Collecting real-time data to analyse the risk of drought

Pulse Lab Jakarta

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

37% of children in Indonesia are chronically malnourished. On average, families spend more than half their incomes on food. The El Nino drought in 2015 had devastating results on the region, causing food prices to spike and threatening already vulnerable people with hunger and placing huge pressure on local communities.

In response, the UN in Indonesia created an inter-agency focus group, in order to monitor the impact and learn how to control the situation through allocation of resources. The need for faster analysis led to a partnership between the World Food Programme, UN Global Pulse Lab Jakarta, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the development of an integrated data tool called the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE).

By fusing together several datasets, VAMPIRE aims to automatically analyse the extent of drought and so the population or region that is most risk. First, it visualises the national socio-economic survey and WFP’s household food security surveys. This data provides information on the percentage and distribution of poor, agriculture-dependant populations, as well as food insecure communities. Second, it analyses data on rainfall anomalies and the Indonesian Vegetation Health Index. Rainfall anomaly is a measure of the amount of rainfall in a period compared to the long-term average for that time of year, while the vegetation index is a proxy for drought. Based on the measure of economic vulnerability and exposure to drought, the tool identifies priority areas where people may require assistance.

Though collecting data on rainfall and food security is neither new or unique, what makes VAMPIRE innovative is the way that it allows information to be pulled together in high resolution and in near real-time. Interventions can occur far more quickly than they traditionally would have done.

Building upon these initial successes, the tool has been upgraded to include new, more detailed analysis on drought. More granular estimation of affected areas has improved the tool’s ability to identify and prioritise risk. Additional indicators on meteorological drought, agricultural drought, population density and dependence on agriculture are improving the methodology.

Originally just used in Indonesia, other governments in the region are beginning to realise the impact that VAMPIRE may have on measuring not just droughts, but also floods. Having now used the tool in Sri Lanka, learning which has come out of it there is being used to improve use of the programme in Indonesia.

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