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Data and Displacement Final Project Report

The final project report of the Data and Displacement project was released on the 12th of September, 2022.

Drawing on the findings from 174 in-depth interviews with data experts and practitioners from a range of international humanitarian agencies, local stakeholders, regional practitioners involved in the provision of humanitarian assistance, and IDPs, the report analyses ethical and operational challenges undermining data-driven humanitarian protection in North Eastern Nigeria while also presenting recommendations.

Click here to download the full Report (PDF)

Academic Articles

Data gathering and utilization: humanitarian targeting and ethical issues in northeastern Nigeria

April 26, 2023

Written by Olufunke Fayehun , Olayinka Akanle , Omolara Popoola, Ewajesu Okewumi, Funke Williams, Abubakar Adam, Kaka Alhajimai and Olufunto Abimbola



There are lapses in Nigeria’s data ecosystems with the consequences of imprecise and inaccurate data on humanitarian crises limiting accurate interventions. Therefore, we examined the data targeting processes in the humanitarian sector of Northeast Nigeria and the ethical concerns that arise when such data is collected and used to advance understanding and improve humanitarian protection systems.


The fieldwork was done in two phases in Maiduguri Borno, North-East Nigeria, between 2021 and 2022. This period was selected because it was the climax of IDP camps in the Northeastern part of the country. Maiduguri was selected for the study because it is the capital of Borno state which is the epicenter of insurgency and internal displacements in Nigeria. Hence, a lot of the most vibrant IDP camps in Nigeria were in Maiduguri for care and security reasons. Fifty in-depth interviews were conducted among the displaced persons across five camps. We also interviewed twenty stakeholders and practitioners working with IDPs to understand Nigeria’s data-based humanitarian contexts of internal displacement. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim by a language expert. The data were coded, and content analyzed to provide context and explore significant operational and ethical issues in data-driven humanitarian protection.


There are discrepancies in the definition of vulnerability in data gathering, putting into question how targeting is carried out to identify vulnerable people and its implications for exclusion. Different data banks and reliability issues across institutions and actors make room for a multiplicity of data and problematic synergy relative to data and ethics. Inconsistent ethical systems guide data gathering and utilization in IDP camps; for instance, there are ineffective norms of recording and securing informed consent during data gathering. States, partners, and IDP camps confront debilitating capacity gaps and equipment deficits that make updated data gathering, storing, retrieval, and utilization. Paper and digital data storage processes were often used with restricted access to only a few key stakeholders. There is vast data expropriation without standard recourse to justice and beneficence as ethical procedures in the humanitarian data space of northeastern Nigeria as a microcosm of Sub-Saharan African realities.


There are enormous implications for effective and efficient targeting processes and outcomes, strategic inclusion, and ethical practices in conflict management, humanitarian interventions, and internal displacement in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read the article in full click here

Coloniality and frictions: Data-driven humanitarianism in North-Eastern Nigeria and South Sudan

April 14, 2023

Written by Vicki Squire (Principal Investigator) and Modesta Alozie (Lead Research Fellow)


It is now over a decade since the proclamation of a humanitarian ‘data revolution’, with the rise of ‘innovation’ and the proliferation of ‘data solutions’ rendering data-based humanitarianism an important area of critical investigation. This article contributes to debates within the field by exploring the role of data in the provision of humanitarian assistance within camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) across north-eastern Nigeria and South Sudan. It draws on qualitative interviews carried out with humanitarian practitioners specialising in data and information management, as well as with camp residents and stakeholders located in each region. The analysis focuses attention on the ways in which epistemic injustices have been further perpetuated by the ‘data revolution’ due to the intensification of paternalistic dynamics associated with the coloniality of humanitarianism. It shows how a logic of extractivism structures the humanitarian data ecosystem, while also generating a series of tensions and disagreements. Data-driven humanitarianism, the article concludes, is characterised by recurring colonial dynamics as well as intensified frictions that bring epistemic injustices into sharper focus.

