A multi-directional analysis of refugee/IDP camp areas based on HR/VHR satellite data

POLNOR2019 Polish-Norwegian research project financed under Norway Grants the "Applied Research" program

A multi-directional analysis of refugee/IDP camp areas based on HR/VHR satellite data

POLNOR2019 Polish-Norwegian research project financed under Norway Grants the "Applied Research" program

Project Objectives

To monitor and analyze not only the settlements but also the environment in the surrounding…

Analyse and demonstrate examples of multi-temporal interaction between inhabitants and environment
Analyse and understand the socio-economic drivers of such environmental impact
Demonstrate the added value of remote sensing data analysis in monitoring and management of inaccessible areas
Develop a socio-environmental informative system on refugee/IDP camp areas in an online geo-platform form

Both natural and humanitarian catastrophes result in massive displacement of the affected population. The problem of the continuous increase of refugees/internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide raises a great interest among the stakeholders and decision-makers in emergency response of the European Union, United Nations and Non-Governmental relief organisations.

Workflow Overview

The project is constructed on two dimensions: one is a social science based on the several actors interviews and second is a geospatial analysis based on HR/VHR satellite data.



Geospatial Analysis


Types of data:

  • VHR Satellite Data
  • HR Satellite Data (Optical and Radar)
  • Ground Truth Data

The environmental study will examine the change detection and trend analysis based on multi-source geospatial analysis with focus on:

  • Camp area extraction and spatial occupancy estimation (formal and informal part);
  • Detecting a single camp dwelling (population estimation, spatial description);
  • Residential area and/or transportation network extraction;
  • Ground and surface water mapping;
  • Forest and woody vegetation, cultivated areas and other land use/cover mapping.

Socio-geographical Analysis- Insiders’ Perspective


To contribute to geospatial analysis of the evolution of the different forms of Settlements for Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) fleeing from war zones, dire socio-economic conditions and environmental disasters. These forms of Settlements (both official and unofficial camps) will be investigated in two selected cases: Mtendeli (Tanzania) and Kutupalong Refugee camp (Cox Bazar Bangladesh). 

We will apply socio-geographical approach, which investigates the insiders’ perspective of the mutual relation between the natural environment and human activity.

The specific objectives of this WP are to:

  1. Diagnose the mutual relation of Refugee/IDPs Settlements and natural environment considering its impact on the food security during three phases:
    • Establishment; 
    • Development;
    • Limits: Relocation, Restructuring, Legalization or Closure. 
  2. Delivering socio-geographical recommendations for implementing good practices of sustainable and environmentally friendly Settlement’s management from insiders’ perspective.

Research questions:

Phase 1: How settlement’s boundaries were delineated?; How was the initial clearing for the settlement’s living space proceeded?; How did incoming refugees/IDPs adopt  the surrounding environment for Settlements’ to food security needs? (retrospective analysis).

Phase 2: What are the forms of human adaptation to changes of Settlement’s natural environment, including: inhabitants’ strategies of accessing food, water and energy resources, Camp’s administration management, practices of acquiring food in the given settlement and its vicinity?   

Phase 3: What are the necessary conditions of reaching critical level of settlement’s environmental capacity, including: identifying the Settlement’s limits for further development, decision of relocation, restructuring, legalization or its permanent closure and strategies for restoring the Settlement’s area of the natural environment?

Interview based analysis 

  • micro level: interviews with refugees/IDPs approx. 30 (15 per settlement). Depending on circumstances, focus group interviews with refugees/migrants may be conducted;
  • meso level: approx. 20 interviews (10 per settlement) with key informants (e.g. relevant local authorities, non-state actors, NGOs) will also be conducted in both settlements. 

The video calls interviews may included instead of/or additionally to in-field research, depending on availability of interviewees and security measures;

Mixed Analysis

A picture of the history of the camp and the environment in the surrounding :

  • The provisioning eco-services monitoring and measurement, i.e. environmental degradation including nutrition, materials and energy needs meeting: wood fuel, ground/surface water, wild plants, crops.
  • The regulationing eco-services monitoring and measurement, i.e. natural hazards protection.
  • The environmental changes modelling and prediction, including the causes of unsustainable ecosystem development with the emphasis on the provisioning and regulationing services and its quantifiable measures.
  • Statistcal Outcommes, e.g. percentage coverage of LU/LC classes.
  • Descriptive Analysis, complemented by comprehensive and independent socio-geographical desc and field research.

Online Geo-platform

The project outcomes will be published on the developed “Online Geo-platform” including both the geospatial information and the informative reports and additional descriptive data.

Raising public awareness of the environmental changes taking place in the camp areas, their impact on the camp population and their causality, including the humanitarian assistance provided to the camps’ inhabitants on their way to self-reliance.


Area Of Interest

Types of camps:

  • Camp which was closed or destroyed
  • Existing camps:
    • in residential area:
      • close distance to the town/villages or
      • attached to the town/village
    • in non-residential area (periphery regions)
  • Camp in a natural hazard risk area, e.g. flooded camp

Intented Outcomes

The fundamental core of the ARICA project will be the Online Geo-platform. The ARICA outcomes will all be available for students, researchers and stakeholders as a reference point for any activity affiliated with refugee/IDP camp’s inhabitants interaction with environment documentation.

An additional target of ARICA is to establish a permanent network of stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental organizations that will operate either in local, national, European, or international level.

Possible sectors where the developed material might be useful could be: humanitarian aid and its perspectives, food security - monitoring of food and clean water supplies, management of existing camps, planning of camp sites, monitoring of natural hazards in camp surrounding and recovery phase regulations.


Project Leader and Head of the Geospatial Analysis team:

dr Małgorzata Jenerowicz-Sanikowska, CBK PAN
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Head of the Socio-Geographical Analysis team:

dr Karolina Sobczak-Szelc, CMR UW
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Head of the Online Geo-Platform development team:

Daniel Starczewski, UNEP/GRID Warsaw
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