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Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk from Natural Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Crises
resource issue. Responding to disasters and humanitarian crises requires shared geographic and demographic thinking and training. At present, there are relatively few units, especially in developing countries, with sufficient trained expertise in both demography and geospatial tools and technologies. Improvements in training and commitment by the national statistical office (NSO) and other staff for each country to include both demographic projection methodology in local areas and the use of appropriate spatial administrative units in map form are essential. There are a number of mechanisms for building such capacity, the first of which is recognizing the importance of the skill sets required for disaster preparedness and response. The second is formalized training. Such training programs could be part of overall capacity building and funded by bilateral aid programs, such as USAID, or through broader country capacity-building programs, such as those supported by the World Bank or United Nations. The United States experience suggests that improvement in the capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters saves lives and reduces economic costs when the event occurs.
Integrate the national statistical offices (NSOs) into the national preparedness and response teams for national emergencies. This rolewould involve the development of pre-disaster geospatial databasesand experience in working at subnational levels relevant to hazards ofall kinds. The aim is to improve the capacity of NSOs to generate andmodify existing data in a timely fashion to enhance emergency responseand crisis decision making.
National and international disaster response and humanitarian agenciesand organizations should elevate the importance of demographic andspecifically spatial demographic training for staff members. Further,census staff and others working in NSOs throughout the world shouldbe encouraged to undertake such training in order to promote theanalysis and use of subnational data before, during, and after emergency response situations.
The next set of recommendations highlights the need for improvementsin the base census and the release, availability, and archiving of data. Every community needs accurate, place-specific population and population attribute data for improved disaster planning and response. The most critical data are total population and age-specific counts at the finest geographic scale possible. The level of geography (spatial resolution) is essential as well. While it may be impractical to get individual household data, aggregate counts by census tract or small enumeration area are key to effective disaster management. Equally important is the ability to aggregate these enumeration units into other geographies or spatial units, such as physical