The title, of course, is from a West Wing episode a long time ago, where the point is made that how things are visually represented goes a long way to influencing how we think about them.
So, the other day, we talked a little bit about maps, and specifically about cool GIS things that people are doing.And we’ve found some more interesting tools for you, in case you feel like doing mappy things on your own:
the Humanitarian Data Exchange: Thousands of interesting maps as well as Common Operational Datasets. It has some interactive visualizations you can explore, which is how I made the map in the header in about 35 seconds, on displacement in S Sudan.
Color Brewer 2: To get your style on, and check your color scheme for choropleth maps. There are options such as colorblind-friendly, photocopy-friendly, and print-friendly for all of us who have suffered the agony of producing a graphic illegible to a lot of people.
Map Maker 4 is software for professionals who need to make maps; people like foresters, estate managers, archaeologists, emergency services, ecologists, and many others. It has been designed so that you do not have to be a “GIS” professional to use it.
Carto courses: Online Mapping for Beginners In this lesson, you will learn how to work with datasets to create interactive map visualizations. You will explore styling your map, adding multiple datasets, and experimenting with different ways to display your data, including animated maps. You’ll learn how to share your new visualizations with friends, family, and the world. See also: Intermediate map design
One of the (many) challenges in responding to situations of displacement is that of information: knowing what and who is where, identifying resources and needs, and allocating resources. Coordination can be as simple as a 3W (who, what where), or be a complex or interactive tool. There is far, far more that can be said about coordination than can be summarized here. Instead, let’s look at some of the interesting initiatives that have combined maps and technology to map or profile the human geography of displacement.
Some interesting story maps and discussions on mapping refugees:
Musings on Maps: Refugee Traffic Scars the Globe’s Surface: “What sort of stories does this simplified map simply omit? The stories of those journeys are interrupted by death, while they are far smaller, of course remain absent: the perilous trajectories of individuals fleeing Syria, Iraq, Africa, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan however risk not only their lives, but increasingly their legal status as they undertake huge geographic migrations in search of new homes elsewhere, traveling by boat, on foot, or along paths promised by human traffickers. The sleek image, despite its attempted accuracy, shows the intensity of itineraries as embossed on the map as if to disfigure the notion of global unity that runs against the very narrative of global unity implicit in a iconic equidistant azimuthal projection centered on the North Pole which emphasized global harmony as World War II was tried to be forgotten, which as the official flag adopted by the United Nations adopted in October, 1947 promoted an image of global unity:”
Diseases and refugee camps (George Mason University, 2012) – “Our initial focus is on the the Dadaab refugee camps which are located in Kenya, approximately 100 kilometers from the Somali border. The camps themselves are homes to roughly 500,000 people, with nearly 99% of the population coming from Somalia. Within the camps the mortality rate is ~ 0.44/10,000 per day with diseases such as cholera and measles being among the causes of death.”
Livelihood, security, and access to services among urban refugees in Delhi (JIPS) – The goal of the Stanford students` research project was to add spatial analysis capabilities in order to better identify and understand geographic patterns related to refugee security. A Livelihood Index score was calculated for each household, based on responses covering the four key components of livelihoods. This enabled to carry out a spatial analysis of the distribution of households with high living standards (scoring high in the Livelihood Index) and low living standards (scoring low) with respect to one another, ethnicity, and proximity to public services. Results from the spatial analysis suggested that proximity to services did not significantly correlate with higher living standard, suggesting that physical distance to services may not be the most important barrier for urban refugees. Finances, lack of mobility, or discrimination may play more significant roles in living standards. See the full, interactive study here!
Earth observation and GIS to support humanitarian operations in refugee/IDP camps – “Since 2011 we are providing Earth observation-based information services to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on demand. A service on population monitoring has already reached an operational stage. Thereby indicators on population are derived by automated dwelling extraction from (multi-temporal) very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery. Based on such information, further added-value products are provided to analyse internal camp structure or camp evolution. Two additional services to support groundwater extraction and assess the impact of the camps on the environment are currently under development. So far twenty-five sites in nine countries have been analysed and more than a hundred maps were provided to MSF and other humanitarian organisations.”
Syria Refugee Sites – “Data as of June 11, 2015. The “Syria Refugee Sites” dataset contains verified data about the geographic location (point geometry), name, and operational status of refugee sites hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. Only refugee sites operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Government of Turkey are included.”
Using GIS as a planning and coordination tool in refugee camps in South Sudan – “The South Sudan refugee crisis has suffered from substantial information gaps, largely stemming from a lack of coordinated approaches to data collection and inadequate resources to operationalise such a data collection effort. In particular, shortcomings in the availability and reliability of data about patterns of refugee flows over the border, settlement area characteristics and overall social organisation have limited the speed and effectiveness of the humanitarian response. To address these gaps, REACH, in partnership with UNHCR, developed a simple methodology aimed at bringing together data from reliable sources and representing it in both text and geospatial formats, such as static and interactive webmaps.”
Informing Humanitarian Action with GIS in Al-Za’atari Camp – “Information about Al Za’atari collected by REACH is available on the open geo-portal Open Street Map. IS officers adjust data in to suit OSM by using JOSM and Mercaator software, a mapping platform commonly used by the digital humanitarians in emergency environments. Information is shared in a free map that can be viewed online or downloaded, although some information is protected due to its sensitive nature. Using OSM means that spatial data can be immediately available and therefore more effective in crisis situations when there is little time to construct more complex software. As part of its commitment to improve information management in emergencies, REACH has created an OSM wiki-page to explain how the data is structured and adjusted to the software so other humanitarian organisations can replicate the method elsewhere around the world. The REACH team in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is now following the Al Za’atari model for refugee camp mapping.”
Using GIS technology to map shelter allocation in Azraq refugee camp (UNHCR Innovation) – “to allocate shelters, staff just had to navigate through a map of the camp to see which shelters had already been allocated, which ones were available, and how many people were living inside. Later on, the program would show additional data, such as whether the shelter had been damaged, or if it was occupied informally by another family. Staff only had to click on the desired shelter to allocate it, and the data would then feed directly into the progress file. What’s more, it only took an impressive 20 seconds to find the right key among 10,000.”
GIS for Good: Siting refugee camps in Uganda – “The first objective of the project was to develop two separate scenarios for refugee campsite selection. Scenario 1: Existing Community Infrastructure, was designed such that the selection of sites would assume that refugees would be reliant on the community infrastructure that already exists. This would provide refugees an opportunity to integrate with local communities to a certain extent, and put less pressure on UNHCR to develop the infrastructure for new camps in rapid crisis situations. Scenario 2: New Community Infrastructure, was designed under the assumption that UNHCR would be able to provide infrastructure to new camps. Although both models aspire to a level of community integration, this model would be undertaken under the hope that the presence of UNHCR and thus, refugees, would actually benefit communities that had previously suffered from poor access to certain resources. These camps might prove a bit more difficult to develop, but the hope is that the positive effects of a camp would benefit the communities for a long time to come.”
What Makes a Camp Safe? The Protection of children from Abduction in Internally Displaced Persons and Refugee Camps– “The study is one of the first initiatives to generate a database of IDP and refugee camp attacks for analysis and policymaking purposes. The researchers also used geographic information systems (GIS) software to produce a series of maps that chart migration trends, camp attacks, and the abduction of children. A major advantage of GIS mapping is the ability to track the movement of IDP and refugee populations over time; this will allow Pitt researchers to continue to track population movements to determine whether migratory populations are at greater risk than those in permanent, stationary camps.”
Joint IDP Profiling Service, an inter-agency service based in Geneva, to provide technical support to government, humanitarian and development actors seeking to improve their information about internally displaced populations
And interestingly, cash has impacts in the wider economy, since the money given to the beneficiary is then spent on goods and services in the host community. For example, in an evaluation of the cash assistance programme in Lebanon, the study noted that cash assistance “has significant multiplier effects on the local economy. Each dollar that beneficiaries spend generates 2.13 dollars of GDP for the Lebanese economy.”
Cash for everyone, right?
It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution nor a panacea, and there are a few preconditions necessary. As World Vision, one of many NGOs involved in provision of cash assistance, describes it, “The ability of cash transfers to deliver their promise fundamentally depends on whether or not they are calculated at a fair value and for a sufficient duration to accomplish the programme objectives. In short, cash transfers are neither a panacea for the global humanitarian financing gap nor a long-term solution to ending conflict, where 80% of humanitarian resources are currently directed.”
