We did research last year to look at what data is most often cited by humanitarians in their reports and in their talking points. It turns out there are a set of figures that come up again and again. They help align our global community — from the Emergency Relief Coordinator to a local reports officer, from NGOs to multilateral agencies — behind a common understanding of the scale and severity of a humanitarian crisis.

These figures are often referred to as the humanitarian planning figures or humanitarian profile data. They include at least the following six key indicators:

  1. The number of people affected by a crisis
  2. The number of people in need of assistance
  3. The number of people targeted for assistance
  4. The number of people in camps
  5. The number of refugees
  6. The number of internally displaced people

The humanitarian community in each country publish these aggregated figures in a report at the beginning of each planning cycle. The reports were previously known as the CAPs (for the Consolidated Appeals Process) but are now more often referred to as Strategic Response Plans. This information has been published consistently over the past 10 years, and updated figures will be released at the end of this year to help gauge humanitarian needs for 2015.

The problem is that the corresponding data does not exist in any one system. Instead, it is trapped in hundreds of PDF documents. The data for the key indicators often appears at the beginning of the report, sometimes as a summary table or as part of a dashboard or infographic, as in the example below from the South Sudan Consolidated Appeal 2014-2016.


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We believe that there is value in extracting this data into a database and making it available through the HDX platform and beyond. Users will be able to visualize the trend lines across countries and compare this data to other indicators within HDX, such as the amount of funding received or baseline food consumption. We will also be creating a structure for this data going forward so that we can continue to make it accessible for years to come.

To get us started, we extracted the data for all of the appeals published in 2013 (see visual below). We are aware that these planning figures have a number of limitations. The caveats include the inconsistency in assessing needs by the different agencies and the many ways the figures are referenced. However, we hope that we can be more rigorous with these figures going forward.

Number of people in need in 2013


Source: CAPs from 2013.

How to help

We are asking for the support of volunteers to collect the data from the over 177 appeal documents published from 2004 to 2014. The task involves identifying the figures in each appeal and entering them into a form. The appeals are typically written in English or French.

We have tried to make the process as easy as possible. There are two steps:

Go to the HDX CAP repository to find a list of the appeals;

Choose one to work on, download the document, find the figures, and enter them into the provided web form.

You can do one or ten or as many as you can – it’s up to you. There are no special technical skills required.

We will remove each appeal from the site once at least two volunteers have followed the process. When there are conflicting figures, an HDX team member will check the appeal to verify which is correct. When the data collection is complete, we will run the dataset through a quality review process to ensure the data is consistent across countries and time. Caveats for the figures will appear in the metadata for each indicator.

We know that many volunteers are working hard to support the Ebola response. We don’t want to take anyone away from that important work. But for those of you with some time to spare, please help us with this challenge.

If you have any questions or problems with the application, please contact the HDX data team at and send us the document code. We will get back to you shortly.

Thank you for your help!