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Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict—New Report from Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

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Harvard Researchers Publish Satellite Imagery-Based History of Conflict in Sudan

2000+ Civilian Structures Appear Intentionally Destroyed; Humanitarian Agencies Targeted

May 21, 2013

Cambridge, MA— Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Signal Program on Human Security and Technology (Signal Program) today released an unprecedented study of the ongoing conflict in Sudan based entirely on a fusion of archival satellite imagery and data in the public domain, most often the statements of the armed actors themselves. Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict found that the scope of the intentional destruction of apparent civilian dwellings and other structures, exceeding more than 2000 burned buildings, is larger than previously known. The report focuses on events that occurred in disputed regions along the border between Sudan and South Sudan from January 2011 until mid-2012.

“This study provides previously unavailable information about the conflict in Sudan, while also demonstrating how humanitarian actors can see other, future disasters in new ways,” stated Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH, Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

The report’s other key findings include the corroboration of the apparent intentional targeting of four humanitarian facilities in 2011, identification of individual units of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) allegedly involved in specific attacks, the reconstruction of key battles, and evidence of mass intentional displacement of civilian populations. The Signal Program also analyzed activity at more than 30 military facilities throughout the region to understand force mobilization and deployment trends at critical moments in the conflict.

“Dangerous and often inaccessible conflict zones such as Sudan limit access to credible information about these events, including mass atrocities,” stated Brittany Card, a lead author of the study and the coordinator of the Signal Program’s data analysis. “The method of cross-referencing public reports with archival satellite imagery, in some cases, can remotely confirm or contradict claims that would otherwise remain unverified,” said Ziad Al Achkar, a Signal analyst and another lead author of the study.

Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict is based on data obtained from thousands of logged public reports originally in English and Arabic, including online videos, as well as more than 40,000 square kilometers of DigitalGlobe high resolution satellite imagery collected over the region.

The Signal Program was founded in 2012 to conduct research, develop methods, and technical standards and ethics related to the use of remote sensing and information communication technologies during complex emergencies. The mission of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by advancing the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide.

ENDS

Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict—New Report from Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

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