WFP and OCHA are providing hunger and food insecurity data on HDX

Friday, May 22, 2015

Because my job as an epidemiologist is so data-focused, I have been diving into the "big data" and "open data" conversations, trying to learn more about data trends and skills (and hopefully beef up my resume in the process, of course). While nobody seems to be able to define "big data" very well (and I have seen it dismissed as little more than a buzzword more than once), open data is a growing movement that I have taken particular interest in. In re-tuning my social media feeds to more data-oriented signals, some nifty stuff has crossed my radar - including this announcement from the World Food Programme earlier this week:
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have teamed up to provide access to global data on hunger and food insecurity. The data can be used to understand the type of food available in certain markets, how families cope in the face of food insecurity and how WFP provides food assistance in emergencies to those in need.

The data is being made available through OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), an open platform for sharing crisis data. The collaboration between WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide, and OCHA began at the height of the Ebola crisis when WFP shared its data on food market prices in affected countries in West Africa.

With funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WFP has since been able to make large amounts of its data available dynamically, making it easier to integrate with other systems, including HDX.
While I am not sure whether the development community at large will buy into these types of data repositories and contribute enough to make them a truly valuable resource, it looks like it is moving in that direction (and now I know about HDX, which I was completely unaware of before).

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