UN agencies boost partnership on visualization of food security data for Yemen

WFP trucks loaded with wheat grain, oil and salt are ready to leave for Amran, a hundred kilometres north of Yemen’s capital, Sana'a. Photo: OCHA/Charlotte Cans

WFP trucks loaded with wheat grain, oil and salt are ready to leave for Amran, a hundred kilometres north of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Photo: OCHA/Charlotte Cans

4 May 2016

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are boosting wider understanding of how families in conflict-torn Yemen struggle with persistent food insecurity, through a new interactive visualization of data captured by mobile technology and shared on an open source platform.

“This is an important step towards greater transparency by making crucial food security data freely available in open source. In the case of Yemen, where the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating due to continued conflict it is paramount that the data we capture is available to as wide an audience as possible, to inform key decisions,” said WFP Chief Economist Arif Husain in a press release.

Collected by WFP’s mobile food security monitoring service (mVAM), the data track a household’s food consumption. The visualization shows how families are coping in the face of hunger and food shortages as the months pass.

It can be observed in the visualization that as of March 2016, about 70 per cent of families in each governorate in Yemen are borrowing food or relying on the help of friends and relatives to cope with food insecurity. This proportion is more significant in governorates affected by conflict.

WFP and OCHA plan to extend the visualization to show data from other countries.

The data are available on OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), an open platform for sharing crisis data. The platform includes some 4,000 data sets from humanitarian partners, allowing a range of users – from journalists to policy makers and data scientists – to explore the data and gain insight.

“The food security data that WFP shares through HDX is critical to understanding the severity of humanitarian crises around the world,” said Sarah Telford, Head of HDX. “WFP has become a leader in humanitarian data with its innovative approaches to data collection in places like Yemen and its openness to sharing data globally.”

WFP and OCHA began collaborating last year when the HDX platform created an interactive visualization for food price data – available on WFP’s VAM Shop.

With funding from Google, WFP has also released the Application Programme Interface, which provides open access to large amounts of food security data that it collects in real-time through mobile technology.