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Humanitarian Communications

Visual Analytics add new dimension to IOM typhoon response

Visual Analytics

IOM's new report uses data analysed by SAS to give a picture of displacement six months after typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines in November 2013, killing thousands and leaving over 300,000 people homeless. To coordinate basic services in evacuation centres, IOM provided data on hundreds of displacement sites to partners on the ground through its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), an information management tool that tracks the locations and needs of displaced people.

The Organization shared this data with government and humanitarian partners, and also with SAS, an American visual analytics company in a pro-bono pilot project.

The Philippines office of SAS Visual Analytics organized and analysed the data to identify shelters which faced the most critical health risks. Within minutes of the first data being uploaded, a map emerged showing shelters experiencing a dangerous mix of overcrowding, unsafe drinking water and solid waste disposal problems. This allowed IOM to pinpoint sites where high number of families still lived in makeshift shelters or dramatic growth of certain vulnerable populations in a short amount of time.

The collaboration demonstrated how massive amounts of data in Excel could be quickly and easily analysed with SAS Visual Analytics to show, in near real-time, detailed information on what relief is needed and where.

“We have been working to enhance preparedness by developing practical tools for government officials, humanitarian organizations and affected communities,” said Ambassador William Swing, IOM Director General. “The SAS collaboration provided the right tool at the right time. We, our beneficiaries and partners are all grateful for the partnership and technology.”

A key plank of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit is Innovation and Technology, and to this end the United Nations has called for a “Data Revolution” where more data is made public and accountability builds trust between society and states. IOM has made data public for years, and is now leading the next wave of the Data Revolution by bringing statistical and analytical insights to the general public.

The latest SAS Visual Analytics analyses can be found in IOM’s dedicated Philippines Response website.

Click Here for the SAS Data Dashboard

Moving forward, IOM hopes to create a shareable platform that can reduce the time it takes to analyse and visualize displacement tracking indicators. At the same time, it continues to innovate ways to use data to target relief efforts, including using social media to fill in information gaps.

During the frenzy of any disaster response, collecting real-time information on conditions across the thousands of islands in the Philippines is a massive challenge. This was particularly true in the wake of Haiyan, with phone services down throughout much of the country.

"In the days following the typhoon, IOM needed to know the conditions in the southeast coastal city of Guiuan – what relief was available to people in evacuation centres" said Nuno Nunes, the Organization’s Coordinator for natural disasters.

A text analysis of more than 10,000 tweets indicated total structural devastation in Guiuan. However, it also revealed that the local Red Cross was distributing food and an Australian emergency medical team was on the ground. It shed light on what the local hospital needed most: essential medicines and fuel for generators so that critical hospital services could continue to meet increased secondary health care demands.

“IOM is in the perfect position to modernize global humanitarian response efforts and save more lives. Efficiencies and analytic insights will benefit the relief organizations and countries who rely on information collected by IOM during a crisis” said I-Sah Hsieh, Global Manager, International Development, SAS. “We look forward to bringing more innovations through proven analytic best practices.”

For more information please contact Leonard Doyle, Director of Communications for IOM at or Trent Smith of SAS at