Meet the geographer from Niger mapping deadly floods to help those who need it

This screengrab shows the map created by Fatiman Alher, which is hosted by Open Street Map.
This screengrab shows the map created by Fatiman Alher, which is hosted by Open Street Map.

After historic floods swept Niger this summer, several neighborhoods in the capital, Niamey, are still underwater and many are reeling from the devastation, with tens of thousands of homes destroyed. Faced with this situation, Fatiman Alher, a young female cartographer and entrepreneur, created an interactive map where people can find out about road conditions and water levels in various areas. Alher’s aim is use the map to identify what areas need humanitarian assistance as well as to document the catastrophe to inform future preventative projects.

By late August, Nigerien authorities had counted 45 dead and 226,000 people affected by the floods across the country. They also reported that at least 20,201 homes had been damaged or destroyed along with 1,167 huts and 64 classrooms. At least 24 mosques collapsed in the floods and over 13,100 acres of crops were destroyed. This devastating situation prompted a cartographer named Fatiman Alher to use her unique skills to help document the crisis and get help to those who needed it most.

On September 12, Alher launched an interactive map allowing people to keep tabs on the situation in Niamey, the capital. The map, which is open to anyone, shows which neighborhoods have been affected by the floods and which ones are inaccessible.


Tweet by Fatiman Alher, translated from French: “Considering the urgent need for a map of the flooded area of #Niamey despite a lack of data, please click on the link to see the map that we were able to build using publicly available data pending a detailed map” 

By September 17, the map had 30 different entries providing information about flooding across Niamey. Most of the worst-affected areas are along the banks of the river Niger that cuts through the capital.

The map indicates places affected by the flooding, including schools, as well as flooded neighborhoods.

"Now the government has all the information to plan better”

Ahler wants to use her map to identify the needs of those affected by the floods in order to better plan for the future.

The crisis began this summer but, even though the water levels have stabilized, there are entire neighborhoods that remain inaccessible. Many people displaced by the flooding have gone to stay with family or are living in classrooms that the government transformed into rudimentary shelters.

Tweet by Fatiman Alher, translated from French →#Harobanda The situation is worse than what you see on social media. Take a look. The #population needs our moral support. It’s really important. Don’t say that you don’t have any data. Your presence is extremely important. ,#Solidarity_Action #population_stand_up

I wanted to document this situation and try, as a young person, to contribute to the collective effort. As a cartographer, I had already carried out similar projects in the past and so some young people came to me and asked if a map might improve attempts to deliver aid to the affected people. The idea was to know precisely which areas were still flooded and inaccessible. As I didn’t have the means to access satellite images in real time, I posted a call for locals to send me photos and information along with the corresponding location.


People starting sending in information and I verified it all myself. Some people shared their location on WhatsApp or Google Maps. Others didn’t know how to do that so they described the nearby shops and that enabled me to figure out their exact location.

Tweet by Fatiman Alher, translated from French: Some of the flooded neighborhoods (Harobanda). Specialized cartographers should help the city to better identify the affected zones. You can contact @Cyber_Citoyen by DM. #floods227

Mapping is a great tool for planning and decision-making. Institutions and international organizations can use it to know which neighborhoods need the most help. Using the information we’ve gathered on all the different streets, the government will be able to know which need the most help or financial support to rebuild. Now the government has all the information for better planning and decision-making to improve the lives of locals.