Mobile phone surveys can help World Food Programme reach hungry people

Guardian Op-Ed by Our Jean-Martin Bauer:

by Jean-Martin Bauer- The Guardian – 10 March 2016

WFP/Lucia Casarin

WFP/Lucia Casarin

Contacting people in vulnerable areas by telephone or text is enabling the UN’s World Food Programme to determine who needs food and when

One of the biggest challenges for the humanitarian community when disaster strikes is how to colour in blank spaces on maps of the affected country or region. To do our jobs well, we need to know who has been affected, what is happening, and what people need. And we need to know fast.

Information is critical to the design and implementation of life-saving operations. Yet all too often we struggle to collect these facts consistently because we cannot communicate with people on the wrong side of a frontline or in a difficult to reach area. People in no-go areas, including parts of Syria, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan and the northern Sahel, are not just suffering, they are suffering in silence.

We believe that technological innovation has the power to fill in these blank areas. Thanks to a broad-based boom in mobile phone ownership – up by almost 20% annually in sub-Saharan Africa (pdf) – mobile surveys are poised to transform how we gather information.…

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