Information about the displacement of people after disasters is crucial in determining the scale and impact of the emergency, and is vital for conducting humanitarian needs assessment on the ground. Methods to forecast or detect such migration are however very limited at present. The use of geo-referenced mobile phone call data to understand post-disaster movements of affected people has been demonstrated in two studies, in the aftermath of the Haiti (2010) and Christchurch, New Zealand (2011) earthquakes.

These studies, matched against aid agencies’ recurring information needs in disaster response operations, suggest that this type of data has potential to be a useful new method to forecast and locate people who have been displaced and therefore in need.