Why automating analysis of aerial images is taking off for humanitarian response

By Jean-Martin Bauer, Senior Advisor, Data, Digital and Innovation, WFP

Disaster responders from Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management fly drones to assess flooding damage in January 2019. Photo: Antonio Beleza/INGD.

With six decades of innovation under its belt, the World Food Programme (WFP) has an eye for spotting emerging technologies that can have a profound impact on emergency response. So, it has been quick to home in on the power of machine learning to boost the speed and accuracy of post-disaster assessments and mapping and get more targeted assistance to the people who need it most.

In a watershed moment, WFP flew its first drones in post disaster…


Here’s how blockchain innovations bring untapped value to WFP’s humanitarian operations

By Gulia Rakhimova

WFP actively seeks new ways of delivering humanitarian assistance by exploring cutting-edge technologies and innovations, and has done so since its earliest days. Photo: WFP/Jörg Koch.

Those who champion blockchain suggest that it is the next big disruptor after the internet that could transform every industry. The technology is still emerging, and with enormous potential.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, and the one providing the largest blockchain-based cash transfer assistance. As an early adopter of blockchain in the humanitarian and development sector, WFP is exploring further opportunities to trailblaze on this front, to help in our work towards Zero Hunger. …


On this 10th anniversary of Girls in ICT Day, Phyza Jameel, Global ETC Services for Communities and Preparedness Lead, explains the challenges, solutions, and ways of thinking about the gender digital divide in a challenging pandemic year.

By Emma Wadland

WFP is the lead agency of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies.

A woman uses her mobile phone to order food from an online E-shop at a WFP food distribution centre. Photo: WFP/Ismail Taxta

What effect has the pandemic had on women and girls from an information and communication technologies perspective?

Affordability, digital literacy challenges, or cultural norms can leave women and girls with less access to communication technologies, which means they often don’t know where to verify or find accurate information on something like COVID-19. …


The World Food Programme (WFP) is working with leading experts to take machine learning to new limits.

By Emma Wadland

When disaster strikes, a single drone or satellite image can paint a thousand words but convey little about the individual lives turned upside down or the emergency response they need most.

Until recently, analysing the damage to buildings or infrastructure could take weeks and was carried out later in the response. Now, a machine learning application known as Digital Engine for Emergency Photo-analysis (DEEP) is accelerating the process.

Marco Codastefano, WFP Data Science Specialist
Marco Codastefano, WFP Data Science Specialist
Marco Codastefano, WFP Data Science Specialist. Photo: WFP/Emma Wadland.

“This is the best part of my job. WFP is not a technology firm. We use tech for people, not profit. This is the most important rule that drives…


If 2020 has proven anything, it is the transformative power of communications technology in a world suddenly upended.

By Enrica Porcari, Chair of the ETC / Chief Information Officer and Director of Technology, WFP.

Members of the Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) team walk through Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in August 2020. Photo: WFP/ETS.

The need to communicate transcends borders. For affected communities who are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, a mobile phone becomes a lifeline. I was often asked in 2020 how the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) was responding to the crisis.

“Which one?” I would ask.

While the COVID-19 pandemic shook our way of life, it was not the only crisis the cluster had to deal with — it was just an additional layer to the seven humanitarian emergencies we supported last year. …


By Olga Katzelnik | Innovation Insights Series

Photo: WFP/Emanuel Feruzi

I have had the great opportunity to mentor different social businesses and healthcare start-ups that have been selected to participate in innovation bootcamps at the World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator. Start-ups supported by the Accelerator focus on driving and bringing innovation to WFP’s humanitarian operations in different corners of the world. One example is an innovative Maziwa breastfeed pump developed and adapted to working mothers’ needs in Kenya, contributing to their health and well-being. Another interesting example is Pragmatic Innovation Inc., …


Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS), led by the World Food Programme, draws on sustainable energy to keep humanitarians connected

By Elizabeth Millership

A double row of reflective squares sit atop a corrugated roof painted the same deep blue as the sky overhead. From the ground below, the upturned face of an ETS technician shields his eyes from the afternoon sun as he inspects the newly installed solar panels. His expression shows it’s a job well done.

The ETS and contractors inspect the newly installed solar-powered hybrid system in Bama.

The ETS and installation team is in the town of Bama, one of eight locations in North-East Nigeria where humanitarian hubs have been fitted with an innovative hybrid solar-based power system. …


Innovations addressing gender inequality while targeting food security are our best chance to achieve Zero Hunger

By Vida Gabe

The world has a gender problem, and that also applies to the 690 million people facing food insecurity in the world right now; 60 percent are women and girls. In 10 out of 17 countries women are more likely than men to experience food insecurity. This means that if we want to achieve a world with Zero Hunger, we also need to achieve gender equality and we have to involve women in the process.

“A world with Zero Hunger can be…


By Gulia Rakhimova and Dhani Spiller

How long does it take to get to your nearest grocery store? For some residents of Masquil Alto, a rural village in Mozambique, buying basic groceries required two hours of tedious walking over unpaved roads. When the World Food Programme (WFP) innovation project Retail in a Box set up new stores in the village, 9,000 people were finally able to shop for locally-sourced groceries closer to home. Using WFP food vouchers, the villagers can choose which food to buy. …


Past participant at an in-person WFP innovation bootcamp in Munich. Photo: WFP/Paul Guenther

Unintentionally, but providing a programme twist, the WFP Innovation Accelerator is hosting its 34th bootcamp in March, a month dedicated to women. Selected from the WFP Innovation Challenge 2020, eight teams will join on a virtual journey of ideation, and project design and be given insight into how to design with a gender equality lens.

In addition to sourcing solutions that address the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG 2), this WFP Innovation Challenge priority area was expanded to include startups that tackle solutions that are relevant in the current COVID-19 context as well as enabling poor and vulnerable…

WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.

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