To read the article in full click here

Policy Briefs and Reports

Datafication of the Humanitarian Sector: Efficacy and Ethics

November 9, 2022


A policy brief on the Efficacy and Ethics of the Datafication of the Humanitarian Sector based on the findings of the Data and Displacement project was published on November 9th, 2022. It comments on the transitions in the role of data and analysis within humanitarian operations in the past 20 years, with rapid datafication or ‘digital humanitarianism’ since 2010. While this has diversified and improved analysis and decision-making, it has also led to ethical issues and new operational risks around data management. Consequently, the ethical issues and risks of operational data management and the potential harm caused to affected populations has also changed at a similar pace, albeit with less outward attention in comparison to the push for “data enhanced decision-making”.

This research brief is authored by Prithvi Hirani and Robert Trigwell from the International Organization for Migration - IOM

Click here to download the full Policy Brief (PDF)

Data, Displacement and Humanitarian protection in Nigeria

July, 2022


A policy brief based on the findings from our interviews with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria was published. It highlights how ethical and operational challenges such as personnel and infrastructural gaps undermine ethical and effective data-driven humanitarian protection in North-East Nigeria.

Click here to download the policy brief. Available in English and Hausa

Ethics and Efficacy of Data-Driven Humanitarian Assistance in South Sudan

July, 2022


A policy brief based on the findings from our interviews with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in South Sudan was published by our partners at the University of Juba, to learn more about the ethics and efficacy of data-driven humanitarian assistance in the Country. 

Click here to download the policy brief

Humanitarian Crises and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria

May, 2022


The Data and Displacement project has published a report entitled 'Humanitarian Crises and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria'. The report is authored by our University of Ibadan partners and it provides insights into the ethics of data collection and use, while also highlighting the high levels of deprivation under which many displaced people in North East Nigeria live.

Click here to download the report


Data based humanitarianism in Nigeria and South Sudan

In December 2022, members of the Data and Displacement team explored barriers that emerge in the context of data-driven approaches to humanitarian protection in Nigeria and South Sudan. Blog post is available here

Collaborative Blog from our Workshop with Practioners

In November 2021, the Data and Displacement project published a collaborative blog on how to achieve a balance between Information, Knowledge and Action in the Humanitarian context. The blog is based on our workshop which discussed the ethics and efficacy of data in humanitarian targeting and protection of internally displaced persons, hosted by the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies. Blog is available here

Collaborative Research Blog

In April 2021, Data and Displacement team members published a collaborative blog entitled ‘Data and Displacement: Collaborative Research at a Time of Uncertainty. The blog discusses the strengths of the research and the importance of collaborative teamwork in a time of uncertainty. It is available here


Participatory Ethos Podcast

How can we build mutual learning with IDPs, rather than engaging the research process in extractive terms? This is a question that researchers from the Data and Displacement team discuss in a project podcast, recorded in February 2021. The podcast brings together PI Professor Vicki Squire with Co-I Dr Briony Jones and Research Fellows Dr Prithvi Hirani and Grant Tregonning, who collectively consider the importance and challenges of engaging a participatory ethos within our fieldwork, as well as the research process as a whole.

Listen to the podcast here


Events Archive

Lecture Series on Humanitarianism and Data

This series introduces students and scholars to the ideas of humanitarian protection, displacement, data, and ethics. Comprising lectures on the ethics of displacement research, humanitarianism and big data, decolonising geospatial methods, the politics of knowledge and the case studies of Nigeria and South Sudan, our diverse team draw on the Data and Displacement project findings to share knowledge, experience and critical reflections.

Click here to access the lectures

Collaborative NVivo Workshop

In September 2021, the Data and Displacement team held a 3-day online capacity building workshop in collaboration with our University of Ibadan partners.

Click here to access the workshop's sessions

Papers and Research Articles presented

The project team prepared five papers for publication, based on the findings from our research. These were presented at the 6th World Conference on Humanitarian Studies in November 2021 and are currently being developed as research articles.