Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and Columbia University developed a program to monitor the daily movements of 2 million mobile phone users in Haiti to track cholera outbreaks. "We rapidly received mobile phone data and within 12 hours we were able to send out analyses describing which areas had received people from the cholera outbreak zone in order to provide information on areas at potentially increased risk of new outbreaks," says Karolinska's Linus Bengtsson. The researchers launched the project after the devastating earthquake in January 2010, and estimated that more than 600,000 people left Port-au-Prince within 19 days of the disaster. Although the researchers have shown that the movements of the mobile phones match those of a United Nations-led study conducted during a stable phase six months after the earthquake, their analysis differed from estimated migration patterns that were used during the initial phase of relief response. "We believe that the method can bring about important improvements in humanitarian relief and development cooperation," Bengtsson says.
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