Technology boosts humanitarian efforts

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Coping with humanitarian emergencies brought on by war, famine, or a natural disaster is rife with challenges. Aid workers can face armed militias, an earthquake-stricken landscape of blocked roads and crumbling buildings, masses of displaced people on the move, or a confusing situation in which dozens of aid organizations are all trying to help at the same time—but are not coordinating with each other.

Given the challenges, said Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), it’s essential for humanitarian organizations to utilize new technologies that can help with communication, information-gathering, and data analysis. VanRooyen spoke at an HSPH Hot Topics lecture on Aug. 16, 2011.

A research and academic center focused on humanitarian issues, HHI runs a number of programs aimed at helping governments, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations make the best possible use of the latest technology while delivering humanitarian aid.