From displacement to death, U.N. data innovation aims to boost aid response

Reuters News
Posted: May 26, 2016 11:19 AM

By Kieran Guilbert

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From displacement and deaths to funding and food prices, a new data map will enable aid agencies to compare and contrast various needs in a humanitarian crisis and boost their response, according to the U.N. team behind it.

The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), an open platform for sharing data among U.N. agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments, this week released an interactive map focusing on the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region.

"The humanitarian data space used to be very fragmented - it was hard to find information and see where the main needs were," said data systems analyst Chad Hendrix.

"Now, with the map explorer for Lake Chad, if you overlay displacement data with fatalities in conflict data, you notice an interesting pattern straight away - you don't need to be an expert to notice it," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The HDX, which is managed by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was set up in 2014 to bring together data from aid groups worldwide and streamline the information to make it easy to find and analyze.

It has hosted data on previous crises, such as the Ebola outbreak and Nepal earthquake.

The project now features more than 4,000 data sets covering some 250 locations across the world, ranging from Ecuador and Yemen to Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, and Hendrix hopes the data map will allow aid workers on the ground to access data quickly.

"We hope humanitarian responders can use the new tool to look at recent data, compare and contrast it, and make decisions about what needs to be done," he said.

U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul this week that Lake Chad is the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis, where poverty and desertification have been compounded by Boko Haram violence.

The conflict has forced more than 2.4 million people to flee their homes in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, OCHA said.

The HDX was funded by Britain's Department for International Development, the Swedish aid ministry, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, a fund focusing on tech for humanitarian projects in the developing world.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit