Moving beyond these reinforcing findings, our overarching conclusion is that the data and analytical capacity or potential capacity to address populations at risk exceeds the actual use of such data and appropriate analysis as judged by recent disasters in the United States and globally. Further, governments, emergency response organizations, and other types of responders need to be educated and trained in the importance, need, use, and contributions of such data and to be proactive in seeking and utilizing such information to enhance the distribution of disaster relief aid. The recommendations that follow represent the basic themes and issues that should be addressed to begin to make improvements in the operational environment and policy context for disaster relief and humanitarian intervention. It is noteworthy, however, that readily available, appropriate data and advanced analytical capacities alone do not ensure robust preparedness planning or responses to disasters or humanitarian crises. In the end, appropriate interagency coordination and cooperation hold the key to the timely and effective use of data and analysis for disaster response and human emergencies.

This report makes 10 major recommendations pertinent to improving assessments of populations at risk for the decision-making community at large and for agencies responsible for making such assessments on behalf of the United States and other bilateral and international actors. The first three recommendations address the improvement of the institutional capacity for a baseline census.

The need for subnational population data that are current and provided in real time is the key to effective planning and responses to disaster or humanitarian crises. Estimation of the total population at risk is critical as are the characteristics of that population (e.g., age, gender). The spatial referencing not only of the population data but also of other ancillary data, such as road networks, shelter availability, and so on is a key foundational layer for planning and mounting any humanitarian response.

  1. Improve the capacity of census-poor countries, through training and technical assistance programs, to undertake censuses. Such improvement is critical for the long-term availability of subnational data that can assist in humanitarian emergency and development situations. Knowing the location, number, and critical characteristics of populations is pivotal to all planning, response, and long-term understanding of disasters. These data sets should have pre-existing protocols for data format, sharing, mapping, intercensal projections, and metadata that are consistent with international standards.

One of the obstacles to the full employment of spatial demographic data during disasters, despite the clear need to do so, is the pressing human



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement