Tackling Inequality in Humanitarian Situations: Social Media and support in cities in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa

June 30, 2023


In consortium with Urban-A, Action Aid and OXFAM, we study the different kinds of information people access based on their socio-economic, and migrant and displaced identities, and how that links with information and support available and provided by the UN, (I)NGOs, local authorities, and civil society actors. We aim to do this in Tripoli (Lebanon), Patna, its adjoining districts, New Delhi (India), and Kampala (Uganda) where humanitarian crises and displacement are critical issues and efforts have been made to harness the importance of social and communications media.

The project delves into the intricate relationship between social media, humanitarianism, and inequality in the Global South, particularly within urban landscapes. It argues that inequality should not merely be perceived as a consequence of humanitarian crises but should itself be recognized as a humanitarian crisis, especially within urban areas. The urban poor, migrants, and refugees are all regarded as surplus populations marginalized by capitalist production and regimes of value, often distinguished only by legal categories. This inequality extends beyond economic disparities to encompass various dimensions such as ethnic identity, migration status, gender, and age, as well as spatial and institutional configurations that restrict access to essential resources like jobs and housing.

Social and communication media are highlighted as tools that both alleviate and exacerbate inequalities. While they facilitate self-organization among displaced individuals and migrants, aiding in accessing housing, jobs, and transportation, they also contribute to entrenching inequalities. There exists a disconnect between the information available to marginalized communities and that accessible to civil society, states, and humanitarian actors, thereby shaping support mechanisms and livelihood opportunities while perpetuating exclusion.

The project aims to bridge this gap in understanding the role of social media during crises, portraying it as both an enabler and an excluder, thus underscoring the need for policy interventions to enhance rapid responses to urban shocks. It aligns with broader discussions on how information technology influences social relations, work dynamics, and consumption patterns, leading to disparities in access and opportunities.

Emphasizing a transnational perspective, the project moves beyond simplistic comparisons and embraces local specificities to foster dialogue across regions. It strives to be contextually sensitive while addressing broader issues of power, oppression, and social justice. By spanning three sites in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, the project seeks to not only conduct rigorous academic research but also drive policy and practice changes aimed at alleviating inequalities faced by migrants and displaced populations in urban centers of the Global South.

The research draws on extensive field experience in crisis settings, focusing on understanding the information landscape based on socio-economic, migrant, and displaced identities. Through site-specific studies in Tripoli (Lebanon), Patna (India), and Kampala (Uganda), it aims to explore the societal implications of social and communication media in different crisis contexts, addressing issues such as urban-rural migration, equity in humanitarian responses, and the impact of economic and political restrictions on marginalized populations.


Tackling Inequality in Humanitarian Situations: Social Media and support in cities in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa – LSE


June 2021 – June 2023

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