The 2010 earthquake in Haiti ushered in a new era for the role and power of technology and communication systems in disaster response – especially for how local responders used them.
The traditional disaster response community is only now beginning to assimilate the vast changes that new technologies could bring for information management in their field.
Advances in information and communications technology are offering new solutions to a range of operational challenges experienced in the field. But can the humanitarian community’s providers of telecommunications services keep up with the pace of change – and the pace of demand?
The lack of higher education opportunities for refugees, many of whom flee before being able to complete their education, is a widely acknowledged problem.
The use of new technologies for early warning systems can help reduce people’s vulnerability to mass violence.
Do new technologies increase access to information and knowledge for all – or are they deepening a technological divide?
A new initiative called ‘Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises’uses social networking to connect frontline maternal health workers in crisis-affected areas to build a professional community of practice.
A recent strategic partnership between UNHCR, the Government of Luxembourg and communications software provider Skype is keeping UNHCR staff in hardship locations in touch with their families and friends. The partners are now considering how the technology might be adapted for use by other humanitarian organisations.
Forced migration authors hold the key to enabling free and unfettered access to the full text of research articles.
Geospatial technologies such as satellite imagery provide a means of ‘reaching’ a conflict zone when on-the-ground reporting may be too dangerous, a region too remote, or access denied.
UNHCR has developed Project Tracking and IDP databases for its work in Iraq in order to facilitate its operations at a lower risk to all stakeholders and to improve financial accountability, oversight and transparency.
Simply having access to technology does not resolve the problem of communication between displaced people and their families.
Ushahidi is an interactive mapping tool for use in crisis situations, which humanitarian workers can use to help them target assistance.
Internet cafés in refugee camps allow refugees to maintain and create networks for overseas remittances. For the many displaced people who rely on receiving money from family members or friends overseas for their daily needs, maintaining these ties is vital.
As drought forces hundreds of thousands of Somalis to flee to Kenya and Ethiopia or to displaced camps within Somali territories, providing financial services might not seem an immediate priority. However these services are a lifeline for millions of people, including those displaced by drought, civil war and political unrest.
Internet-based technologies are changing the way refugees are able to remain connected to their origins while adjusting to life in a new country.
Capitalising on the spread of mobile phones and the internet, new digital tools can help refugees trace missing family members. Security of data is a vital aspect of any such tools.
New partnerships are being forged to encourage young engineers to use their skills in the service of refugees.
Can a collaborative web-platform for sharing critical demographic information about displaced people improve delivery and response?
The current multitude of sources of information paradoxically renders access to good quality Country of Origin Information for refugee status determination procedures quite cumbersome.
Most of our discussions still focus on how responding organisations can use technology more effectively, rather than how disaster-affected communities might use those same technologies. The availability of information through new technologies is challenging existing power relations and current ways of working, and we may not be prepared for the consequences.
Political unrest in North Africa has led to a resurgence in irregular migration to Europe and an increase in migrant deaths at sea, yet there is still no framework for identifying those who die or recording their numbers.
Turbulence in North Africa and the Middle East has forced many to flee their homes and countries. One woman in Cairo, on the brink of flight, considers her options.
Language skills are crucial for the integration of refugees into the local community. In the Czech Republic, all persons granted international protection have the legal right to language tuition but a recent study by UNHCR revealed serious shortcomings in provision.
Despite being a world leader in disaster preparedness, Japan paid scant attention to the needs of one of its most marginalised social groups after the 2011 earthquake. Refugees and asylum seekers suffered restrictions on movement, increased impoverishment and shortage of essential information.
Experience indicates that significant challenges remain across key humanitarian operational approaches relating to the needs of growing numbers of IDPs and refugees who migrate to cities. Addressing these issues more effectively will require scaling up, new tools and humanitarian guidance.
For many refugees and other forced migrants, sexual and gender-based violence does not necessarily stop after resettlement; for some, that may be when it starts.
In the complex relationship between forced migration and transitional justice, a visit by the Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to a refugee settlement in Uganda seems to mark a significant step.
Local integration should be given greater consideration as a desirable settlement solution for IDPs, particularly in situations of protracted displacement. Recent research in six countries in Africa, Europe and Latin America highlights a range of factors that may help or hinder integration.