OBSERVER: Haiti, Nigeria, and Libya - lessons for improving humanitarian relief in the face of crisisCSO Tanya Walker
Thu, 11/03/2021 - 11:33
One of the most pressing issues tackled by humanitarian relief and sustainable development is hunger and malnourishment of distressed populations. Currently, almost 10% of the world's population lives with severe food insecurity, and one-in-four people around the globe is moderately or severely food insecure. Their situation becomes increasingly complex as natural or man-made disaster strikes.
This article focuses on three examples of how the CEMS Risk and Recovery service helped the response to humanitarian and food security crises induced by natural or man-made disasters.
CEMS mapping and supporting humanitarian response
CEMS provides two distinct on-demand mapping services that cater to the immediate and long-term needs of a user request. The near-real time service called Rapid Mapping supports emergency management in the direct aftermath of a disaster and provides geospatial information within hours or days of a request. The second and more in-depth service called Risk and Recovery Mapping monitors the recovery after an event and support activities to build disaster resilience. The information provided allows users to achieve long-term Disaster Management activities including prevention, preparedness, risk reduction and recovery phases. CEMS also offers an Early Warning service, which provides continuous observations and forecasts on floods, droughts, and forest fires without the need for an activation.
Recovery monitoring serves as an important support tool for aid organisations. Cartographic products, which include detailed geospatial data and ready to print maps, provided by Risk and Recovery mapping, are used by the local governmental authorities to assess the state of critical resources destroyed in an event. Provided with accurate information about the recovery status and its changes over time, authorities can better organise reconstruction activities to ensure the recovery of the area. This information is especially useful when monitoring agricultural land to ensure the fastest possible recovery to avoid post-disaster famines.
The state of food security is sensitive to natural disasters or any other natural or man-made emergencies. Droughts, tropical storms or armed conflicts can significantly deteriorate the food security status of vulnerable communities. Food insecurity in conflict afflicted areas and areas hit by natural disaster is common, but difficult to quantify. These locations might be difficult or impossible to access, whether due to instability in the aftermath of a disaster, or when the area remains unsafe because of ongoing armed conflict. In order to ensure swift and much needed humanitarian response, humanitarian workers need to understand the number of people who are, or could become, food insecure.
The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) supports the humanitarian response by bringing information about these difficult to access areas. Mapping can also examine changes in the area over a selected period to gather information about how the emergency affected local agriculture and expected crop yields.
Helping the post-hurricane recovery of Haiti
On the 28th of September 2016, a Category 5 hurricane formed in the south-eastern Caribbean. Hurricane “Matthew” hit south-western Haiti on October 4th with strong winds reaching speeds of 220 km/h. These extreme conditions in combination with storm-related flooding caused significant loss of life and widespread damage to infrastructure, leaving the country in a humanitarian crisis. The numbers of internally displaced people were significant with around 615,500 people forced to seek shelter away from damaged buildings.
A scene from Les Cayes, Haiti, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Source: United Nations Photo from Flickr
One day earlier, on the 3rd of October 2016, CEMS Rapid Mapping was activated to assess the impact of the hurricane on housing and infrastructure. Information derived played an important role in the post-disaster management of response professionals and government. CEMS monitored the damage caused by the storm in the following days in many parts of Haiti. The most profound damage was identified in the Grand’Anse Department (South-West of Haiti) and was mostly concentrated on buildings and infrastructures.
However, full recovery isa long-lasting process. After the first shock and rapid response, a long-term infrastructure renewal process needed to be set up. To follow up on the Rapid Mapping activation, Haiti’s Centre National d'Information Geospatiale activated the CEMS Risk and Recovery service on the 4th of April 2018. The activation aimed to support reconstruction activities and monitor potential vulnerabilities that could occur in the recovery period.
Risk and Recovery provided two key products for Haiti; monitoring of the reconstruction activities and Internally Displaced People camps, and damage assessment of the forests, coastlines, and agricultural activities in the affected area.
