In a sign of growing confidence in technology’s potential to transform humanitarian assistance, Belgium is contributing €2 million worth of funding to promote innovative projects by the World Food Programme (WFP). The money will allow the UN agency to scale up research and trials into the use of drone and blockchain solutions to fight hunger around the world.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project seeks to enhance the ability of WFP and partners to prepare for, and respond to, emergencies in multiple ways – rapid damage analysis, topographical data collection and interpretation through machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, high-resolution imagery for the mapping of vulnerabilities, and connectivity in disasters. Separately, a blockchain pilot in refugee camps in Jordan is making WFP’s cash transfers to 100,000 vulnerable Syrians more efficient and transparent. Piloted in collaboration with other agencies, the ‘Building Blocks’ project is delivering more for less, offering donors better value for money.
Both projects – part of a wider innovation agenda – are being showcased at the UN in New York today. Entitled Leveraging Innovation for Humanitarian Action, the event will feature addresses by Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, and the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.
“Innovation saves lives,” said Minister De Croo. “This year, more than 128 million people across the world will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This is triple the number of three years ago. Only by finding better ways to deliver aid more efficiently will we close the gap between requirements and aid delivery on the ground. Belgium lauds the efforts of WFP to come up with innovative solutions to save more lives and help more people in need.
“Speaking for WFP, Chief of Staff Rehan Asad also stressed that amid rampant conflict and natural disasters, innovation was vital. “The challenge of reaching Zero Hunger by 2030 is immense. Humanitarians must relentlessly look for ways to harness the most promising digital technologies in the service of the world’s most vulnerable people. We are grateful to committed partners such as Belgium for helping us do just that.”