Natural Disaster

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.

Sonny S. Patel, Bernard McCaul, Gabriela Cáceres, Laura E.R. Peters, Ronak Patel, and Aaron Clark-Ginsberg. 4/2021. “Delivering the promise of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in fragile and conflict-affected contexts (FCAC): A case study of the NGO GOAL's response to the Syria conflict.” Progress in Disaster Science. Read PublicationAbstract

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) has helped to reduce global disaster risk, but there has been a lack of progress in disaster risk reduction (DRR) for people living in fragile and conflict affected contexts (FCAC). Given the mounting evidence that DRR cannot be implemented through conventional approaches in FCAC, serious efforts must be made to understand how to meet SFDRR's goals. This paper offers a case study of international non-governmental organization GOAL's programming that responds to the protracted crisis in Syria, with a critical discussion on SFDRR and how to adapt humanitarian relief and disaster resilience.

David Sanderson, Sonny S. Patel, Martin Loosemore, Anshu Sharma, Kelsy Greenwald, and Ronak Patel. 7/2021. “A review of peer-reviewed published research on corruption and disasters in the built environment.” Disasters. Read PublicationAbstract

This paper presents the findings of a review of academic literature concerning the degree to which corruption worsens naturally-triggered disasters in the built environment. The research employed a ‘systematic literature review’ methodology to analyse leading academic databases, resulting in a detailed analysis of 59 peer-reviewed, published papers. It was found that while much of the literature focuses on earthquakes (relating to building and infrastructure collapse), the quality of governance and the drivers of corruption, there is presently limited scholarship concerning the general scope, reach and scale of how disasters are worsened by corruption.

Hanni Stoklosa, Courtney Julia Burns, Abraar Karan, Michelle Lyman, Nathene Morley, Reena Tadee, and Eric Goodwin. 6/2021. “Mitigating trafficking of migrants and children through disaster risk reduction: Insights from the Thailand flood.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Read PublicationAbstract

Thailand's flood of 2011 was devastating for the communities and inhabitants of the country, affecting approximately 13 million people and causing damages totaling THB 1.43 trillion (46.5 billion USD). The presence of a natural hazards disaster such as this can magnify individuals' vulnerability to human trafficking, or mitigate it depending on the disaster risk reduction practices of the surrounding community. The Sendai Framework is the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction's international framework for these situations, outlining targets and priorities for action to reduce negative outcomes, such as trafficking, from natural events. This study aimed to understand how a disaster risk reduction and preparedness lens, based on the Sendai Framework, in the context of the humanitarian response to this 2011 flood, could inform human trafficking prevention efforts for future disasters. Qualitative methodology, utilizing a content analysis approach, was employed. It was found that migrant workers and children were at the greatest risk for trafficking, and resiliency efforts by communities and families, in conjunction with coordinated initiatives by NGOs and the government, were essential in preserving individuals' well-being. Further, the Sendai Framework is a promising tool to address these areas of disaster response in which the windows of opportunity for traffickers can be closed and those at high trafficking risk can be protected. As disasters continue to occur, there remains a strong need to bring forth a more systematic disaster risk reduction and resilience-enhancing approach to trafficking prevention.

Krzysztof Goniewicz, Maciej Magiera, Dorota Rucińska, Witold Pawłowski, Frederick M. Burkle Jr., Attila J. Hertelendy, and Mariusz Goniewicz. 5/2020. “Geographic Information System Technology: Review of the Challenges for Its Establishment as a Major Asset for Disaster and Emergency Management in Poland.” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.Abstract

Technical and technological progress in the 21st century, especially emerging geographic information system (GIS) technology, offers new and unprecedented opportunities to counteract the impact of crisis situations and emergencies. Computerization and development of GIS enabled the digital visualization of space for interactive analysis of multiple data in the form of models or simulations. Additionally, computerization, which gives rise to a new quality of database management, requires continuous modernization of computer hardware and software. This study examines selected examples of the implications and impact of the GIS commonly used in Poland.

Laurel E. Fletcher, Phuong Pham, Eric Stover, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2006. Rebuilding After Katrina: A Population-Based Study of Labor and Human Rights in New Orleans.Abstract

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and the surrounding communities, inflicting massive destruction and displacing hundreds of thousands. In the wake of the disaster, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lifted minimum wage restrictions, thus creating an environment ripe for exploitation of both documented and undocumented workers by their employers. This study presents the experiences of laborers in the construction industry following Hurricane Katrina, and makes recommendations for how federal, state, and local authorities may protect Gulf Coast laborers against exploitation and unfair treatment.

Lynne Hudson, Siobhan McNally, Sera Bonds, Leilani Johnson, Jennyfer Dulyx, Courtney Hilbert, Simran Bains, and Rachel Bedenbaugh. 2010. Picking Up the Pieces: Women's Health Needs Assessment, Fond Parisien, Haiti.Abstract

Circle of Health International (COHI) conducted this Women's Health Needs Assessment to identify the specific and immediate needs of women, and to provide evidence-based recommendations for short and long-term women's health programming in the Fond Parisien area. These recommendations are based on the results of surveys conducted with 64 women living in the American Refugee Committee (ARC) camp in Fond Parisien. This document highlights the present and future needs of the women living in this IDP camp, and provides specific recommendations to address the unique health needs of women within this population.

Diane Coyle and Patrick Meier. 1/2009. New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks.Abstract

This paper explores communication technology advances as an opportunity for humanitarian organizations to harness modern technology to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. People in affected communities can recover faster if they can access and use information. A look at the use of communications technology during disasters in recent years shows that while communication advances have played a positive role, their full potential has not yet been realized.

2021 Mar 09

Careers in Humanitarianism Webinar: Vincenzo Bollettino, PhD

1:00pm to 2:00pm


Online Webinar

On Tuesday, March 9 at 1:00 PM EST, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative will host a special webinar on Careers in Humanitarianism, featuring Vincenzo Bollettino, PhD, Director of HHI's Program on Resilient Communities

Dr. Bollettino will describe his current humanitarian research work, chat about his career in the sector, and field questions from attendees.

This event is open to all, and we encourage students who are interested in pursuing a career in the humanitarian field to join us and learn about potential career paths.

You can register for the event at this...

Read more about Careers in Humanitarianism Webinar: Vincenzo Bollettino, PhD

Why heeding the voice of at-risk populations is crucial to resilience

By Mark Toldo, Communications Specialist at HHI’s Program on Resilient Communities

Since the establishment of the United Nations (UN) International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in 1999, awareness of and response to disasters has grown globally. Governments, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, and even the private sector now often converge to conduct collaborative projects aimed at mitigating the impacts of disasters and climate change to vulnerable...

Read more about Why heeding the voice of at-risk populations is crucial to resilience
Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. 1/2010. From Rapid Response to Sustainable Solutions: Disaster Response and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Haiti.Abstract

On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, HHI released this report, chronicling eleven months of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's disaster response and recovery efforts in Haiti.  The report offers a brief overview of the establishment of the Disaster Recovery Center, the transition from complex disaster response to recovery phase operations, and the impact of HHI's medical and public health programming through outpatient medical clinic "Klinik Lespwa."

Brett D. Nelson, Timothy P. Williams, Jay Lemery, and Satchit Balsari. 3/2010. “Protecting the Children of Haiti.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Read PublicationAbstract
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine by the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and the Harvard Medical School, this report co-authored by a number of HHI fellows covers the security situation of children in Haiti.