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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

TOOLS AND METHODS for Estimating Population at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises

Committee on the Effective Use of Data, Methodologies, and Technologies to Estimate Subnational Populations at Risk

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Committee on Population

Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.napu.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by the Department of Commerce/U.S. Bureau of Census, Award No. YA1323-04-AE-0084, Department of Health and Human Services/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Contract No. 200-2005-M-13677, Department of State, Award Nos. S-LMAQM-05-GR-097 and S-AQMPD-05-C-1176, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Award No. W24749, U.S. Agency for International Development, Award No. DOT-S-00-04-00039-00. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Cover: Design by Michael Dudzik. Photo credits: IKONOS satellite image off the island of Java, Indonesia, courtesy of GeoEye; hand-held computer courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office (http://www.census.gov/pubinfo/www/broadcast/photos/img/101_1203-hi.jpg/); Ecuador street scene courtesy of Clara Natoli (Rome, Italy) (http://www.morguefile.com/archive/?display=33223&/).

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine


The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.


The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.


The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.


The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.


www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

COMMITTEE ON THE EFFECTIVE USE OF DATA, METHODOLOGIES, AND TECHNOLOGIES TO ESTIMATE SUBNATIONAL POPULATIONS AT RISK

SUSAN L. CUTTER, Chair,

University of South Carolina, Columbia

MARGARET ARNOLD,

The World Bank/ProVention Consortium, Washington, D.C./Geneva

DEBORAH BALK,

City University of New York, New York

BELA HOVY,

United Nations Population Division, New York

MEI-PO KWAN,

Ohio State University, Columbus

JONATHAN D. MAYER,

University of Washington, Seattle

DAVID R. RAIN,

George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

HAVIDAN RODRIGUEZ,

University of Delaware, Newark

BARBARA BOYLE TORREY,

Population Reference Bureau, Washington, D.C.

BILLIE L. TURNER II,

Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

JOHN R. WEEKS,

San Diego State University, California

TUKUFU ZUBERI,

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

National Research Council Staff

ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Study Director (from January 2006)

HEDY ROSSMEISSL, Study Director (until January 2006)

CAETLIN M. OFIESH, Research Associate

TONYA FONG YEE, Program Assistant (from March 2007)

NICHOLAS ROGERS, Senior Project Assistant (from August 2006 until March 2007)

AMANDA M. ROBERTS, Senior Project Assistant (until August 2006)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

GEOGRAPHICAL SCIENCES COMMITTEE

ROGER M. DOWNS, Chair,

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

BRIAN J. L. BERRY,

University of Texas, Dallas

SUSAN L. CUTTER,

University of South Carolina, Columbia

RUTH S. DEFRIES,

University of Maryland, College Park

WILLIAM E. EASTERLING III,

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

PATRICIA GOBER,

Arizona State University, Tempe

MICHAEL F. GOODCHILD,

University of California, Santa Barbara

SUSAN HANSON,

Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

JONATHAN D. MAYER,

University of Washington, Seattle

EMILIO F. MORAN,

Indiana University, Bloomington

DAVID L. SKOLE,

Michigan State University, East Lansing

National Research Council Staff

PAUL M. CUTLER, Senior Program Officer

VERNA J. BOWEN, Administrative Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

COMMITTEE ON POPULATION

KENNETH W. WACHTER, Chair,

University of California, Berkeley

ANNE C. CASE,

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

EILEEN M. CRIMMINS,

University of Southern California, Los Angeles

BARBARA ENTWISLE,

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

JOSHUA R. GOLDSTEIN,

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

BARTHÉLÉMY KUATE DEFO,

University of Montreal, Canada

CYNTHIA B. LLOYD,

Population Council, New York

THOMAS W. MERRICK,

The World Bank, Washington, D.C.

RUBÉN G. RUMBAUT,

University of California, Irvine

ROBERT J. WILLIS,

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

National Research Council Staff

BARNEY COHEN, Director

ANTHONY MANN, Senior Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES

GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair,

University of Virginia, Charlottesville

M. LEE ALLISON,

Arizona Geological Survey, Tucson

GREGORY B. BAECHER,

University of Maryland, College Park

STEVEN R. BOHLEN,

Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Washington, D.C.

