Related Resource

Tools and Methods for Estimating Populations at Risk (March 2007)

Report in Brief

Each year, millions of people around the world are displaced by natural or human-induced disasters and social conflicts resulting in humanitarian crises. The South Asian earthquake and tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the ongoing conflict in Darfur are recent, highly publicized examples. Response and relief efforts are often hampered by a lack of good population data. Relief workers need estimates of the numbers and exact locations of people, as well as their ages, gender, and other relevant characteristics to know exactly how much and what type of aid is needed. This National Research Council report provides a framework for estimating populations at risk and improving the use of population data for effective disaster relief work. The report concludes that all nations, especially resource-poor nations most vulnerable to disasters, should be enabled to conduct a nationwide census every ten years, and that this information should be geographically referenced. Population data alone are not sufficient but must be accompanied by interagency and government coordination and training in the collection, use, and distribution of the data.