Crisis Mapping and Early Warning

Examines the use of information communications technologies in conflict and disaster settings

Published: 
November, 2013

Al Shabaab's horrific attack of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi generated over 730,000 tweets during the four-day siege in Spetember 2013. The purpose of this study is to analyze the authors, content and frequency of these tweets in the hour leading up to the attacks and during the two hours after the onslaught began. The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) partnered with GNIP to collect the 730,000+ tweets within hours of the attack unfolding. QCRI Research Assistants Ms. Brittany Card and Ms.

Published: 
July, 2013

The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs published an article authored by Signal Program staff in which they detail the technology, perceived impact and lessons learned from running operations for the Satellite Sentinel Project. This inside assessment of the Satellite Sentinel Project has been offered open source by the journal in order to inform humanitarian practitioners, scholars and the public.

Published: 
July, 2012

The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, has released a report on the pilot phase which began in December 2010 and concluded 1 June 2012. This report contains highlights over the past 18 months including a summary of operations, and satellite imagery. With the completion of the pilot phase of SSP on 1 June 2012, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) concluded its participation in SSP.

Published: 
April, 2012

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery captured 15 April 2012, has found evidence of the destruction of key oil pipeline infrastructure in Heglig, South Kordofan, Sudan. SSP has also found cratering consistent with bombardment of some form visible in close proximity to nearby oil pipeline and oil production facilities. SSP cannot make a determination based on the evidence currently available as to either who destroyed the object consistent with an oil...

Published: 
April, 2012

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have deployed a significantly increased number of combat capable air assets within range of South Sudan’s border and territory. SSP has documented evidence consistent with reported aerial bombardment in close proximity to a strategic bridge located in Unity State, South Sudan. SAF spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled Saad denied Sudan’s involvement in the bombings....

Published: 
March, 2012

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has collected evidence consistent with apparent indiscriminate aerial bombardment in progress by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in South Kordofan, Sudan.

Published: 
January, 2012

Based on the totality of the evidence presented in this report, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) is issuing a human security alert for the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan, including the Kauda Valley. A human security alert is issued by SSP when evidence is collected indicating any of the following: a build-up of forces and/or an enhancement of infrastructure and logistical capabilities indicating either the intent and/or the ability of an armed actor to restrict civilian freedom of movement, detain or displace civilians, and/or attack civilian targets.

Published: 
January, 2012

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through HHI’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has confirmed that at least a battalion sized unit of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) appear to control the main route civilians reportedly use to flee South Kordofan for Yida refugee camp. The interior of the apparent base, which is located in the town of Toroge, contains objects consistent with 80 to 90 tent-like structures, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), artillery, and heavy armor vehicles, which appear to be main battle tanks.

Published: 
January, 2012

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through HHI’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has confirmed that at least a battalion sized unit of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) appear to control the main route civilians reportedly use to flee South Kordofan for Yida refugee camp. The interior of the apparent base, which is located in the town of Toroge, contains objects consistent with 80 to 90 tent-like structures, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), artillery, and heavy armor vehicles, which appear to be main battle tanks.

Published: 
December, 2011

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has identified evidence of the intentional destruction of at least thirty-three structures largely consistent with civilian dwellings in the vicinity of `Amara, Blue Nile, Sudan. SSP’s analysis of imagery captured on 27 November 2011 indicates a firefight apparently involving heavy armor or other tracked vehicles against dug-in fighting positions occurred sometime between 11 and 27 November.

Published: 
November, 2011

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are rapidly working to enhance air strike and air assault capacity in two airbases recently captured from rebels in Sudan’s Blue Nile border area.

Published: 
November, 2011

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has identified through Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery the presence of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) aircraft at El Obeid airbase, North Kordofan, including two Antonov AN-26 transport planes. These planes are consistent with aircraft which allegedly bombed two refugee camps on 8 and 10 November 2011 in South Sudan, according to eyewitnesses.

Published: 
October, 2011

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has corroborated multiple eyewitness accounts and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) reports alleging that the Government of Sudan’s (GoS) Central Reserve Police (CRP) unit engaged in the unlawful abduction, detention, and extrajudicial killing of civilians in Kadugli, South Kordofan, Sudan.

Published: 
September, 2011

SSP is issuing a human security warning in this report for Kurmuk and the surrounding area due to the strong likelihood of potential SAF attack in the near future which may result in the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force.

Published: 
August, 2011

SSP has identified three new apparent mass grave sites in and around Kadugli in South Kordofan, Sudan based on an analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery and multiple eyewitness accounts. The three alleged mass grave sites identified in this report are separate from and in addition to the three apparent mass graves south of the Tilo School in Kadugli shown in SSP’s 14 July 2011 report.

Published: 
August, 2011

SSP's identification on 14 July 2011 of a cluster of white bundles in Kadugli as consistent with human remains wrapped in white plastic tarps or body bags was controversial at the time. Although publicly questioned by a US government official, it has now been established by SSP through the collection of additional imagery and eyewitness reports.

Published: 
July, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery captured on 28 June has identified four vehicles consistent with BM-21 mobile multiple rocket launcher (MRL) systems at an apparent Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) camp southwest of El Obeid, North Kordofan, Sudan.

Published: 
July, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has identified through analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery captured on 4 July 2011 an apparent Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) convoy travelling through Kadugli town consistent with an at least regiment-sized unit, which is equal to approximately 1000 troops. The convoy is at least 2km in length, and could be potentially longer. There are at least 80 vehicles visible in the apparent convoy, including 49 light vehicles, cargo trucks, a vehicle consistent with a fuel or water tanker, heavy transports and towed artillery.

