Journal of Humanitarian Affairs : Volume 5 (2023), Issue 1 (Sep 2023): Humanitarian Numbers

On September 14th, 2023, the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs, the academic journal in open access, hosted jointly by the Crash, The Humanitarian Affairs Team at Save the Children UK (HAT) and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester (HCRI), has published a new issue entitled “Humanitarian numbers”. The latter focuses on the technical aspect of numbers, dealing with two main questions: What datafication means? How well does the quantitative represent reality?

Throughout these videos, Brendan Lawson, a Lecturer in Communication and Media at Loughborough University and Joël Glasman, a Professor of History at the University of Bayreuth (Germany), present the new issue and explain the goals of the different research projects. They strive to explain the discrepancy between the figures we see and the reality that is quantified.


VIDEO 1 - Humanitarian Numbers
Presentation of the new issue of the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs, Volume 5 (2023), Issue 1 (Sep 2023): “Humanitarian Numbers”

VIDEO 2 - Introduction
Presentation of the introduction of the new issue: “Ten Things We Know about Humanitarian Numbers”, co-written by Brendan Lawson, a Lecturer in Communication and Media at Loughborough University and Joël Glasman, a Professor of History at the University of Bayreuth (Germany).

VIDEO 3 - Mamane Sani Souley Issoufou
“Medical Research and the Production of Reliable Data : The Difficulties of a Randomised Clinical Trial Confronted with Real Life in Southern Niger”: Mamane Sani Souley Issoufou, anthropologist,  describes and analyses the tensions linked to the flaws in the system of a randomised clinical trial conducted by Epicentre, an epidemiological research center created by Médecins sans frontières, in southern Niger. His analysis draws readers’ attention to the way data is structured by local relations, the difficulties which can appear when a trial has insufficiently taken into account the local contexts of its implementation and its unexpected effects.

VIDEO 4 - Louise Beaumais
“Do Humanitarian Workers Really Trust Numbers? An Assessment of the Use of Quantitative Data in the Humanitarian Field”: Louise Beaumais, member of the DATAWar programme, used interviews, workshops and report analysis, to investigate the interest that humanitarian workers have developed towards quantitative data in the last two decades. The ‘needology’ approach, the growing expectations of donors since the 2000s, the professionalisation and rationalisation of the humanitarian field, are all factors that have contributed to the massive use of quantitative data.

VIDEO 5 - François Enten
“Famines and ‘Poor Numbers’: How IPC Data is Communicated through the Media to Trigger Emergency Responses”: François Enten, researcher at Gret, draws on two case studies – Yemen and Madagascar – to explore the effectiveness of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, whose data appeared to be “poor numbers”. Drawing on Boltanski’s thesis on the politics of pity, he emphasises how figures are seen as a partial element of media rhetoric.

VIDEO 6 - Irina Mützelburg
“Humanitarian Numbers in the Russian–Ukrainian War: An Interview with Irina Mützelburg (October 2022)”: Irina Mützelburg, researcher at ZOiS, analyses the ways in which the UNHCR and the IOM compile statistics respectively on Ukrainian evacuees, refugees abroad and internally displaced persons. Numbers seem to be produced to be coherent and higher, to illustrate the need for attention and funding.