, I have good news for you, be it an individual conducting a research, or a government official for the purpose of informed decision making, a repository of historical and present flood events data has been developed for West Africa by the CSSTE Consortium. The CSSTE consortium is one of the 12 Consortia under the GMES & Africa programme using Earth Observation to address challenges inherent in Africa. It is made up of 7 partners from five different West African countries - Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cote D’ivoire. The title of the action being implemented by the Consortium is Multi-scale Flood Monitoring and Asessment Services for West Africa (MiFMASS). The MIFMASS project aims to develop a #flood monitoring and forecasting system for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries. The Consortium having identified the recurring and obvious gap in availability of data on flood disasters has developed an Updatable Flood Event Database

The Updatable Flood Event Database developed under MIFMASS is one of the Products and Services to be provided by the Consortium to enable mitigation of effects of flood disasters as well as enhance the capacity of DMOs in fulfilling their mandates using #EarthObservation data (See Figure 1). As we know, the attendant losses that follow from disasters does not stop at the socio-economic and infrastructural level but also has very huge impact on human lives. Therefore, the existence of a record database that captures the quantitative and qualitative extent of a flood event is a great tool for #Disaster Management Organizations (DMOs), governments and international organizations in providing impactful support to affected areas in the event of a disaster. The records could range from the geographical location, the type of disaster (e.g., riverine or flash flood), casualties and the damage in physical and economic terms.

Figure 1: Landing page of the database interface

This database can aid in the identification of hotspots and implementation of targeted interventions across the countries of interest. It can also assist in developing flood vulnerability maps using spatial layers of factors that may contribute to the occurrence of floods. This product will be handed over to the National DMOs across West Africa by the end of the GMES & Africa programme to ensure sustainability. 

To ensure continuity and also create a sense of ownership is why the Consortium has been working with National Disaster Management organizations (DMOs) across the West Africa region to keep the Updatable Flood Event Database platform relevant even after the GMES & Africa programme life span. A review of existing data collection and archiving methods amongst DMOs was carried out by visiting the various organisations in different countries to get a first hand feel  of how things are being done. This was followed by collation of all available historical data from these National institutions which were collected in a traditional way - Newspaper clippings and manual excel sheet entries. All collated data were then transformed into a digitized format on the database architecture developed by the database team of the Consortium and made available online. The updatable database allows for continuous update of information on the platform via various means: crowdsourced data and data professionally collected by the National mandated organizations who the service will eventually be domiciled with. The database captures the timing, location, characteristics and assessment of damages caused by a particular flood event.  The web interface also allows for visualization and downloads of the flood events (See Figure 2). The Consortium has already trained personnel from these organizations to build the capacity needed to maintain and operate the database. 

The database which is currently undergoing quality assessments will be one of the products accessible through the GMES-MIFMASS geoportal of the CSSTE Consortium.

Figure 2: Sample search result for a flood event from the database

In conclusion, the benefits of having a Regional Updatable Flood Event Database for the ECOWAS region is priceless as its usefulness ranges from aiding disaster risk reduction policies at national level, mitigating socio-economic problems that arise from flood disasters to planning  and putting in place mitigation strategies functional for a particular city or country. It also engenders cross- agency or country collaboration and ease of data sharing within the region. In the words of Petra Nemcova (Year?) “ We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness

Article by Ms Shonubi Funmilayo for the CSSTE Consortium

More information on MifMASS

Dr Ganiyu I. Agbaje, fnis
Executive Director
African Regional Centre for Space Science & Technology Education (ARCSSTE-E)
(Affiliated to the United Nations) 
Obafemi Awolowo University
Ile-Ife, Osun State,



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