Opinion: See the Most Vulnerable -- See the Human Landscape

Rhiannan Price | Devex | July 10, 2017

The world is currently experiencing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. Over 20 million people are at risk of starvation and famine across Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. Now entering its seventh year of conflict, the Syrian civil war rages on without an end in sight, representing the largest portion of refugees and internally displaced people globally. To be effective in helping these IDPs, relief organizations must have easy access to relevant and accurate locational data.

Insight revealing medical facilities, refugee camps, vulnerable populations, safe zones and other data is paramount to any humanitarian mission. The dynamic nature of a humanitarian crisis necessitates a clear picture of the human landscape at different points in time. Oftentimes, there is no accurate baseline of data showing past crises, contributing factors and other useful information. Just as defense and intelligence organizations leverage geospatial data to answer complex questions, so too should relief organizations.

In the 2016 Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report Leaving No One Behind: Humanitarian Effectiveness in the Age of the Sustainable Development Goals, the authors recommend five distinct approaches to reducing long-term vulnerability and generating sustainable, meaningful change. For each of these recommendations, humanitarians need both geospatial analysis of the physical environment and sociocultural understanding of the population. This blend of data constructs a human landscape providing a comprehensive perspective...