Remotely measuring populations during a crisis by overlaying two data sources

Nita Bharti, Xin Lu, Linus Bengtsson, Erik Wetter, Andrew J. Tatem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Societal instability and crises can cause rapid, large-scale movements. These movements are poorly understood and difficult to measure but strongly impact health. Data on these movements are important for planning response efforts. We retrospectively analyzed movement patterns surrounding a 2010 humanitarian crisis caused by internal political conflict in Côte d'Ivoire using two different methods. Methods: We used two remote measures, nighttime lights satellite imagery and anonymized mobile phone call detail records, to assess average population sizes as well as dynamic population changes. These data sources detect movements across different spatial and temporal scales. Results: The two data sources showed strong agreement in average measures of population sizes. Because the spatiotemporal resolution of the data sources differed,wewere able to obtain measurements on long- and shortterm dynamic elements of populations at different points throughout the crisis. Conclusions: Using complementary, remote data sources to measure movement shows promise for future use in humanitarian crises. We conclude with challenges of remotely measuring movement and provide suggestions for future research and methodological developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalInternational health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 23 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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