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4.3 Platforms and data sources

There are many online data sharing platforms today, focused on humanitarian data or not. We identify here some major and important sources to know, especially for reference data (roads, administrative boundaries, localities, hydrography, etc.).

OpenStreetmap (OSM)

The OpenStreetMap (OSM) mapping project is surely the reference for open access GIS data in countries where access to geographic data remains complex. It is an open source collaborative mapping project that constitutes a global database of freely available geographic data. The data is added by users around the world using aerial imagery and field surveys to further enrich OSM database.

On this comparative map, we can see how the OSM database can be improved rapidly thanks to the mobilization of the OSM community in the context of crisis situations.

In this example of a comparison of the evolution of mapping in two areas (OSMCompare tool), in the space of about 20 days the city of Tete in Mozambique was entirely mapped thanks to the work of volunteers when the project was activated by Missing maps (humanitarian mapping project). The mobilization of volunteers around mapping projects is usually done on the collaborative mapping platform HOT Tasking manager. A platform managed by the NGO Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). To contribute to various projects, you need to go to here

Humanitarian data exchange (HDX)

HDX is a data sharing platform for the humanitarian sector. The objective is to make humanitarian data more accessible to organizations working in the sector or any other user. It includes reference data (e.g. administrative breakdowns) produced by OCHA and available here

Natural Earth

Natural Earth is a administrative and physical map dataset about countries at several scales. This dataset is composed of open access vector and raster data Natural Earth.


Geonames is an online platform that allows you to download data on the administrative subdivisions of countries. It also contains a large number of data sets on the names of localities (places) by country. These names are added collaboratively by users, which enriches the database Geonames.


The Acled website provides data on armed conflicts and different events (political violence, protests, etc.) in the world. In concrete terms, the site lists data on the location of conflicts, the actors, the number of victims, etc. To access the site, go to Acled.

UNHCR Geoservices

UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, has established the Operational Data Portal (ODP)**{: .text-orange } to facilitate the coordination of humanitarian action between different agencies regarding displaced persons. This is done through the sharing of information and data on refugee-related emergencies. Visit here.

Other sources

The following table lists various sources where data and maps can be downloaded for free.

Name Description Theme Links
Global Forest Watch Global Forest Watch Land use globalforestwatch
Healthsites Location of health facilities Health healthsites
OpenAerialMap Drone Imaging Platform Imaging OpenAerialMap
OpenAfrica Open source data Africa General OpenAfrica
MapAction Emergency Mapping Resources Humanitarian MapAction
DivaGIS Download Geographic Data General DivaGIS
One Geology Geology Data Portal geology one geology Data and map download site Humanitarian fieldmaps
Open Topography Topography Data Portal Topography opentopography