Working Paper Series

The purpose of the HHI working paper series is to disseminate preliminary research results, conference proceedings, and best practice guidelines in the areas where HHI has major programs. This quarterly series provides a forum for HHI faculty and fellows to share their research findings with the humanitarian community and to solicit substantive feedback prior to submission of manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals.

Hope in the Face of Displacement and Rapid Urbanization:

A study of the factors that contribute to human security and resilience in Distrito de Aguablanca, Cali, Colombia

By David Alejandro Schoeller-Diaz, Victoria-Alicia López, John Joseph "Ian" Kelly IV, and Ronak B. Patel

This working paper examines the challenges associated with rapid urbanization in the context of Distrito de Aguablanca, a complex settlement area in Cali, Colombia. Through interviews and focus groups, the report explores how the concept of resilience can be a useful tool to engage humanitarian, development, policy, and local communities in developing solutions to address the complex problems of marginalized communities.

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.

Applying Technology to Crisis Mapping and Early Warning in Humanitarian Settings

By Patrick Meier and Jennifer Leaning, September 2009.

The purpose of this Working Paper 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.

Student Working Paper Series

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, through the Cogan Family Fund for Humanitarian Studies, sponsored a multi-disciplinary group of Harvard graduate students to conduct a comprehensive population-based health needs assessment of Idjwi island. Idjwi is located in Lake Kivu and presents a unique research environment due to its close proximity to both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries with complex histories of genocide and prolonged conflict. Following standard practices for survey design and implementation, the students surveyed the health of 2,100 households in 50 enumeration areas distributed at random throughout populated areas. Students from the group present the key findings.

Religion, Identity, and Intervention: Southern Sudan and the Dynamics of Peacekeeping

By Rebecca A. Linder, May 2011.

This project aims to examine the use and meaning of the category of religious identity in South Sudan in the context of the UN peacekeeping mission. It explores the extent to which the religious dimension of the north-south conflict shaped how the peacekeeping forces were viewed. What role did religion play in southern Sudanese understandings of the conflict, and how did that impact the transition from war to peace?

Child Witches and Witch Hunts: New Images of the Occult in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Danielle Gram, April 2011.


In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an estimated 50,000 homeless children live with the label "child witch." While not all street children have been accused of practicing sorcery, the perception of Congolese is that the vast majority have this dangerous power. This paper explores why accusations of witchcraft have increased in DRC and resulted in severer punitive measures taken against those accused. Why have children become the primary targets of witchcraft accusation in DRC today? This paper explores the key social and religious contributors to the child witch craze by examining historical and contemporary Congolese spirituality and life.


Health and Demographics of Idjwi Island, DRC: Key findings of a multidisciplinary assessment

By Michael Hadley, April 2011.

Located in Lake Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Idjwi Island is largely overlooked by development organizations operating in the region. At the invitation of Idjwi’s political leaders, the team performed the first, broad, representative assessment of health conditions facing the island’s population of approximately 220,000. This report provides a detailed descriptive account of the results.


"Every Home Has Its Secrets": A Mixed-Methods Study of Intimate Partner Violence, Women's Empowerment and Justice on Idjwi Island, Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Thomas McHale, April 2011.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a little-studied but pervasive problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Through ethnographic, quantitative and legal analysis, this mixed methods study situates the problem of IPV on Idjwi Island, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo as a symptom of systematic women’s disempowerment. The study began with a literature review of IPV and sexual violence against women. Perceptions of IPV were collected as part of a population-level survey that interviewed 2,100 women in households across Idjwi. Simultaneously, a rapid ethnographic assessment was conducted to understand barriers to health care access and self-identified health issues. In these interviews, women revealed IPV is a significant health concern. This study suggests that IPV is normalized in Idjwi through an interaction between legal and cultural factors.

Fertility and Unmet Need for Contraception on Idjwi Island, DRC

By Dana Thomson, April 2011.

Fertility and family planning are affected by widespread intimate partner violence and rape related to DRC’s Civil War. The multi-disciplinary team performed a comprehensive health needs assessment of Idjwi in 2010, including a representative household health survey. A demographic model of proximate determinates of fertility was used to predict how total fertility rate (TFR) on Idjwi could be decreased with the introducti on of contraceptives and/or extended periods of breastfeeding. The following report details the social, cultural, and gendered-power variables associated with high fertility on Idjwi and makes recommendations for this community.