Arab Spatial Tracks Food SecurityA new web-based tool called Arab Spatial has recently launched and will provide aid workers and researchers access to valuable data relating to food security and malnutrition information throughout the Middle East. Previously, aid workers and activists noticed a lack of data on resources including food and water – data that is typically used in important policy and resource distribution decisions. Even if a country did have relevant information on these issues, the data was not efficiently being shared between countries and regions.

Now, researchers and aid workers can turn to Arab Spatial, an online tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that should house all food security information for the Arab world in one easily-accessible location.

Food security is an enormous issue in the region, where many countries must import many of their basic food staples, and where war and fighting have exacerbated hunger and perpetuated poverty. Abeer Etafa, the representative of the World Food Program, said that “millions of families” throughout the region were having difficulties obtaining food, and with the events surrounding the Arab Spring and other civil unrest and upheaval, have had to face rising instability and lost wages as well.

Although the struggle of millions to obtain the food necessary to survive is known, it has been very difficult for researchers and aid organizations to quantify; IFPRI says that not many countries in the Middle East have poverty figures widely available, and even when they do, it is unclear how accurate said figures are.

To combat this issue, Arab Spatial will aggregate data on food based on national, regional, and local areas, and the data can be used to create maps showing “more than 150 food security and development-related indicators related to poverty, malnutrition, disease, production and prices, public finances, exports and imports.”

IFPRI also asserted that economic development and proper nutrition and food security are vital to each other, and one cannot be successful without the other. It is clear that eradicating the challenges to make food accessible will create sustained economic growth and development throughout the Middle East.

IFPRI hopes that Arab Spatial will be used by government officials, researchers, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists, and most importantly, decision-makers in addressing food security.

Christina Kindlon

Source: IRIN

    Arab spatial
    A new tracking tool to measure levels of food security in the Middle East was launched in February. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) created the tool, known as Arab Spatial, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

    The Middle East has long struggled with food security, and researchers, officials, and activists have had a difficult time addressing the problem due to a lack of information. Now, humanitarian aid workers and policymakers working to address food security issues in the region can turn to Arab Spatial for the most up-to-date information on malnutrition, rainfall, crop yields, and much more.

    Recent political upheaval has amplified food insecurity in the region. Many Middle Eastern countries depend on foreign imports of staples such as wheat flour. Political and social turmoil has disrupted commerce and economies, leading to lost jobs and even greater struggles for everyday people to put enough food on the table. Statistics on poverty in the Middle East are infrequent and often inaccurate; only about half of the countries provide public access to the numbers.

    But Arab Spatial will contribute to more open communication about how best to meet basic human needs in one of the least stable areas of the globe. Perrhian al-Riffai, a senior research analyst with IFPRI, said of Arab Spatial, “High quality and freely accessible knowledge is power, especially for evidence-based research for effective and efficient policy design and implementation throughout the Arab world.”

    Arab Spatial measures food security at the national, regional, and local level. More than 150 food security indicators, including information related to poverty, malnutrition, climate, crop production and prices, disease, and trade, can be used to create maps and data. This valuable information should give governments, NGOs, and non-profit organizations working to end food insecurity in the region more power to do so.

    – Kat Henrichs

    Source: IRN Middle East
    Photo: IRN