Programs & Research

HHI's research and programs unite interdisciplinary experts from across Harvard University in order to apply a scientific framework to humanitarian practice worldwide and provide advanced scholarship on the intractable challenges faced by crisis-affected populations, and the relief agencies that serve them.


HHI's Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning examines the use of information communications technologies in conflict and disaster settings. Research focuses on identifying patterns in humanitarian emergencies to improve response. HHI examines the impact of crisis mapping, geospatial and crowd sourcing technologies to prepare, mitigate, and respond to emergencies.

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HHI aims to present an analysis of current patterns of mass rape in internal wars, identifying key factors of opportunity, vulnerability, and impunity that support the ongoing practice of mass rape. HHI's research also offers an assessment of current approaches taken by relief agencies, highlighting avenues for further efforts that can reduce the future incidence of these atrocities and relieve the suffering of current survivors, their families, and their communities.

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HHI's Program on Urbanization and Humanitarian Emergencies aims to understand the distinct complexities of natural and man-made disasters on the urban landscape. Research focuses on equipping aid agencies, governments, and international bodies with skills to rapidly determine the needs of heterogeneous and dense populations in cities.

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How can we better respond? Disaster and conflict management experts at Harvard believe they have the answer: quantify the problems and evaluate the quality and impact of aid. HHI serves as a resource for technical, research, and training assistance to more than 80 humanitarian agencies and international institutions. Events like the Humanitarian Action Summit provide a space for dialogue on emerging issues in humanitarian response and inter-agency coordination.



For more recent reports and articles related to HHI affiliates' research, please visit our Publications page.

Now, The World Is Without Me: An Investigation of Sexual Violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

By: Susan Bartels, Michael VanRooyen, Jennifer Leaning, Jennifer Scott, and Jocelyn Kelly, April 2010.

‘Now, The World Is Without Me', is an in-depth report commissioned by Oxfam America and carried out by HHI.  The study analyzes data from female rape survivors who were treated in Panzi Hospital in South Kivu Province over a five-year period.  The analysis revealed an alarming increase in civilian perpetrators of rape.

Evidence-Based Peacekeeping: Exploring the Epidemiology of Lethal Violence in Darfur

By Alex de Waal, et. al., March 2010

In this working paper, the authors seek to assess the "nature and scale of violence in Darfur in a way that is both directly useful in the design of peace support missions and policies, while also more broadly demonstrating the importance of rigorous data collection before and throughout these missions in order to arrive at evidence-based conclusions about the nature of violence and effectiveness of applied responses." The authors explore the challenges of constructing an evidence base for peace support operations and the limits to inferences that can be made about civilian protection in Darfur using existing data sources.


Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women


Nowhere to Turn is a report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by women who fled attacks on their villages in Darfur and are now refugees in neighboring Chad. The report is based on a scientific study, conducted in partnership with Physicians for Human Rights, of women's accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad.

Characterizing Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Profiles of Violence, Community Responses, and Implications for the Protection of Women

This report uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore sexual violence in the Democratic Replublic of Congo.  Results from this report show the sexual violence perpetrated by armed actors in the DRC has features that indicate rape is being used as a weapon of war. The violence in DRC embodies a new kind of war emerging in the 21st century - one that occurs in villages more than battlefields and affects more civilians than armed combatants.


Applied Technology to Crisis Mapping and Early Warning in Humanitarian Settings

The purpose of this Working Paper Series on Crisis Mapping is to briefly analyze the current use, and changing role, of information communication technology (ICT) in conflict early warning, crisis mapping and humanitarian response. The authors demonstrate that ICTs have the potential to play an increasingly significant role in three critical ways by: facilitating the communication of information in conflict zones, improving the collection of salient quantitative and qualitative conflict data, and enhancing the visualization and analysis of patterns.