From Relief to Resilience: Ten Groundbreaking Innovations for a Hunger-Free and Sustainable World

WFP Innovation Accelerator
7 min readNov 20, 2023

Meet our latest cohort of innovators and start-ups that are tirelessly working to eliminate food insecurity in a time of increasing numbers of disasters and conflicts. Register here to attend the WFP Innovation Pitch Event on Friday, 16 February 2024.

Illustration by Sanjna Sudan / WFP Innovation Accelerator

By Julia Dalibor and Sanjna Sudan

“With the number of people around the world facing starvation at record levels, we need to be scaling up life-saving assistance — not cutting it,” said the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Executive Director Cindy McCain earlier this year. WFP is being forced to drastically cut rations in most of its operations as international humanitarian funding plummets.

Currently, 345 million people worldwide face acute food insecurity, with 40 million experiencing emergency levels of hunger, being pushed to take desperate measures for survival, and at risk of dying from malnutrition. The World Food Programme’s food assistance serves as a vital lifeline to vulnerable people, often the sole barrier standing between them and starvation.

To ensure that every donor dollar goes further in addressing hunger while reducing the need for ration cuts, this year the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator made a global call for solutions that strengthen humanitarian assistance, offer relief to vulnerable communities, and/or build supply chain resilience. Additionally, we also looked out for innovative solutions that foster close collaboration with the private sector to combat the global food crisis together. We invited applications from both low and high-tech solutions that enable early planning and effective delivery of relief assistance.

After a competitive selection process, ten teams from a pool of 1400+ applications received from 122 countries were selected. Some of these teams will showcase their innovation at the WFP Innovation Pitch Event on 16 February 2024.

Meet the participating teams from Iraq, Cameroon, Tanzania, and various countries across the world, all part of an initiative focusing on crisis relief and resilience, and explore their groundbreaking solutions below as they work towards a safer and stronger world:

Rescue Card/Zinli

Rescue Card/Zinli, originating from Latin America and the Caribbean region, simplifies access to help and financial services during difficult times, addressing the challenge of distributing aid efficiently in crisis situations.

Similar to a prepaid gift card, the Rescue Card is connected to a digital wallet used by WFP. Its aim is swift assistance and digital financial inclusion, especially for those lacking proper identification, such as undocumented migrants, within 72 hours. The card simplifies paperwork, making it faster to get assistance. It also allows people to use the card to buy things they need from regular stores. This increases accessibility. Through strategic partnerships with the private sector, payments are possible both using the physical card as well as via digital payment channels. When disasters strike or conflicts occur, this digital tool makes it easier for people to get the help they need and manage their money during challenging times.

Luisa F Castro / Peru CO / RBP

The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation

The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation enhances our understanding of earthquakes and contributes to the safety of people and structures in seismic regions.

It’s a collaborative effort involving experts from around the world. GEM shares crucial information about earthquake risks and safety measures, aiming to help governments, organizations, and researchers protect communities from the impact of earthquakes. Think of it as a global team dedicated to earthquake safety.

GEM Foundation

PREDICT by the Danish Refugee Council

PREDICT uses the Anticipatory Humanitarian Action for Displacement (AHEAD) model to forecast displacement and better inform the wider humanitarian sector to improve operational responses and support affected individuals.

A holistic approach helped build a machine learning model that uses historical open-source data on conflict, health, environment, food insecurity, number of IDPs and income with the objective of enabling humanitarian actors to get ahead of displacement crises.

PREDICT / AI-generated image using Midjourney

Bridgefy

Bridgefy is an offline messaging app that enables people to communicate using their smartphones, even in places with unreliable internet or cell service.

This messaging app works like a modern version of walkie-talkies, allowing users to communicate directly, even without a stable internet connection. It’s a valuable solution for situations where internet connectivity is unreliable, such as during emergencies or large public events, ensuring that people can stay in touch when other means of communication are disrupted.

