New language datasets: Towards data-driven humanitarian communication and community engagement

14 February, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

What if information on the languages of crisis-affected people was as readily available as data on their age and gender?

Through TWB’s work, we have seen that increasing the data focus on language can enable better planning and more effective communication with affected people. Data gives us the capacity to track outcomes for speakers of marginalized languages, enabling us to ensure they are not “left behind” by humanitarian action. Such data should replace existing assumptions and inform better use of limited resources.

That is why we are excited to launch the first openly available language datasets for humanitarian use ( In partnership with University College London, we have produced a series of static and dynamic maps and 23 datasets covering nine countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Ukraine, and Zambia.

You can read more about this work in our blog (

This is just the beginning of our effort to provide more accessible language data for humanitarian purposes. Our goal is to make language data openly available for every humanitarian crisis, and we can’t do it alone.

We could use your help to:

Share this data with other colleagues who might be interested in this, and tell us what you think and how we can best integrate it within existing platforms (the datasets are hosted on the Humanitarian Data Exchange (

Add language-related questions into your ongoing surveys. Over the past year, we have worked with partners like IOM DTM, REACH, WFP, and UNICEF to integrate standard language questions ( into ongoing surveys. The recent multi-sectoral needs assessment in Nigeria ( is a good example of how a few language questions can support data-driven humanitarian decisions.

Use this language data to develop community engagement strategies. And do get in touch if you have any questions on how we can improve communication in the languages of affected people.

Mia Marzotto

Senior Advocacy Officer

Skype: miacrocetti

WhatsApp: +39 333 743 9807

HIFA Profile: Mia Marzotto is Advocacy Officer at Translators without Borders. She is based in New York City, USA. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Multilingualism.

Email: mia AT