Humanitarian Geoanalytics

Erica Nelson and Saira Khan. 8/2021. Climate and Migration in East and the Horn of Africa: Spatial Analysis of Migrants’ Flows Data.Abstract

The drivers of human displacement are becoming more and more complex, ranging from conflict and persecution to the increasingly pertinent variables of heightened mobility and social media influences. Of rapidly but appropriately escalating concern is the impact of climate change. While the intensity and severity of climate-induced disasters and climate-related migration will be unevenly distributed across space and time, the World Bank estimates that approximately 140 million people will be displaced globally due to climate-related reasons by 2050. The effects of climate change are expected to be particularly pronounced in Africa, where rising temperatures, unpredictable anomalous rainfall and high vulnerability to extreme natural hazards will continue to exacerbate conflict and harm local and regional human, economic, and environmental security.

In the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) in particular, the dependence on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism means that livelihoods and food security are inextricably linked and affected by long-term or sudden environmental changes and natural hazards. The extreme natural hazards that have struck EHoA in recent years have caused widespread hunger, displacement, loss of critical infrastructure and livelihoods, and death

In an effort to understand the complex variables that influence migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) developed the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to track and gather information about populations on the move. The Flow Monitoring Registry (FMR) captures a wealth of data about the migratory routes, the demographics and nationality of migrants, reasons for migration, modes of transportation used to facilitate movement, and vulnerabilities experienced by these populations. While the descriptive data provides a wealth of information, more can be done to analyze the complexities of and interactions between migration, conflict, environmental changes, and climate-related events. Climate projections further suggest that environmental changes will likely further lead to decreased water availability, lowered agricultural productivity, and increased disease transmission in the region, producing complex ramifications regarding local and regional conflicts, economics, politics, and migration.

The porous borders in EHoA have contributed to some of the highest volumes of cross border movement in the world. In 2020 alone, EHoA hosted 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 3.5 million refugees and asylum seekers.6 In the same year, the Horn of Africa experienced unusually high levels of precipitation leading to disastrous floods and landslides and creating ideal conditions for an detrimental locust plague towards the end of 2019 that devastated crops and disrupted livelihoods. The extreme precipitation experienced across much of the Horn in 2019 was preceded by anomalous rainfall the previous year. 2018 was particularly hot and dry in the Horn of Africa, with positive temperature anomalies of around 2°C and below-average precipitation contributing to drought-like conditions in Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti while Kenya and Sudan experienced above-average precipitation.8 The drought-like conditions in Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti contributed to widespread food insecurity that affected approximately 12 million people. These extreme weather conditions are increasingly exacerbating the already complex and interconnected factors driving migration in the Horn of Africa, and are only expected to escalate in the future.

For this study, the IOM RDH in Nairobi partnered with the Humanitarian Geoanalytics Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to leverage spatial analytics to investigate migration flows in the East and Horn of Africa and Yemen. Geospatial analytics hold tremendous potential to introduce new ways of thinking, build research capacity, study impacts, and facilitate costeffective programming. The adoption of geospatial methods into research oriented towards populations on the move, gives us the capacity to accurately characterize the spatial heterogeneity of migrating populations. Furthermore, by incorporating environmental variables into this spatial analysis, we begin to reveal relationships previously undiscovered that could contribute to a richer understanding regarding migration in the region.

Erica Nelson and Saira Khan. 8/1/2021. “Climate and Migration in East and the Horn of Africa: Spatial Analysis of Migrants’ Flows Data”.Abstract

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Data Hub (RDH) for the East and Horn of Africa partnered with the Humanitarian Geoanalytics Program (HumGeo) at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) to analyze the complexities of and interactions between migration, conflict, environmental changes, and climate-related events in Yemen, and the East and Horn of Africa between 2018 and 2020.

This research aims to answer the following questions through a variety of geospatial analyses:

1) How did out-migration rates in any given administrative region change over time and, was it statistically significant compared to administrative regions around it?

2) How do the numbers of migrants and the overall migration trends vary across space and time, for each cited reason for migration (aka ‘driver of migration’)?

3) How do environmental variables, e.g. temperature and precipitation, correlate with outmigration in in the East and Horn of Africa?

This study provides new insights into out-migration patterns in the region, demonstrates a novel way to investigate changing reasons for out-migration using a variety of spatial analysis methods, and establishes a foundation for future studies to analyze the complex and evolving relationship between migration and climate change that will continue to intensify in the years to come.

Scott A. Goldberg, Rebecca E. Cash, Gregory Peters, Scott G.Weiner, P. Gregg Greenough, and Raghu Seethala. 2021. “The impact of COVID‐19 on statewide EMS use for cardiac emergencies and stroke in Massachusetts.” JACEP Open. Publisher's VersionAbstract


To evaluate the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) on emergency medical services (EMS) use for time‐sensitive medical conditions. We examined EMS use for cardiac arrest, stroke, and other cardiac emergencies across Massachusetts during the peak of the COVID‐19 pandemic, evaluating their relationship to statewide COVID‐19 incidence and a statewide emergency declaration.