KEITH C. CLARKE,

University of California, Santa Barbara

DAVID J. COWEN,

University of South Carolina, Columbia

ROGER M. DOWNS,

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

JEFF DOZIER,

University of California, Santa Barbara

KATHERINE H. FREEMAN,

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

RHEA L. GRAHAM,

Pueblo of Sandia, Bernalillo, New Mexico

ROBYN HANNIGAN,

Arkansas State University, Jonesboro

MURRAY W. HITZMAN,

Colorado School of Mines, Golden

V. RAMA MURTHY,

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

RAYMOND A. PRICE,

Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada

BARBARA A. ROMANOWICZ,

University of California, Berkeley

JOAQUIN RUIZ,

University of Arizona, Tucson

MARK SCHAEFER,

Global Environment and Technology Foundation, Arlington, Virginia

RUSSELL STANDS-OVER-BULL, BP

American Production Company, Houston, Texas

BILLIE L. TURNER II,

Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

TERRY C. WALLACE, JR.,

Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

STEPHEN G. WELLS,

Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

THOMAS J. WILBANKS,

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee

National Research Council Staff

ANTHONY R. DE SOUZA, Director

PAUL M. CUTLER, Senior Program Officer

ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer

DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer

ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer

ANN G. FRAZIER, Program Officer

SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Program Officer

RONALD F. ABLER, Senior Scholar

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

CAETLIN M. OFIESH, Research Associate

JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial Associate

VERNA J. BOWEN, Financial and Administrative Associate

JARED P. ENO, Senior Program Assistant

NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Senior Program Assistant

TONYA FONG YEE, Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

Preface

We do not live in a risk-free society, and at any moment somewhere in the world, resident populations are exposed or are responding to natural or human-induced disasters that result in humanitarian crises. The number, demographic characteristics, and locations of the populations at risk during these crises are often imprecise or unknown, complicating or impeding humanitarian relief and disaster response efforts. Population data—and the tools and the persons trained to analyze and use them—are some of the basic components of humanitarian response efforts and of development and reconstruction programs.

Resource-poor nations have the greatest difficulty in obtaining, maintaining, and making available their population databases for purposes of development and humanitarian response and are more likely to require external support in responding to natural or human-induced disasters. However, as events surrounding Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, the existence of adequate financial resources in the presence of good population databases does not always guarantee a completely effective response to assist a population in crisis. Effective use of existing population data in crisis or planning situations also requires coordinated responses by decision makers from national or international through local levels.

Improved estimation of populations at risk in resource-poor countries and better use of population data in connection with planning and executing emergency and development aid programs has garnered international attention from a wide spectrum of professionals. Descriptions relayed by emergency workers regarding their planning for and execution of disaster and complex humanitarian emergency responses have emphasized the

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

underlying importance of data on the numbers of the affected populations, and their ages, gender, health characteristics and locations in order to execute an efficient and appropriate response level. In a world now oriented toward map applications popularized by the advent of GoogleEarth and personal global positioning systems for automobile and pedestrian navigation, developing a seamless link between digital geographic information systems and various types of population data for use in emergency and development programs has clear impetus. However, resource-poor countries with a paucity of adequate demographic data often also lack the tools and training to interpret and employ such data, thus placing them at further disadvantage to address disasters that affect their own populations. Without data, or the political and organizational will to employ them, geographic information systems-based approaches will not meet the basic needs of a country responding to a crisis within its borders.

In May 2004, the Humanitarian Information Unit of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Academy of Sciences hosted a Workshop on Systematic Population Estimation, where continued U.S. government interest in improving estimates of populations at risk was demonstrated. This workshop followed publication of a number of National Research Council (NRC) reports, including Forced Migration and Mortality (2001), and Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa (2002), that addressed various aspects of the lack of demographic data in many countries and the impacts on the population when data were not available or were not used. In Down to Earth, a recommendation was made that “USAID [United States Agency for International Development] and the Bureau of the Census should provide financial and technical support to national census offices and bureaus [in Africa] to help them complete censuses, geographically reference the data, and make the data available in disaggregated form to decision makers.” The present study was conducted at the request of the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partial recognition of the information gathered at that 2004 workshop and builds on earlier and ongoing NRC work.

As a response to the request from these agencies, the NRC established the Committee on the Effective Use of Data, Methodologies, and Technologies to Estimate Subnational Populations at Risk. The committee comprises individuals with professional backgrounds in demography, geography, sociology, statistics, disasters, humanitarian aid and development, forced migration, geographic information systems, remote sensing, and epidemiology and international health. Based on the interest expressed by U.S. government agencies in having population data available in humanitarian response situations, the committee made a basic assumption that U.S. government

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

agencies would like to see better subnational population data collection and estimation, and improvements in data accessibility in times of crisis. The committee thus established a link between the tools and methods used in making these data collections and population estimates, and the institutional requirements needed to maintain and employ the data effectively.

