"Press 1 If You Did Not Eat Yesterday..."

Published on 12 June 2013

Through short mobile phone surveys, WFP will be able to collect critical data on food security in a quicker and more cost-effective way. Photo: WFP/Inci Aydin

With a grant from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), WFP is launching a pilot project in the Democratic Republic of Congo to collect food security data through mobile phone surveys.

ROME -- With a grant from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), WFP is launching a pilot project to collect food security data through mobile phone surveys.

Collecting data is often a huge challenge. However, it is also a core function in WFP. Before any operation, WFP monitors will first have collected the answers to some very critical questions such as: who is food insecure, how many are there, where do they live and why they are food insecure.

Collecting this data can be both very costly and time-consuming. Not least in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a huge country six times bigger than Italy and with very limited functioning infrastructure.

“With barely any road, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge,” explains Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) unit in DRC. 

Household level data is traditionally collected through expensive face-to-face surveys, both in The Democratic Republic of Congo as well as in all other countries where WFP works. But thanks to a grant from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), WFP is now able to launch a pilot project – named mVAM - to collect food security data from households through short mobile phone surveys, using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and live interviews.

“It’s very promising,” says Koffi Akakpo. “This has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most.”

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), funds projects across the world which use innovation and technology to improve the global response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

VAM is one of four innovative projects awarded a grant by the HIF, each using new technology  to help save lives in humanitarian emergencies.

“These projects have the potential to make real, tangible improvements to our response to humanitarian emergencies. They will help stop disasters from becoming crises and make us swifter and more efficient in our attempts to save lives under threat,” says Alan Duncan, UK International Development Minister.

In The Democratic Republic of Congo, around 6.5 million people are food insecure, including 2.6 million internally displaced people. Stunting rates are above 40% on average.

The mVAM project will also be implemented in Somalia.

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about the author

Anne Poulsen

Public Information Officer

Anne Poulsen, a former journalist, has worked for WFP since 2004.