Data’s Growing Role in Humanitarian Relief & Assistance
By admin September 15, 2015

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Data Assisting Hunger Relief


The role of data collection and analysis is well understood as the foundation for which any humanitarian action is taken. Decisions, such as determining safe-zones for relief workers or feasible means of delivering supplies, rely on actionable data disseminated from the ground to stakeholders. What’s more, the need for data is expanding beyond those of complex humanitarian emergencies.

UN Women in Asia Pacific is currently using data to paint a clearer picture of gender-based violence in the region. In collaboration with the Asia Development Bank, they are launching a joint study to track the progress of the Asia-Pacific countries towards gender equality. They will also disseminate these findings for stakeholders to act upon when creating programs and monitoring their progress towards this goal.

Similarly, The UN World Food Programme is making use of anonymized data to identify patterns of hunger in Africa. Their method uses cell phones to collect anonymized housing expenditure data to understand vulnerability patterns in real time. This data will assist relief workers in pinpointing acute hunger needs with an unmatched level of precision.

As the need for actionable data collection expands beyond crisis zones, relief agencies are refining current methods of data analysis and sharing. Streamlining the process of data collection and implementation in the humanitarian sector has gone from recommended to essential.

Currently data is collected in several formats by different organizations, rather than one or two uniform methods for the sector, resulting in an overflow of information that must be deciphered, which slows down the analysis process. Furthermore, the different formats limit access to important data in a timely manner, which is costly for long-term relief programmes. Since the data also  has to be interpreted before shared, multiple organizations working in the same site may find themselves all collecting the same data in different ways, resulting in errors and  further expending labor-power, money, and time.

Solutions to these growing concerns are arising from the technology sector, in the form of apps and cloud storage to limit the number of errors in the data and lessen the time between data analysis and implementation. Open access databases are also used to encourage data sharing among organizations. The progress is in place to optimize our use of data, which, if we continue on current trajectory, will become the most pressing concern on humanitarian assistance.


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