In addition to information derived from their own expertise, committee members called upon population researchers, demographers, geographers, and policy makers from federal agencies, nonprofit and for-profit institutions, and the private sector, and representatives of national and international humanitarian aid and development organizations to present their perspectives at one public workshop and one public meeting. These individuals provided testimony on which population data were required, collected, and/or accessible and why they were or were not used in humanitarian aid or development situations. Approximately half of the panel group at the main study workshop had some or very extensive field experience in delivery of humanitarian or development aid. However, limited time at the public meetings and limited availability of some individuals who had specific field experience in two countries named in the study’s scope, Haiti and Mozambique, precluded complete discussion on some issues important to the study. The committee supplemented the information it gathered at these meetings through interviews and correspondence with individuals at humanitarian and development organizations, at government agencies, and health institutes, domestically and abroad. Relevant scientific literature and other published materials, particularly reports and framework documents from organizations such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Save the Children, and Oxfam, were also drawn into the committee’s deliberations. Chapters 1 and 5 give further background on the committee’s information-gathering efforts.

This report and its recommendations were a result of the consensus of the committee. The recommendations specifically address the statement of task and apply primarily to the U.S. government sponsors of the study, but the needs of other international organizations, agencies, and governmental and nongovernmental groups involved in disaster response and development aid were also addressed in the course of the committee’s deliberations. Since effective international development and disaster relief aid represent coordinated efforts on the part of agencies, organizations and governments, the committee’s recommendations underscore the need for feedback between aid donors, disaster responders, and aid recipients in the United States and abroad. While not providing a solution to the world’s political and social crises or natural and technological disasters, geographically referenced population data are important components of the response to assist populations at risk in these situations; proper collection, analysis, and dissemination of such data can be a useful part of an integrated response

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

to these crises. Importantly, development and reconstruction programs can also use population data in effective planning of educational, health, and food security initiatives outside times of crises.

Members of the committee provided key insights and took part in the drafting of the report. We were assisted in our efforts by Elizabeth Eide, study director, Caetlin Ofiesh, research associate, Nicholas Rogers and Amanda Roberts, senior program assistants, Tonya Fong Yee, project assistant, and Hedy Rossmeissl, study director until January 2006. Without the support of such a fine staff, the committee would have faltered in its task.

We would especially like to dedicate this report to Dr. William Wood, former State Department Geographer and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Analysis and Information Management, Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Bill requested and helped to develop this study before he died at far too young an age in July 2005. Bill, a renowned applied geographer and a strong supporter of the work of the National Research Council Board on Earth Sciences and Resources’ Geographical Sciences Committee, was passionate about using geographic information to help the disadvantaged people of the earth—a passion that was galvanized by numerous field missions to countries where humanitarian crises were occurring or likely to occur. We hope the study does justice to his goal of having different government agencies more effectively work together in a collective effort to protect vulnerable populations.


Susan L. Cutter, Chair

March 2007

REFERENCES

NRC (National Research Council), 2001. Forced Migration and Mortality. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 145 pp.

NRC, 2002. Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 155 pp.

Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

Acknowledgments

This report was greatly enhanced by input from participants at the public committee workshop and one meeting held as part of this study: Vincent Bagiire, Richard Bilsborrow, Chuck Conley, Rhonda Davis-Stewart, Chris Elvidge, Shawn Messick, Livia Montana, Tammany Mulder, Eric Noji, Mark Pelling, Nate Smith, C.J. Terborgh, and Suha Ulgen. In addition to participation as panelists in the workshop, the following individuals provided much appreciated input through new technical papers they contributed to the study, and which are included in this report as Appendix E: Jerry Dobson, Shannon Doocy, John Kelmelis, Mamadou Kani Konaté, Loren Landau, Glen Lauber, Mark Pelling, and Abbiah Subramanian. The presentations, discussions, and written contributions of all these individuals helped set the stage for the committee’s deliberations. The committee and staff are also indebted to Iain Bray, Hernando Clavijo, Erdem Ergin, Glenn Ferri, Debarati Guha-Sapir, Kate Lance, and Daniel Smith for their help in providing useful information to the study through correspondence and discussion.

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
×

the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:

Patrick Ball, Benetech, Palo Alto, California

Edward Bright, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Gil Burnham, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland

William Clark, University of California, Los Angeles

Barbara Entwisle, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Karen Seto, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Joseph Smith, University of Chicago, Illinois

Max Stephenson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg

Benjamin Wisner, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by John Adams, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Susan Hanson, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2007. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11895.
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Worldwide, millions of people are displaced annually because of natural or industrial disasters or social upheaval. Reliable data on the numbers, characteristics, and locations of these populations can bolster humanitarian relief efforts and recovery programs. Using sound methods for estimating population numbers and characteristics is important for both industrialized and developing nations. Ensuring that the data are geographically referenced for projection onto maps is essential. However, good data alone are insufficient. Adequate staff training and strong organizational and political desire to maintain and use the information are also required. Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises, reviews the main methods and tools for making estimates of subnational populations and makes several recommendations to improve the collection and the use of population data for emergency response and development.

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