Alibaba Cloud powers a real-time map of hunger around the world

Alibaba Cloud powers a real-time map of hunger around the world

A new map from the World Food Programme’s Hunger Monitoring Unit combines data on weather, food supply, conflict, and growing conditions.

The World Food Programme (WFP) works in more than 80 countries to feed 90 million people in the world who do not have consistent access to food. In addition to managing a food distribution system, the WFP responds to disasters caused by war and weather.

When deciding where to send support, WFP leaders often have too much data to analyze or in some cases not enough information.

Francesca Caldari and Elisa Omodei work in the Hunger Monitoring Unit in the World Food Programme office in Rome. They want to solve this problem with the HungerMapLive. The map combines data from multiple sources to reflect the complex forces that affect access to food. One country might be recovering from floods while another is coping with refugees from a war. The HungerMap would reflect daily changes in countries around the world. 

The map team was one of six projects selected to participate in the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp & Pitch Night at Google headquarters. The October 2019 event was the first time the WFP event has been held in the US.

Currently, decision makers have to draw information from many sources to understand food insecurity in a particular community and often have to rely on outdated information. In countries where there is a lack of data, the map will use predictive algorithms to support decision making. The map will allow WFP leaders to track and even predict hunger in near real time.

“Data is the key to trigger any positive change,” Omodei said.

The new map provides a global view as well as detailed information on each country. A user can look at a basic heat map of a country or add layers of information to understand how a particular force is affecting access to food. This includes growing conditions, crop yields, natural disasters, weather, and conflict.

Omodei said that gathering the data for the new map was almost as challenging as deciding what information to include.

Decision makers at all levels of the WFP will be able to use the map to get a real-time readout on food conditions in a particular country.

The WFP is working with Alibaba Cloud services to build the map. It will be available to the public by the end of the year.

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