Published: 
July, 2011

SSP has found evidence consistent with allegations that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Government of Sudan-aligned (GoS) militias have apparently engaged in a campaign of systematic mass killing of civilians in Kadugli, South Kordofan. Under the Rome Statute and other international humanitarian law, the systematic killing of civilians in peace or war by their own government can constitute crimes against humanity.

Published: 
June, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery collected 17 June 2011 confirms reports that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) control Kadugli and that civilians have been displaced to a location north of the town. More than 300 structures consistent with temporary shelters for IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) are visible close to the wall of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) compound. However, it is likely many more IDP structures are obscured by the heavy cloud cover visible in the imagery.

Published: 
June, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project's (SSP) analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery has found evidence supporting multiple reports that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are conducting aerial and artillery bombardment in the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan, Sudan. Fixed wing aircraft consistent with an Antonov-24/26, Yak-40, and two SU-25K Frogfoot ground attack aircraft can be seen at El Obeid airbase as of 28 June. Five helicopters, including four consistent with Hind helicopter gunships, are visible as well.

Published: 
May, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the 
analysis of DigitalGlobe imagery that the southern-aligned 
base at Todach has been recently razed; evidence consistent with an attack on that location by armored vehicles is visible. The southern-aligned base at Tajalei, which was 
allegedly attacked on 21 May, does not appear to be visibly 

Published: 
May, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has identified a previously unidentified assembly of SAF forces at the El Obeid Barracks, approximately 440 kilometers (273 miles) from Abyei town and the contested border line between North and South Sudan. Based on analysis of available transportation logistics and the formation of the units, SSP has concluded that the forces at El Obeid are capable of imminent forward deployment and could reach Abyei town in less than a day.

Published: 
May, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of DigitalGlobe 
satellite imagery corroborates reports of looting by Sudan 
Armed Forces (SAF) and Misseriya militia in Abyei.

Published: 
May, 2011

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery collected on 27 May the intentional destruction of approximately one-third of all civilian structures in Abyei town by the Government of Sudan and northern-aligned militia forces. SSP has documented multiple violations of international humanitarian law in Abyei town. These abuses can constitute war crimes, including violations of the Geneva Conventions, and in some cases they may represent crimes against humanity.

Published: 
April, 2011

In recent weeks, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has deployed heavy offensive weaponry, including attack helicopters and 

Published: 
April, 2011

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed that at least 356 structures in the town of el-Feid, located in the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan State, Sudan, have been razed. There is evidence that an area in Um Barmbita has also been burned, but no visible structures appear to have been destroyed. SSP cannot confirm based on the imagery collected whether the scorched area in Um Barmbita was intentionally burned. There is evidence of scorching at several points between and around the two communities, which are an estimated 15 to 20 kilometers apart.

Published: 
March, 2011

According to media reports released on 20 March 2011, Sudan's federal Ministry of the Interior recently deployed approximately 1,500 northern police to the environs of Bongo, Diffra, and Goli in northern Abyei, Sudan. Northern representatives, including the spokesman of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Colonel Khalid Sa'ad Al-Sawarmi, have denied that the northern military deployed troops to Abyei.

Published: 
March, 2011

The human security situation in the Abyei region of Sudan has rapidly deteriorated in the past week due to renewed violence. Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that buildings consistent with civilian infrastructure appear to have been intentionally burned Maker Abior and Todach villages. Some 100 people in the Abyei region have reportedly died in the clashes to date.

Published: 
March, 2011

At least 300 buildings at Tajalei village, Abyei Region, Sudan were burned sometime between March 4 and March 6, 2011, according to Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of 

Published: 
March, 2011

Following the recent razing of three villages, there has been increased military activity in and around the contested Abyei region of Sudan during the past week. Actors aligned with both the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) appear to have improved their defensive positions and mobilized additional offensive capacity, including, in one case, vehicles consistent with the transport of heavy armor.

Published: 
January, 2011

This report analyzes how the humanitarian community and the emerging volunteer and technical communities worked together in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and recommends a four-part framework to improve coordination between these two groups in future emergencies. The report was researched and written by a team at HHI, in partnership with Vodafone Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Published: 
January, 2011

SSP monitoring of the region provided the first public evidence confirming some of the reports of SAF deployment in South Kordofan and checkpoints on the roads north of Abyei.

Published: 
September, 2009

The purpose of this Working Paper Series on Crisis Mapping is to briefly analyze the current use, and changing role, of information communication technology (ICT) in conflict early warning, crisis mapping and humanitarian response. The authors demonstrate that ICTs have the potential to play an increasingly significant role in three critical ways by: facilitating the communication of information in conflict zones, improving the collection of salient quantitative and qualitative conflict data, and enhancing the visualization and analysis of patterns.

Published: 
January, 2009

This paper explores communication technology advances as an opportunity for humanitarian organizations to harness modern technology to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. People in affected communities can recover faster if they can access and use information.

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About This Program

Launched in 2007, HHI's Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning examines the use of information communications technologies in conflict and disaster settings. Research focuses on identifying patterns in humanitarian emergencies to improve response. HHI examines the impact of crisis mapping, geospatial and crowd sourcing technologies to prepare, mitigate, and respond to emergencies.

Mobile information technology devices have come to play an increasingly important role in responding to humanitarian emergencies and providing critical data to improve the understanding of the complex dynamics of emergencies and local and international response. HHI's Crisis Mapping and Early Warning program seeks to develop an evidence base to evaluate information technologies, to convene the humanitarian and technical communities, to facilitate dialogue among humanitarian actors, and to provide new sources of data to improve understanding of conflict dynamics.

Through its convening role, HHI is creating a community of practice to catalyze discussion among disparate groups of experts in a sustained forum that will refine crisis tools and promote best practices to save lives. The development of a community of practice is essential to help facilitate the integration of social media, crowd sourcing, and new grassroots geospatial tools into the humanitarian cluster system.