Harnessing Data and Technology to Improve the Humanitarian Response and Community Resilience in Malawi

From providing information management support to the Malawi humanitarian response and Tropical Storms Ana and Gombe, capacity strengthening sessions and the 2022 Malawi Data Summit, iMMAP successfully completed the ´Humanitarian Coordination and Information Management´ project in collaboration with the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office (UNRCO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Funded by USAID, the project that took place between September 2021 and June 2022 provided an array of services to enhance the coordination of the humanitarian response in Malawi. iMMAP developed tools and mechanisms to strengthen the processes to collect and disseminate information for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), mandated to coordinate the humanitarian response in the country, while improving the availability and accessibility of humanitarian data for DoDMA, UN Data Unit, INGO Humanitarian Subcommittee and OCHA.

During the project period, Malawi was hit by Tropical Storm Ana in late January followed by Tropical Storm Gombe in March. In response to the major humanitarian crisis that followed, iMMAP provided humanitarian partners with IM products such as disaster flash updates, population figures and needs, impact maps to identify affected communities and access maps for the identification of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

Furthermore, to ensure the sustainability of the IM tools and processes established, iMMAP developed a capacity strengthening plan containing two training modules based on the needs of relevant stakeholders. These training sessions took place on March 23-25, 2022, May 17-20, 2022, and June 7-10, 2022.

To boost the production of information for decision-making, the modules focused on the use of data collection and analysis tools, mapping, and visualization of data. 48 staff members from key ministries and UN bodies including DoDMA´s Response and Rehabilitation Unit, FAO, UN Women and UNRCO benefited from this program to improve their knowledge on the products produced and processes implemented on a daily basis.

Credit: iMMAP capacity strengthening session, June 2022

The highlight of the project, however, was the 2022 Malawi Data Summit, organized by iMMAP in collaboration with UNRCO and WFP on June 2-3 in Lilongwe, promoting data platforms and data solutions in Malawi, their application and ability to fill information sharing gaps. The Summit presented itself as a platform to draw the attention of development and humanitarian partners to solutions and technologies that fit the data management needs in Malawi that can be applied both in the local context of Malawi and globally.

Credit: iMMAP, Malawi Data Summit, June 2022

The event was an excellent opportunity for networking and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing on themes such as Big Data and Artifical Intelligence (AI) for development and humanitarian action, Open Data Cubes for urban, environmental, and agricultural applications. Approximately 92 participants attended in person and nearly 200 participants attended virtually from WHO, Oxfam, WFP, Embassy of Japan, FCDO, members from governmental ministries in Malawi, Red Cross, UNICEF, FAO, Plan International, GIZ, UNDP and more.

Participants highlighted the humanitarian and development data gaps in Malawi and how these can be addressed through the provision of new technologies and improved knowledge sharing among response actors. Some of the most urgent needs included data on disaster impact, disaster early warning, and thematic infrastructure for designing programs and interventions.

We were honored to receive the Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Mr. Charles Kalemba, and the UNFPA Representative in Malawi, Ms. Young Whong, who both gave the opening speeches for the Summit. Several speakers from the private sector, government bodies, UN agencies, and NGOs presented innovations in data and IM including experts from UNICEF Malawi and Nigeria, ELLIS Alicante Foundation, National Statistics Office for Malawi, and iMMAP.

I am grateful for such a great event and for the opportunity to present. Malawi’s data ecosystem really needed this type of event, and I hope this sets a stage for a continued collaboration in the area of humanitarian data. Tautvydas Juskauskas, Drones & Data Specialist, UNICEF Malawi.

During the Summit, participants underlined the need to improve the quality, availability and timeliness of core data and common operational data sets (CODs). Among the topics proposed, participants showed great interest in the use of drones as a sustainable solution for remote sensing, especially for disaster response. While the event was a success, respondents stated that this initiative should be repeated in the coming years.

Thank you very much for the opportunity extended to participate in the summit as a key presenter. It was enlightening to network with other key players shaping the Malawi data landscape. FAO Malawi country office continues to be in the front run of harnessing geo information and digitalization. May it be a first of many great summits to come. Margaret Mugo, Geoinformation and Digitalization, FAO Malawi Country Office.

To find out more about the event, please see the below information.

In addition to the presentations and Q&A sessions, live-polling sessions to gauge feedback from the audience and a discussion panel were organized during the event. The recordings are available online:

  • Day 1 - Humanitarian Data Landscape and Innovations: Watch Video
  • Day 2 - New Data Approaches for Sustainable Development: Watch Video