WFP SEC / Camilo Fernandez

ECODASH

The WFP Supply Chain unit has introduced a tool called ECODASH, which uses data-driven methods to make supply chains more resilient in the face of climate change while ensuring that all supply chain activities are sustainable business-wise.

This tool will measure and keep track of carbon emissions from the World Food Programme’s supply chain operations. It helps WFP supply chain officials make better decisions in planning, reducing their environmental impact with a focus on diminishing carbon emissions, which will have the most positive effect on the communities WFP serves. This tool was first tested successfully in WFP’s Regional Bureau of Nairobi and has been improved to meet the global need for monitoring carbon emissions.

Kankha Bridge

The Kankha Bridge is a simple, lightweight bridge that is made locally and is easy to assemble. During crises, when usual routes are disrupted, this bridge can be transported in a WFP truck, assembled on-site, and used to temporarily allow vehicles to cross waterways.

WFP often faces challenges in reaching and delivering aid to affected areas because roads and bridges get damaged after extreme weather events. While helicopters have been used in the past, the cost of air transport is very high and unsustainable. That’s why the Kankha Bridge’s (Kankha means push in Chichewa, a Bantu language in Malawi) ability to serve as a cost-effective solution, enabling WFP to reach communities in crisis, is valuable, particularly when traditional transportation routes are compromised.

Digitized Drought Early Warning System (DEWS)

DEWS is an open-source tool that blends socio-economic and climate data for swift, real-time drought preparedness.

WFP faces two disaster preparedness challenges: Firstly, not enough is known about buildings that might be affected by different types of disasters, and there is not much information about how vulnerable people are to these disasters. Secondly, when it comes to disasters like earthquakes, there is a lack of data about which communities are at risk and how many people could be affected over time. To address this, DEWS collects monthly data from 154 sites in Kenya via mobile technology, informing food assessments and monthly drought alerts. This nationally-owned solution in Kenya is funded by the national treasury and has aided 4.4 million people through the Hunger Safety Net programme.

Surge Station

Surge Station is an application that enhances WFP’s ability to respond to emergencies by centralizing and streamlining the entire process, from assessing workforce needs to selecting, deploying, and evaluating staff.

Establishing a central repository to streamline the coordination of staff deployment in an emergency is crucial for WFP to reach where help is needed most. Currently, there is a lack of an efficient process for mobilizing the emergency workforce by quickly identifying qualified staff with the right skill sets, language proficiency, previous experience, and contract types. The Surge Station tool is being developed to make this process more timely, efficient and effective.

WFP / Aiedah Shukrie

Aidonic

Aidonic is a cutting-edge software designed to efficiently manage cash-based transfers and e-voucher operations for WFP in a secure, privacy-centric online environment.

The platform ensures that the crucial final step of getting humanitarian aid to those in need is both safe and streamlined. By integrating advanced technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and payment aggregation, Aidonic offers a smarter and more transparent approach to handling cash and e-voucher distributions. This technology makes the process faster and more reliable, allowing WFP to deliver aid more effectively.

The AIDONIC Last-Mile platform enables tracking & traceability for e-voucher and cash transfers
WFP / Aidonic

Cashless Payments by HesabPay

HesabPay’s Cashless Payments solution simplifies financial interactions for communities with limited access to traditional banking in Afghanistan, by providing a reliable digital platform for managing funds.

The innovative fintech tool enables individuals to digitally receive and manage aid from WFP, ensuring secure and immediate access to their funds, even for those without a smartphone. Aid is delivered digitally via HesabPay, giving recipients the choice to either keep it in digital form or conveniently cash it out. This does not only improve financial accessibility but also facilitates financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment. HesabPay also supports both cash and cashless transactions across an extensive network of local merchants in Afghanistan. This plays a crucial role in empowering Afghan citizens, especially in a context where digital payments are still in the early stages of adoption.

HesabPay

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP colleagues, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies, and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support, and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

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