India Portfolio


India has substantial experiences with natural and technological disasters, as well as with acts of terrorism. Time and again the experiences of the large populations affected by these humanitarian tragedies have gone unrecorded, resulting in the loss of valuable lessons that could have influenced future policy and response.  HHI's research aimed at decreasing the severity and impact of disasters on populations, reducing the physical, psycho-social and economic burdens of disasters on societies.

In order to further understanding of humanitarian crises in India, and consolidate various ongoing research and training initiatives in India, HHI established the India Portfolio.


Mumbai Monsoon Project
The Mumbai Monsoon Project was supported by a grant from the South Asian Initiative at Harvard. In recent years, monsoons have paralyzed Mumbai, bringing the commuter system and utility grids to a standstill and wreaking havoc on the shanties and workshops that are the means to livelihoods. The Mumbai Monsoon Project was focused on providing a citizen-driven, user-friendly, geographic information system to be used by local state agencies to enhance response to the annual monsoon floods in Mumbai.

The Mumbai Emergency Management Exercise (MEMEx) was the result of multi-institutional public-private partnerships. This was Mumbai's first inter-agency disaster drill focused on medical response that trained over 200 city employees: doctors, nurses, paramedics, and ward officers from the public and private sector. HHI provided faculty support for monitoring and evaluating the exercise.

By the end of the exercise,

  • The city's agencies tested their incident command structure and inter-agency communication strategies;
  • Hospitals trained both their administrators and physicians in preparing for mass casualty events;
  • The city's Emergency Medical Systems sharpened their skills in disaster triage and response;
    Public health practitioners and institution leaders improved capacity to monitor and evaluate disaster response.

the VOICES project
First launched in the aftermath of the July 2006 train blasts in Mumbai, the VOICES project offered ordinary citizens an opportunity to reflect on the recent disaster response, examine its strengths and weakness, and collectively discuss desirable next steps to strengthen disasterresponse in the future. These reflections were cataloged in a web-based platform for ordinary citizens to partake in analyzing their city's disaster response systems. Lessons from mumbaiVOICES 06 influenced a series of initiatives in Mumbai that culminated in the Mumbai Emergency Management Exercise (MEMEx).

MumbaiVoices expanded to address tragedies since the July 2006 train blasts.

  • MumbaiVoices 26/11/08 - Reflections on the November 2008 Mumbai hotel terrorist attacks.
  • Ahmedabad Voices 2008 - Reflections on the Ahmedabad bomb blasts.
  • MumbaiVoices 2006 - Reflections on the 2006 Mumbai train blasts.

Demographic and Humanitarian Consequence of the Partition of India
This multi-year, multi-disciplinary research project, funded by the Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and South Asia Initiative, explored the magnitude of the mortality consequences associated with this major episode of forced migration as well as the humanitarian response undertaken in its wake.The study, which was the first of its kind, augmented current knowledge relating to local response capacities, impacts of humanitarian intervention, and coping strategies of different groups at different stages of forced migration.

Lead Researchers

Satchit Balsari MD, MPH
Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Mihir Bhat, MS
Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

P. Gregg Greenough, MD, MPH
Director of Research, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH
Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative