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New tool to forecast nutrition-related vulnerabilities 0

Nairobi – A new online tool to help decision-makers take early action to resolve problems that cause high levels of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa has been launched. The tool known as Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) will be in use by the end of this year in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, according to researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who are developing it.

Speaking during the launch in Kenya last month (29 May), experts said that with recurrent droughts and famine causing hunger, malnutrition and instability across Africa, there is an urgent need for innovations to help stop the vicious cycle.

Mercy Lung’aho, a nutritionist and research scientist at CIAT, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that despite progress in strengthening early warning systems for food insecurity, current approaches to detect declines in nutrition status still tend to be very late and are based on indicators that identify nutrition crisis after it has already begun.

“There is a need [for] proactive actions, which will require a shift in the way we forecast nutrition-related vulnerabilities and identify the key factors driving undernutrition, while building nutrition resilience to shocks that add to the fragility,” Lung’aho says.

Debisi Araba, regional director for Africa, CIAT, says that NEWS will use cutting-edge big data approaches to process large volumes of information from multiple sources to detect early signs of food shortages and raise the alarm about impending crises.

“The tool will use machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to process a steady stream of data to food and nutrition security, and will get smarter and become more accurate over time,” Araba notes.

He adds that it will complement existing efforts by offering a new level of precision and accuracy to assessments and predictions of food-related challenges.

“We will work with countries to ensure that NEWS adheres to national laws regarding data sovereignty, privacy and intellectual property,” Araba explains.

Continue reading on SciDev.Net

By Sam Otieno and Stephanie Achieng’

Picture credit: Russell Watkins/DFID

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