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  • Author: Daniel Maxwell, Peter Hailey
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Despite humanitarian information being more available than ever, confusion persists as to what the information means, how to analyze it and turn it into actionable evidence, and how to ensure that evidence-based actions are actually undertaken on a timely basis. The key points of confusion and issues include: The difference between current status information, projections of populations in need, and early warning of threats or hazards. The difference between “hard” numbers (implying things that have already happened and can be counted) versus probabilistic information (implying things that are likely, but not certain, to happen). Linkages, or the lack thereof, between information systems and policy or programmatic action to anticipate, mitigate, or respond to a shock or worsening situation. Despite the fact that conflict is the most common factor driving extreme humanitarian crises, conflict analysis is the weakest part of early warning and information systems. The information systems do not (or minimally) engage with the communities at risk of shocks or resulting humanitarian crises. This paper reviews these and a number of additional issues with contemporary humanitarian information and early warning systems. While the cases focus on the East Africa region, they have broader implications as well.
  • Topic: Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Aid, Food, Famine, Food Security, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Kenya, North Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan
  • Author: Daniel Maxwell
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Attention to the growing number of people caught in crises characterized by extreme and often protracted levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, and mortality is increasing. The information systems that track these conditions and inform humanitarian decision-making have expanded substantially in the past two decades and in many cases have reached a degree of unprecedented sophistication. These famine early warning systems have become increasingly sophisticated in the past decade, but they still tend to be based on several assumptions that are important to understand. This paper briefly describes existing famine early warning systems and outlines some of the assumptions on which they are based— both in theory and in practice. Then it gives four brief case studies of recent famine or “famine-like” events and pieces together the formal analysis process with an attempt to reconstruct events on the ground from a conflict analysis perspective—highlighting the extent to which the formal famine analysis did or did not deal with conflict analyses and the political kryptonite around the discussion of “intent.” It closes with a summary of gaps in the current system and an assessment of the risks of trying to address those gaps through famine EWS or alternative means.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Humanitarian Aid, Food, Famine, Food Security, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Middle East, Yemen, North Africa, Ethiopia