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Imagery to the Crowd
About Us

Welcome to the HIU 

Humanitarian Information Unit

The mission of the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) is to serve as a U.S. Government interagency center to identify, collect, analyze, and disseminate all-source information critical to U.S. Government decision-makers and partners in preparation for and response to humanitarian emergencies worldwide, and to promote innovative technologies and best practices for humanitarian information management. For more information about the HIU, contact information, directions and careers consult the About Us.

MapGive and Imagery to the Crowd
MapGive is a State Department initiative designed to increase the number of online mapping volunteers. This educational and outreach campaign teaches potential volunteers about why open data and humanitarian mapping are important, provides detailed instructions on how to map in OpenStreetMap, and connects them with mapping tasks that will support the provision of humanitarian assistance. Watch the "Why Map" video on the MapGive site here.

MapGive builds upon the Imagery to the Crowd (IttC) initiative in which we share commercial high resolution satellite imagery with the volunteer mapping community to produce baseline geographic data in OpenStreetMap. In November 2013, IttC was awarded a NextGov Bold Award for innovation in federal information technology.

Secondary Cities
Mapping Secondary Cities for Resiliency, Human Security, and Emergency Preparedness is the flagship, field-based initiative of the Office of the Geographer.

Ebola GeoNode
The Humanitarian Information Unit is partnering with the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and others to support the Ebola GeoNode.  The Ebola GeoNode is a partnership platform for sharing open geospatial data to support the Ebola response.  The Ebola GeoNode is accessible at

Commercial Satellite Imagery Requests
The U.S. State Department can share U.S. Government (USG) licensed commercial satellite imagery with approved recipients under certain conditions and Departmental clearance on an individual case-by-case basis.   The Department’s ability to facilitate commercial imagery requests is subject to Departmental determination that it is in the interest of the USG to share the requested imagery, as well as staffing and resource constraints.

For more information, review the Commercial Satellite Imagery Request document, available in Adobe .pdf, Microsoft Word .docx, and text .txt formats.

In Focus: Syria
Since April 2012 the HIU has published a map series entitled Numbers and Locations of Refugees & IDPs. The complete list of these and other Syria map products can be found on our Middle East Products page.

In Focus: HIU Data Download Page
We publish some of the geographic datasets used to produce these analytic maps. All datasets are available on the HIU Data Download Page. We have attempted to make all data available in commonly used formats, both proprietary and open when possible.

Geographic dataset: Large Scale International Boundary Polygons
We combined the linework from the Large Scale International Boundaries (LSIB) dataset with the World Vector Shorelines dataset to produce a GIS-ready polygon dataset that we believe is the most detailed set of international boundaries available. Additionally, we created a second set of polygons that have been cartographically generalized, making them more useful for global scale mapping projects.

Geographic dataset: Syria: Border Crossings, released 11 June 2015.

Geographic dataset: Syria: IDP Sites, released Late June 2015.

Geographic dataset: Syria: Refugee Sites, released 11 June 2015.

Geographic dataset: Syria: Cultural Sites, released 22 May 2013.

Image Catalog: Syria Regional Crisis: Refugee Camp Image Catalog, released 28 June 2013.

 Featured Products


Peoples Without a State: the Locations and Causes of Statelessness (30 March 2016)

Statelessness is a global problem - it affects half the world's countries - with an estimated 10-15 million people deprived of a nationality. The map shows the locations of stateless or at risk populations numbering 500 or more, highlighting countries with the highest concentration. The data is incomplete and contains estimates; 70% is not collected or acknowledged by the countries where the stateless live. The single largest cause of statelessness is inheritance of status, with at least 5 million stateless children and a new one born every 10 minutes. Discriminatory nationality laws contribute to statelessness as well. In 12 of 20 countries in the Middle East, women are prohibited or severely limited in conferring citizenship to their children, as shown on the map.

Region: Global & Transnational Products

Published Date: 3/30/2016

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World Water Day 2016: Urban Access to Sanitation

Today, 2.4 billion people in the world do not have access to basic sanitation. Most of them reside in Southern Asia (953 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (695 million). Access to basic sanitation facilities close to home is critical to maintaining healthy and safe populations.

Region: Global & Transnational Products

Published Date: 3/18/2016

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Europe: Displacement Snapshot (15 March 2016)

Europe: Displacement Snapshot is a comprehensive product that shows main routes, border controls, and hotspots affecting migration flows through Europe, migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean, and describes the demographics, relative distribution, and most current recognition rates for certain nationalities applying for asylum in the European Union (EU) and arriving via the Mediterranean. It also visualizes participation in the EU’s relocation mechanism, and the EU's proposed common list of safe countries of origin. The information therein is based on the recent, available data, and is updated as of 15 March 2015.

Region: Global & Transnational Products

Published Date: 3/15/2016

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Turkey-Syria: Numbers and Locations of Displaced Syrians

Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees, hosting over 2.7 millions Syrians who have registered under a temporary protection status. Turkey is also the primary transit country for Syrians seeking asylum in Europe, and Turkey and the EU are negotiating a joint action plan to address Syrian refugee needs and prevent irregular migration flows. Before an ISSG-facilitated cessation of hostilities went into effect on Feb. 27, over 75,000 Syrians were displaced in Northern Syria, further pressuring displacement sites and host communities along the Syria-Turkey border. The map shows the distribution of displaced Syrians within Syria and in Turkey, and gives a short snapshot of related current events.

Region: Middle East

Published Date: 3/11/2016

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Afghanistan: An Urban Future

Urban growth in Afghanistan during the past decade has been predominantly informal and unplanned. Urbanization can, however, provide opportunities for economic growth and social development.

Region: South Asia

Published Date: 2/29/2016

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Syria and Iraq Conflict without Borders: 2015 Year in Review

Syria and Iraq conflict Without Borders: 2015 Year in Review gives an overview of key humanitarian developments and events affecting Syrian and Iraqi populations throughout 2015 and highlights key issues facing displaced Syrians and Iraqis.

Region: Middle East

Published Date: 1/29/2016

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