Change maps of agricultural activities and woodlands in two locations – Les Cayes and Port Salut. In the first map of Les Cayes, orange colour indicates damaged agriculture, while red signifies that the agriculture disappeared. In the second map of Port Salut, red colour indicated damaged woodlands and woodland shrubs. Blue areas are those where the transitional woodland shrubs appeared after the disaster. Source: [EMSN051] Les Cayes – HAITI, Agricultural Activities 2017 Change Map; [EMSN051] Port Salut – HAITI, Agricultural Activities 2017 Change Map (Copernicus EMS © 2021 EU)
The aftermath of a disaster can exacerbate existing issues for vulnerable people, such as food insecurity. Haiti already experiences undernourishment in 49% of its population and endures one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. These conditions deteriorated with Hurricane Matthew, which made the recovery process even more complex. In some areas, as much as 95% of all buildings were destroyed, as well as the majority of trees and all agricultural infrastructure. Destruction of farmland and roads impacted the production and distribution of food.
Vegetation regeneration map of the eastern area of the Makaya Park in Haiti. The map shows the vegetation regeneration between before the passage of Hurricane Matthew and 2019. The areas with disappeared woodland are marked in red, whereas the blue parts indicate areas where woodlands are in recovery. Source: [EMSN065] Makaya Park East – HAITI, Vegetation regeneration - 2019 (Copernicus EMS © 2021 EU)
CEMS’ maps and products helped Haitian authorities take evidence-based decisions on how to prioritise the most impacted areas. The service also served as a monitoring tool for evaluating the effectiveness of recovery efforts.
Overall, the recovery process wasa success and proved helpful for local authorities. In an effort to monitor the state of recovery four years after the event and two years after the first monitoring activity, a new Risk and Recovery activation was initiated in March 2020. This follow-up activation aimed to provide an overview of the changes to the area four years after the disaster event and monitor the current recovery status of local agriculture and forestry.
Post-event situation map of agricultural status in the area of Les Cayes in 2019. This map shows the vegetation classification based on satellite imagery. The yellow areas indicate rice fields, light green is persistent low-lying vegetation and orange marks complex cultivation. Source: [EMSN065] Les Cayes – HAITI, Agricultural status - 2019 (Copernicus EMS © 2021 EU)
Fighting hunger resulting from a conflict in Nigeria
In addition to natural disasters, man-made disasters and armed conflicts can also lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and instigate famines.
Conflict can be a driving force in severe food crises and famines around the world. Addressing this complex issue in conflict-affected areas presents a significant challenge to governments and the international aid community. The state of food insecurity becomes more difficult to monitor when conflicts persist, and weak institutional capacities result in a lack of data. These scenarios complicate humanitarian response efforts that rely on data and statistics to address a myriad of endemic and emergency issues across diverse regions. Nigeria, the most populous African state, has experienced conflict that continues to worsen regional food security. Since 2009, the state of Borno in north-eastern Nigeria suffers from religious violence related to one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa, Boko Haram. Terrorist attacks, kidnappings and fighting persist, causing immense damage and loss of life, as well as instability and loss of state structure. All of this has had a devastating effect on people and their dwellings, especially around Lake Chad, where they are suffering the effects of climate change, on top of armed conflict. Lake Chad, which was once one of the largest bodies of water on the planet, has shrunk by 90% in less than half a century (from 1963 till 2001).
People displaced either by conflict or by climate change (for example, when former wetlands dry up and force people to relocate near distant water sources for subsistence) have problems adapting to new conditions due to unrelenting violence and overall insecurity. This leads to increased poverty and hunger in the area, which further feeds the conflict. Combat in the region makes in-person data collection difficult and limits the amount of available information that can be used to estimate the current state of food security. This Copernicus Emergency Monitoring Service can fill the gaps and increase knowledge about an event by analysing satellite imagery that presents an objective and unique set of data and perspective over an area.
