Introducing PRISM: WFP’s climate hazard monitoring system making global impact

By Amit Wadhwa, Global Programme Manager for PRISM

My team and I are excited to announce some news for PRISM — the Platform for Real-time Impact and Situation Monitoring. The team, which consists of Nicolas Bidault (Senior Regional Advisor, WFP Asia and the Pacific), Benny Istanto (Remote Sensing Specialist/GIS Office, WFP Indonesia), Warizmi Wafiq (GIS Specialist, WFP Indonesia), Kurt Burja (Programme Policy Officer, WFP Cambodia), Nithima Ducrocq (PRISM Lead, WFP Cambodia) and myself, have been growing PRISM since the project started in Indonesia in 2016 where it was known as VAMPIRE (an inside pun which played on WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping unit’s acronym). Early support for the project came from Pulse Lab Jakarta, and the President’s Office in Indonesia. The project initially addressed the need for objective information on where drought conditions were ongoing and how severe they were, so that the Government of Indonesia could respond to the needs of the people most impacted. PRISM is a system that automatically pulls satellite products, processes them, and makes the outputs available in a simple dashboard along with data on where vulnerable people and assets are located. This helps responders prioritize where any type of intervention should be targeted.

The main objective of PRISM is simple and has remained constant: to reduce technical barriers in accessing satellite data so that governments and humanitarian agencies can better prepare for and respond to climate-driven hazards. With this goal in mind, we’ve expanded and customized PRISM for a new context in Sri Lanka, and merged it with a mobile data collection platform used to monitor the impact of disasters in Cambodia (fun fact: it is also called PRISM). New challenges include using satellite data to monitor risks to livestock in Mongolia, and expanding to Myanmar later this year.

PRISM data
PRISM connects to more than 300 stations to collect data on temperature, wind and precipitation. Photo: WFP

We’re proud that we were able to grow PRISM with a small team from a couple of innovative WFP country offices in Indonesia and Cambodia, to a regional product that is used across the Asia-Pacific. Today we’re happy that the project is ready to expand beyond Asia, thanks to continued support from the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s Scale-Up Enablement program, and under the technical guidance of WFP’s Research Assessments and Monitoring division in WFP headquarters in Rome. PRISM is now a part of WFP’s Climate and Earth Observation team’s core programs where we’re working with Rogerio Bonifacio (Head of the Climate and Earth Observation Team), and Valentin Pesendorfer (Lead Earth Observation Strategist and Data Engineer); a logical next step for PRISM as we prepare to deploy the system in new regions, further develop the core technology of the system, and to connect it to climate and disaster risk reduction programs like Forecast-Based Financing, Early Action, and Shock-Responsive Social Protection. In the coming weeks we’ll share more on the technology we’re building, how we’re adapting to new contexts, and all of the lessons we’re learning along the way. Watch this space!

Read more about the PRISM project. To see the live version of the platform, visit https://prism-mongolia.org.

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

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