A retrospective analysis of all EMS calls between February 15 and May 15, 2020 and the same time period for 2019. EMS call volumes were compared before and after March 10, the date of a statewide emergency declaration.


A total of 408,758 calls were analyzed, of which 49,405 (12.1%) represented stroke, cardiac arrest, or other cardiac emergencies. Average call volume before March 10 was similar in both years but decreased significantly after March 10, 2020 by 18.7% (P < 0.001). Compared to 2019, there were 35.6% fewer calls for cardiac emergencies after March 10, 2020 (153.6 vs 238.4 calls/day, P < 0.001) and 12.3% fewer calls for stroke (40.0 vs 45.6 calls/day, P = 0.04). Calls for cardiac arrest increased 18.2% (28.6 vs 24.2 calls/day, P < 0.001). Calls for respiratory concerns also increased (208.8 vs 199.7 calls/day, P < 0.001). There was no significant association between statewide incidence of COVID‐19 and EMS call volume.


EMS use for certain time‐sensitive conditions decreased after a statewide emergency declaration, irrespective of actual COVID‐19 incidence, suggesting the decrease was related to perception instead of actual case counts. These findings have implications for public health messaging. Measures must be taken to clearly inform the public that immediate emergency care for time‐sensitive conditions remains imperative.

MPH P. Gregg Greenough, MD, Ravi Goyal, Ruwan Ratnayake, Fatma Rawashdeh, Raeda AbuAlRub, Nahla Al-Ali, Muhammad Fawad, and Mohammad Bani Han. 10/14/2020. “Access to Care and Prevalence of Hypertension and Diabetes Among Syrian Refugees in Northern Jordan.” JAMA Network Open. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Importance  The management of noncommunicable diseases in humanitarian crises has been slow to progress from episodic care. Understanding disease burden and access to care among crisis-affected populations can inform more comprehensive management.

Objective  To estimate the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes with biological measures and to evaluate access to care among Syrian refugees in northern Jordan.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional study was undertaken from March 25 to April 26, 2019, in the districts of Ramtha and Mafraq, Jordan. Seventy clusters of 15 households were randomly sampled, and chain referral was used to sample Syrian households, representative of 59 617 Syrian refugees. Adults were screened and interviewed about their access to care. Data analysis was performed from May to September 2019.

Exposures  Primary care delivered through a humanitarian organization since 2012.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The main outcomes were self-reported prevalence of hypertension and diabetes among adults aged 18 years or older and biologically based prevalence among adults aged 30 years or older. The secondary outcome was access to care during the past month among adults aged 18 years or older with a diagnosis of hypertension or diabetes.

Results  In 1022 randomly sampled households, 2798 adults aged 18 years or older, including 275 with self-reported diagnoses (mean [SD] age, 56.5 [13.2] years; 174 women [63.3%]), and 915 adults aged 30 years or older (608 women [66.5%]; mean [SD] age, 46.0 [12.8] years) were screened for diabetes and hypertension. Among adults aged 18 years or older, the self-reported prevalence was 17.2% (95% CI, 15.9%-18.6%) for hypertension, 9.8% (95% CI, 8.6%-11.1%) for diabetes, and 7.3% (95% CI, 6.3%-8.5%) for both conditions. Among adults aged 30 years or older, the biologically based prevalence was 39.5% (95% CI, 36.4%-42.6%) for hypertension, 19.3% (95% CI, 16.7%-22.1%) for diabetes, and 13.5% (95% CI, 11.4%-15.9%) for both conditions. Adjusted for age and sex, prevalence for all conditions increased with age, and women had a higher prevalence of diabetes than men (adjusted prevalence ratio, 1.3%; 95% CI, 1.0%-1.7%), although the difference was not significant. Complications (57.4%; 95% CI, 51.5%-63.1%) and obese or overweight status (82.8%; 95% CI, 79.7%-85.5%) were highly prevalent. Among adults aged 30 years or older with known diagnoses, 94.1% (95% CI, 90.9%-96.2%) currently took medication. Among adults aged 18 years or older with known diagnoses, 26.8% (95% CI, 21.3%-33.1%) missed a medication dose in the past week, and 49.1% (95% CI, 43.3%-54.9%) sought care in the last month.

Conclusions and Relevance  During this protracted crisis, obtaining care for noncommunicable diseases was feasible, as demonstrated by biologically based prevalence that was only moderately higher than self-reported prevalence. The high prevalence of complications and obese or overweight status, however, suggest inadequate management. Programs should focus on reinforcing adherence and secondary prevention to minimize severe morbidity.