What it's about:
Is it really possible to anticipate disaster?
A group of everyday men and women known as "super-forecasters" have been working with scientific researchers to hone and develop their natural skills for being successful predictors, and could now turn their talents to anticipating humanitarian crises.
By theorising and planning using hard data and analysis of historical events, they could be able to predict, for example, when a drought is likely to occur, and step in early enough to prevent harvests from failing or to ensure that food aid is adequately targeted.
They could also forecast when the atmosphere might be ripe for a spark to ignite a conflict in a given country and prepare things like displacement camps and communication networks.
The idea has received financial backing from the Start Network, a group of NGOs that manage a multi-donor fund and anticipate humanitarian problems. They release funding to agencies on the basis of strong forecasting.
The Start Fund is supported by UK Aid, Irish Aid, the government of the Netherlands and the European Union, and can release money within 72 hours of an alert or request being submitted by network members.
Why it's noteworthy:
Often, the signs of a humanitarian crisis leave traces before they begin. If aid organisations invest in resources and people to look out for the early warnings of a disaster, this would not only save money and time, but also lives.
Slow humanitarian response often makes the problem harder to deal with and solve as it develops. Harnessing predictive data and skills - and building in mechanisms to resolve a crisis as early as possible - could be a useful solution.
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