By Tracey Li, Jesper Dejby, Maximilian Albert, Linus Bengtsson, and Veronique Lefebvre.


We use mobile phone call detail records to estimate the resettlement times of a subset of individuals that have been previously identified to be internally displaced persons (IDPs) following a sudden-onset disaster.

Four different mobility metrics - two versions of radius of gyration and two versions of entropy - are used to study the behaviour of populations during three disasters - the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal, and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in 2016. We characterise the rate at which a disrupted population resettles by the fraction of individuals who remain disrupted each week after the disaster.

We find that this rate can be modelled very well as the sum of two exponential decays and observe that the resettling rate for all three disasters is similar, with half the original number of displaced persons having resettled within four to five weeks of the disaster. If the study of further disasters leads to the observation of similar exponential decay rates, then it would imply that the number of IDPs at any time can be inferred from an estimate of the initial number of IDPs immediately following the disaster.

Alternatively, the method provides a way to monitor disaster resilience and compare recovery rates across disasters. The method has the advantage that no assumptions need to be made regarding the location or time of resettlement.

Our results indicate that CDRs can significantly contribute to measuring and predicting displacement durations, distances, and locations of IDPs in post-disaster scenarios. We believe that information and estimates provided by specifically developed CDR analytics, coupled with field data collection and traditional survey methods, can assist the humanitarian response to natural disasters and the subsequent resettlement efforts.

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