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Aid agencies are making use of satellite technology to assist their efforts to provide food, shelter and clothing to millions of refugees in Sudan's Darfur region.

The agencies are being assisted by Respond, a consortium of European companies and universities that is creating up-to-date maps of the region to guide relief operations, and providing them either through the Internet or on compact disks.

The maps include small-scale maps of roads, rivers and villages, and larger-scale maps for use in general planning. It is hoped that they will help speed the delivery of supplies to those most in need.

To create the maps, Respond converts satellite data from the US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency into images. Normally such analysis would take several weeks because there are a number of steps in the process.

But by connecting direct to the satellites, Respond is able to complete the work in about 12 hours. By producing images so rapidly, the consortium is creating maps that allow aid agencies to find ways around flooded riverbeds – a particular problem during Sudan's rainy season.

Link to full BBC Online news story