Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the Internet search company, has awarded the IRI $900,000 to work with its partners to improve the use of forecasts, rainfall data and other climate information in East Africa, and to build stronger connections between weather, climate and health specialists there so they can better predict and prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The award is part of Google.org’s Predict and Prevent program, which funds projects and technologies that help map “hot spots” of global emerging infectious diseases and develop improved early-warning systems that predict potential disease outbreaks.
Climate plays a critical role in determining the distribution of many of Africa’s epidemic diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. Their transmission is dependent on prevailing environmental conditions such as rainfall and temperature. Year-to-year variations in the amount of rainfall and temperature can therefore change the pattern and timing of epidemics. This makes it difficult for poor countries to plan their public health strategies.
But the link between climate and some diseases means that seasonal forecasts, satellite measurements and other data can be useful in making decisions about how much resources to allocate for an upcoming epidemic season, and when and where to allocate them.
Be sure to dowload a cool new Google Earth layer that shows the locations of each grant project.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Nusa Tenggara Timur, or East Nusa Tenggara, is a remote province located 1,200 miles from Jakarta (map). It is home to more than four million people, spread across 550 islands. The province is among the poorest in Indonesia–at least a third of its population earns below the poverty line.
Not surprisingly, NTT faces real development challenges, including periods of serious food insecurity. Since irrigation systems are virtually nonexistent, farmers here are almost wholly dependent on monsoon rains to supply water to their crops. But even in years of normal rainfall, the province can expect to distribute between 20 and 25 thousand tons of food aid to families. During El Niño years, which typically result in significantly less rainfall, the aid figure can be twice that. Rates of malnutrition, especially in children, can reach 25% during these periods.
Scientists at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society want to reduce these impacts by using seasonal climate forecasts to alert government authorities about periods when below-average rainfall is expected. Indonesia has a good system in place to respond to food insecurity, but the challenge is generally one of timing. From the moment a problem is declared to the moment the first shipments of rice and other aid is unloaded, half a year may pass. The hope is to give agencies and humanitarian organizations such as CARE Indonesia months of lead time to stock up on food supplies, jump-start their monitoring activities and set aside funds and other resources in case the food problems materialize.
We’ve organized a workshop for tomorrow in NTT’s capital, Kupang, with CARE Indonesia, Bogor Agriculture University (IPB) and the provincial food-security agency in order to share the latest research findings and discuss their potential use in food-security planning. This latter goal is critical. We can issue the best forecasts in the world, but if there’s no institutional system in place to understand and act on them, they’re essentially useless.IRI related, journalism, travels | Comment (1)
We just posted our first-ever audio slide show on the IRI web site.
One of our talented communications interns took all the photos, recorded the interviews and put the whole thing together in iMovie. The production process, as with anything new, didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped, mainly because of web-related technical glitches we hadn’t anticipated. But our production aide and web team really came through in the end. The final piece fills me with pride. Hope you enjoy it too.
[Image from Daniel Yeow]Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Fourteen professionals from nine countries are hard at work learning ways to use climate knowledge to make better decisions for health-care planning and control of climate sensitive diseases such as malaria and meningitis. They are participants of the Summer Institute 2008 on Climate Information for Public Health organized by the IRI, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
[Image credit: Daniel Yeow]
Read the rest on the IRI features page.
The theme of this year’s World Health Day, is “protecting health from climate change”. In support of this, the IRI helped convene more than 70 high level experts from public health agencies, private institutions and corporations to brainstorm ways to overcome the challenges climate change poses to global health. Participants recognized that the breadth and severity of these impacts remain largely unknown and understudied, and they proposed a number of possible actions to take.
Read the rest of the story on the IRI’s features page.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)