The Risk and Recovery Mapping activation EMSN063 and its more current update EMSN083 support World Food Programme officers in their estimation of the potential food insecurity in Borno state. The original activation EMSN063 detected changes between years 2010 and 2019. The most recent activation adds to this knowledge with an overview of the situation in 2020. Estimating food security looks two essential factors: the state of croplands and their changeover time (loss or gain) and the number of people affected by potential cropland loss. Therefore, (CEMS) RRM assessed cropland change, using high-resolution multispectral satellite imagery. The analysis was based on the calculation of the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for each stage of crop growth (ploughing, growing and early stage of harvesting) per year.
Crop change status was then assigned per populated site. Facebook’s High-Resolution Settlement Layer was used as the basis for data regarding populated sites, combined with a WorldPop dataset which was used to assess the possible impact of the population affected.
Crop change detection from Guzamala, Nigeria. The dots are split in half to visualize the change from either 2010 to 2020 (left half) or 2019 to 2020 (right half). Red, orange, and yellow indicate a decrease in cropland of various significance, grey indicates no change and the shades of green indicate an increase in cropland. Source: [EMSN083] Guzamala – NIGERIA, Crop change detection in conflict areas - 2020 to 2010 and 2020 to 2019 (Copernicus EMS © 2021 EU)
The analysis revealed that over 80% of populated areas registered a decrease or no change in cropland area 2010 and 2019. When 2020 and 2019 were compared, the majority of sites (72%, primarily where cropland area decrease has been observed in in the previous period) detected no change in cropland area. This leads to the assumption that food security in the areas of interest is decreasing on the long-term scale and no improvement was seen in 2020.
Analysis of population affected by the cropland loss. A Comparison of changes from 2010-2020 with 2019-2020clearly shows that more than 2/3 of cropland loss occurred before 2019, as more than 70% of the locations considered show no change between 2019 and 2020. Of these, 75% were sites affected by cropland loss over the period 2010-2020, 18% of the sites show no change and only 7% of the sites show cropland increase over the period 2010-2020. It can therefore be assumed that the majority of the sites analysed are still affected by the effects of the cropland loss occurring up to 2019. Source: EMSN083: Crop change detection in conflict areas, Nigeria, October 2020
Humanitarian response in Libya
A fierce civil war that erupted in 2011 has kept Libya in a major humanitarian crisis. Even before the conflict, the country suffered harsh climatic conditions that significantly limited its domestic agricultural production. Imports covered 80% of the population’s food requirements. A subsequent economic crisis caused the rise of food prices and impacted Lybians’ purchasing power, pushing many beneath the poverty line.
In July 2020, CEMS Risk and Recovery was tasked by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to estimate the evolution of the food security crisis and spatial distribution of humanitarian related issues. Data collected helps humanitarian actors to organise their response, similar to the scope of activation EMSN080.
Risk and Recovery produced 6 unique types of products. As an example, population dynamics were analysed to make projections regarding population growth. The associated surface statistics revealed that Benghazi’s urban area is slightly increasing over time.
This graph summarises the urban sprawl situation between 2019 and 2020. The Urban Growth analysis product provided a temporal analysis of the urban growth of the city of Benghazi using Sentinel-2 optical images. The activation assessed population dynamics in the Libyan city of Benghazi. This provided a follow-up to a previous conflict damage assessment. Benghazi is a rapidly changing city and sees near-constant guerrilla warfare. Rising numbers of COVID-19 infections make the situation even more unstable. Many people leave the city in fear of violence or of infecting family members. From a humanitarian perspective, the situation can be classified as “severe”. The International Committee of the Red Cross operates in the area to provide food, medical supplies, drinking water and other kinds of humanitarian aid. ICRC used the Risk and Recovery detailed assessment to plan a sewage network and drinking water extension that will significantly improve access to clean drinking water for local communities.
As we have seen, information provided by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service helps manage humanitarian crises around the globe. Whether the emergency is a result of a natural disaster or an armed conflict, humanitarian response efforts rely on accurate information about a region’s infrastructure and people at risk of famine or malnourishment. Copernicus EMS provides products and services which can make humanitarian planning easier and more effective.
Thu, 11/03/2021 - 12:00