With a mobile data collection app and satellite data, scientists will be able to predict whether a certain region is vulnerable to food shortages and malnutrition. The method has now been tested in the Central African Republic.
There are different possible causes for famine and malnutrition—not all of which are easy to foresee. Drought and crop failure can often be predicted by monitoring the weather and measuring soil moisture. But other risk factors, such as socio-economic problems or violent conflicts, can endanger food security too. For organizations such as Doctors without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), it is crucial to obtain information about vulnerable regions as soon as possible, so that they have a chance to provide help before it is too late.
Scientists from TU Wien in Vienna, Austria and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria have now developed a way to monitor food security using a smartphone app, which combines weather and soil moisture data from satellites with crowd-sourced data on the vulnerability of the population, e.g. malnutrition and other relevant socioeconomic data. Tests in the Central African Republic have yielded promising results, which have now been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Step One: Satellite Data
“For years, we have been working on methods of measuring soil moisture using satellite data”, says Markus Enenkel (TU Wien). By scanning the Earth’s surface with microwave beams, researchers can measure the water content in soil. Comparing these measurements with extensive data sets obtained over the last few decades, it is possible to calculate whether the soil is sufficiently moist or whether there is danger of droughts.
“This method works well and it provides us with very important information, but information about soil moisture deficits is not enough to estimate the danger of malnutrition,” says IIASA researcher Linda See. “We also need information about other factors that can affect the local food supply.” For example, political unrest may prevent people from farming, even if weather conditions are fine. Such problems can of course not be monitored from satellites, so the researchers had to find a way of collecting data directly in the most vulnerable regions.
“Today, smartphones are available even in developing countries, and so we decided to develop an app, which we called SATIDA COLLECT, to help us collect the necessary data”, says IIASA-based app developer Mathias Karner. For a first test, the researchers chose the Central African Republic– one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, suffering from chronic poverty, violent conflicts, and weak disaster resilience. Local MSF staff was trained for a day and collected data, conducting hundreds of interviews.
“How often do people eat? What are the current rates of malnutrition? Have any family members left the region recently, has anybody died? – We use the answers to these questions to statistically determine whether the region is in danger”, says Candela Lanusse, nutrition advisor from Doctors without Borders. “Sometimes all that people have left to eat is unripe fruit or the seeds they had stored for next year. Sometimes they have to sell their cattle, which may increase the chance of nutritional problems. This kind of behavior may indicate future problems, months before a large-scale crisis breaks out.”
A Map of Malnutrition Danger
The digital questionnaire of SATIDA COLLECT can be adapted to local eating habits, as the answers and the GPS coordinates of every assessment are stored locally on the phone. When an internet connection is available, the collected data are uploaded to a server and can be analyzed along with satellite-derived information about drought risk. In the end a map could be created, highlighting areas where the danger of malnutrition is high. For Doctors without Borders, such maps are extremely valuable. They help to plan future activities and provide help as soon as it is needed.
“Testing this tool in the Central African Republic was not easy”, says Markus Enenkel. “The political situation there is complicated. However, even under these circumstances we could show that our technology works. We were able to gather valuable information.” SATIDA COLLECT has the potential to become a powerful early warning tool. It may not be able to prevent crises, but it will at least help NGOs to mitigate their impacts via early intervention.
Read more: Preventing Famine with Mobile Phones
The Latest on: Preventing Famine with Mobile Phones
via Google News
The Latest on: Preventing Famine with Mobile Phones
- Combined Vaccination, Physical Distancing Can Replace Lockdowns to Prevent COVID-19 Surgeson March 2, 2021 at 6:29 am
A recent study found that a combination of robust vaccination programs and strict physical distancing rules may be effective in the prevention of future COVID-19 infection surges. ...
- Mobile Adware Booms, Online Banks Become Prime Target for Attackson March 1, 2021 at 4:43 pm
A snapshot of the 2020 mobile threat landscape reveals major shifts toward adware and threats to online banks.
- How to repair your mobile phone on your own in 2021on March 1, 2021 at 2:30 pm
Mobile phones are now an integral part of our lives. Stepping into the outside world without a cell phone in hand, in quite a massacre.
- UN Sec-Gen Appeals to Donors for $4 Billion to Prevent Famine-related Deaths in Yemenon March 1, 2021 at 10:11 am
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to donors Monday for nearly $4 billion to prevent a catastrophic famine from killing millions of people in war-torn Yemen. “Today, famine is bearing ...
- Police Forcibly Snatch Chandrababu’s Mobile Phoneon February 28, 2021 at 10:41 pm
Police Forcibly Snatch Chandrababu Naidu's Mobile Phone - They even snatched Chandrababu's phone. They also snatched the phones of his PA and Naidu's ...
- UN: Nearly $4 Billion Needed to Prevent Massive Yemen Famineon February 28, 2021 at 12:02 pm
The United Nations will appeal to donors Monday for nearly $4 billion to prevent “the worst famine the world has seen for decades” from happening in Yemen this year. “The humanitarian situation in ...
- Unrecorded Cell Phone Sales Increased Significantly in Pandemicon February 23, 2021 at 11:41 pm
Unrecorded Cell Phone Sales Increased Significantly in Pandemic | Evaluating the mobile communication data of 2020, MOBİSAD President Mustafa Kemal Turnacı said, “We will start 2020 with mobile phone ...
- China bans mobile phones in schools to ‘protect students’ eyesight’ and prevent addictionon February 21, 2021 at 7:39 am
China has banned mobile phones in schools in order to “protect the students’ eyesight” and prevent them from becoming addicted to the internet and online games. The Ministry of Education said the ban, ...
- Viewpoint: From Ethiopia's Tigray region to Yemen, the dilemma of declaring a famineon February 7, 2021 at 4:59 pm
Story continues Some Tigrayans who are able to make phone calls tell of massive looting ... in African countries to give timely warning of food crises, to prevent famine. Five years ago, the Ethiopian ...
- Annapolis couple use nonprofit to fight homelessness, hunger during pandemicon January 31, 2021 at 10:03 pm
The group is working on a phone app that could allow people to register remotely and make it easier for people to seek out resources, Thomas said. Over the years, homelessness prevention has been ...
via Bing News