“To realize a global scale-up in cash transfers, countries facing crises must have the necessary infrastructure and financial services in place to make payments safely and efficiently. E-payment mechanisms, including mobile-based money transfers and cardbased payments such as prepaid debit cards, are effective tools that enable efficient and scalable transfers, improve transparency, and mitigate fraud in humanitarian response. However, these tools are not present in all countries. E-payment tools are increasingly common, but as yet impractical in countries with weak digital and financial infrastructure, regulatory environments, and/ or financial institutions.”
In a survey of available literature evaluating cash programmes, in terms of emowerment (relating to many themes that would often be characterized under the heading of “protection”), the study found that,
“The available evidence shows that transfers can reduce physical abuse of women by men, but also that they may increase non-physical abuse, such as emotional abuse or controlling behaviour. It supports both the theory that increased income lowers stress-related abuse and the theory that increased income enables the woman to bargain out of abuse. The relatively strong evidence that decision-making power increases for women in the beneficiary household also offers substance to this latter theory. Other evidence reveals that risky sexual behaviour and early marriage differ by gender, but for both girls/women and boys/men increased income to an extent lifts the constraints that drive engagement in these behaviours. In the case of women and girls, the evidence that directly or indirectly receiving a transfer reduces the likelihood of having multiple sexual partners indicates that cash transfers may reduce the incidence of relationships that are transactional. Taken together, the evidence in this section points to cash transfers having a positive impact on women’s choices as to fertility and engagement in sexual activity. In the case of men and boys, some of the evidence collected here suggests that cash transfers do not have the same effect of reducing risky sexual activity, and in fact may lead to an increase in this type of behaviour.”
Luckily, cash assistance being in fashion does mean that there are quite a lot of studies interested in measuring its effectiveness, usefulness, and everything else-ness that one could possibly want to measure.
But preliminary findings do indicate that cash assistance has positive impacts on poverty, education, savings, health, nutrition, and empowerment. Employment seems not to be substantially impacted by cash assistance. In the same study surveying available literature evaluating cash programmes, the study findings are as follows:
There is a comparatively large evidence base linking cash transfers to reductions in monetary poverty. The evidence extracted consistently shows an increase in total and food expenditure andreduction in Foster–Greer–Thorbecke (FGT) poverty measures.
Overall, the available evidence highlights a clear link between cash transfer receipt and increased school attendance. Less evidence and a less clear-cut pattern of impact is found for learning outcomes (as measured by test scores) and cognitive development outcomes (information processing ability, intelligence, reasoning, language development and memory), although,interestingly, the three studies reporting statistically significant findings on the latter all report improvements in cognitive development associated with cash transfer receipt.
Health and nutrition
Evidence of the impacts of cash transfers across all three indicator areas – use of health services, dietary diversity and anthropometric measures – was largely consistent in terms of direction of effect, showing improvements in the indicators. On the whole, the available evidence highlights how, while the cash transfers reviewed have played an important role in increasing the use of health services and dietary diversity, changes in design or implementation features, including complementary actions (e.g. nutritional supplements or behavioural change training), may be required to achieve greater and more consistent impacts on child anthropometric measures.
Savings, investment and production
Overall, impacts on savings, and on livestock ownership and/or purchase, as well as use and/or purchase of agricultural inputs, are consistent in their direction of effect, with almost all statistically significant findings highlighting positive effects of cash transfers, though these are not universal to all programmes or to all types of livestock and inputs. This is an important finding as, with the exception of one programme, none of the cash transfers analysed focuses explicitly on enhancing productive impacts. Impacts on borrowing, agricultural productive assets and business/enterprise are less clear-cut or are drawn from a smaller evidence base.
The evidence extracted for this review shows that for just over half of studies on adult work (participation and intensity), the cash transfer does not have a statistically significant impact. Among those studies reporting a significant effect among adults of working age, the majority find an increase in work participation and intensity. In the cases in which a reduction in work participation or work intensity is reported, these reflect a reduction in participation among the elderly, those caring for dependents, or they are the result of reductions in casual work.
In every corner of the earth ordinary people are forced to leave their homes, often without notice, often never to return. When they cross international borders, they are called refugees. The Refugee Project is a narrative, temporal map of refugee migrations since 1975. UN data is complemented by original histories of the major refugee crises of the last four decades, situated in their individual contexts.
“Violence in South Sudan over the past three weeks has prompted a massive flight of refugees into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
More than 60,000 people, most of whom are women and children, have fled the country since fighting began at the end of June, the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday.
