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06.08.2020 | Blog

How Forecasts Save Lives

Helping before it's too late: Welthungerhilfe uses early-warning systems and risk analyses to provide humanitarian aid before devastating disasters strike.

A woman from Madagascar stands under a large tree.
In Madagascar, smallholder farming families are often hit hardest by droughts and dry periods. © Toni Haddad
Kerstin Bandsom Team Communications

The rising number of people affected by extreme weather events necessitates new solutions in humanitarian aid. In the past, emergency aid has been focused on responding to natural disasters after they occur.

Foresight Is Better Than Hindsight

Welthungerhilfe is working to change this mentality: We use forecasts to help people before imminent droughts can lead to hunger. Our innovative approach allows us to take action based on early-warning data, This permits a cost-efficient response before major damage is done.

Droughts And Crop Failures Threaten Families In Madagascar

In Madagascar, small-scale farming families experience droughts and dry spells especially frequently. Formerly confined to arid zones in the south-west, droughts and dry spells are now becoming increasingly prevalent in other parts of the country, severely impacting its food supply as a whole. The key here is to take a forecast-based risk-management approach to enable the people under threat to respond proactively to an imminent drought.

A boy from Salima, Malawi, standing in a dry field with dead plants
Droughts hit smallholder farming families hard. Welthungerhilfe plans to roll out its disaster prediction model in Zimbabwe and Kenya. © Jens Grossmann/Welthungerhilfe

Well Prepared Thanks To Forecasting Model

After the German Red Cross, Welthungerhilfe is the first German non-governmental organisation to engage in forecast-based humanitarian aid. We started up a pilot project in Madagascar with the aid of the German Federal Foreign Office. In conjunction with the local civil protection authority and the meteorological service, and with the support of the Start Network, a coalition of over 40 international humanitarian non-governmental organisations, we developed a replicable forecasting model for six regions in the country.

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Through forward-looking disaster prevention, Welthungerhilfe contributes to alleviating suffering and damage in the event of a crisis.

Early Warning – Quick Help

The model predicts whether a drought will strike and where food security will be affected. Early warnings automatically trigger specially prepared disaster-response plans that include proactive aid measures, with funding secured from donors in advance.

Acting Early Helps Improving Food Security And Saving Lives

These measures serve to minimise or entirely prevent losses and damages, and they provide protection to the affected households against supply-chain interruptions. For instance, cash transfers give people the opportunity to act autonomously and make decisions that are essential for their survival. Other examples include the timely reduction and sale of livestock herds, the securing of access to drinking water, and the rapid procurement of food. The forecast-based approach to humanitarian aid is a key component of our work. In conjunction with resilience-building measures for the local population and a comprehensive plan for risk reduction and emergency aid, it enables Welthungerhilfe to employ the traditional reactive brand of emergency aid only as a last resort.

The Shift From Traditional To Proactive Humanitarian Aid

A Pilot Project With A Future

This mechanism can now be expanded to other areas, including to additional project regions in Madagascar in early 2020 as well as to the countries of Zimbabwe and Kenya. The process requires patience, but it is worth it.

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Last Update 18.08.2020

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