When an emergency happens, whether its unexpected like an earth quake, or the result of a steady build up like many of the violent conflicts we have in the world today, people scatter. They scatter from where they live to not only remove themselves from immediate harm, but then to also find and connect with those they care about. This movement presents one of the larger challenges with delivering humanitarian aid to those who need it.

But what if there was a way to detect where people are going, or where they’ve gone – and determine if, or when, they might come back to their homes... without having to physically see them? This is one example of the work of Flowminder, an organization that uses anonymized data from mobile operators and household surveys to help humanitarian agencies and governments understand the movement of people before, during and after an emergency.

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