“The refugees have brought to us very disturbing reports,” UNHCR Spokesman Melissa Fleming said at a briefing in Geneva. Armed groups “are looting villages, murdering civilians, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks,” Fleming said. “We are very concerned, and are appealing for parties to move back to the peace agreement.””
“South Sudan’s government has agreed to let in a new international protection force to try to save a peace deal. Ethnic clashes last month left at least 300 people dead and threatened to revive a civil war that has killed tens of thousands. A 12,000-strong UN mission in South Sudan was unable to prevent attacks.
The announcement was made by the East African regional body, Igad, and confirmed by South Sudan cabinet minister Dr Martin Elia Lomuro. President Salva Kiir had previously dismissed the idea of an additional force.”
“The political and security situation inside South Sudan remains fragile and unpredictable. UNHCR continues to provide assistance in Juba as the situation allows, and other areas of operation remain functional.
In Uganda, a total of 53,531 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, more than the total arrivals in the first six months of 2016. Some 65% of the arrivals are children, and 88% are women and children. The daily rate of arrival has decreased slightly, but continues to number in the thousands.
South Sudanese refugees continue to seek asylum in other countries: In Sudan, over 9,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, an increase on May and June arrivals, but lower than the monthly arrivals reported in the first quarter of 2016. DRC received an influx of 1,653 new arrivals in mid-July. The number of arrivals to Kenya has increased in the past week, though is still low compared to the influx in Uganda”
“South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe, three UN agencies warned today. (WFP, FAO, UNICEF, 8 Jan 2016)
Civil strife and unfavourable rains have further reduced crop production in South Sudan, contributing to a cereal deficit of 381,000 tonnes — 53 percent greater than in 2015 — and aggravating the already severe food shortages, two UN agencies warned today…The crisis in South Sudan is marked by alarming levels of hunger. Some 5.8 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population, are unsure where their next meal will come from, while the rate of severe food insecurity has now reached 12 percent, double the rate of one year ago. (FAO, WFP, 5 Apr 2016)”
“On Feb. 17, fighting broke out within the U.N. Protection of Civilians Site in the city of Malakal, first between young men from rival ethnic groups who had managed to smuggle guns through holes in the fence. Then the violence escalated after heavily armed government forces entered the camp.
A summary of the United Nation’s “board of inquiry report,” released Friday, said the organization and its peacekeepers failed through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage.”
In other words, some peacekeepers, whose most prominent mandate is to protect civilians, simply ran away once they were tested, abandoning sentry posts. Other peacekeepers demanded written permission to use their weapons, even though their U.N. mandate clearly gives them that authority.”
“He said that information received by UN human rights officers suggests hundreds of fighters and civilians were killed during the initial fighting. While some civilians were killed in crossfire between the fighting forces, others were reportedly summarily executed by Government (SPLA) soldiers, who appear to have specifically targeted people of Nuer origin.
In two separate incidents on 11 July, SPLA soldiers reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels, where they shot four of them. On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.
At least 73 civilian deaths have been catalogued so far by the UN, but it is believed the civilian death toll may turn out to be much higher. The UN was denied access to some of the hardest-hit areas in the days following the conflict and a number of restrictions on movement remain in place.”
“A reporter for Radio Miraya, a radio station operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), George Livio is being held incommunicado at the Juba headquarters of South Sudan’s intelligence agency. He has not been formally charged and has not been able to see a lawyer or relatives since his arrest. Only UNMISS representatives have been able to visit him.
RSF points out that, by holding Livio incommunicado and arbitrarily, the authorities are violating article 64 of South Sudan’s code of criminal procedure, which says: “A person arrested by the police as part of an investigation, may be held in detention, for a period not exceeding twenty-four hours for the purposes of investigation.””
“Children and the disabled in South Sudan have been burned alive and pro-government militia allowed to rape women as a form of payment, a new UN report has said.
The investigation accused all sides in the country’s civil war of targeting civilians for murder and rape but said the army and government-allied forces were most to blame for what it described as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”.
“The report contains harrowing accounts of civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children and the disabled, killed by being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees or cut to pieces,” the UN human rights office said in a statement on Friday.”
SINCE the summer of 2014, Europe has been struck with its worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Millions have fled their war-ravaged homelands in search of safety, causing political turmoil in a continent still recovering from economic disasters. Below is our interactive guide to the numbers behind the crisis.