A wide-ranging data visualization project unveiled by Voice of America Monday indicates international interest in the devastating drought in Somalia and the Horn of Africa may have peaked, just as help for the famine-ravaged region is needed most.
The web-based VOA report graphically demonstrates the predictability of the humanitarian crisis by pulling together more than 10,000 data points from the U.S. Geologic Survey, The Famine Early Warning Network, USAID, and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, which is managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Users can graphically trace the lack of rainfall through two critical growing seasons and see the region-by-region impact the drought had on commodity prices in Somalia, where crop failures led to a loss of livestock, a desperate search for food and, ultimately, starvation.
In addition to consolidating meteorological data and commodity prices, the web project pulls together the best reporting on the drought issue from around the world with Twitter feeds from aid workers and journalists in the region, photos from across the internet, and live news feeds from dozens of sources covering the crisis.
Users can look country-by-country at the number of web searches on the Somalia drought story, and see how worldwide interest peaked shortly after August 3, when the United Nations declared a famine in five regions of Somalia. UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people remain at risk of starvation.
VOA Web Managing Editor Matthew Baise says, ”We wanted to build something that would help readers understand how and why this famine happened. By combining satellite data with information from humanitarian agencies, we’ve come up with what we hope is a new model for storytelling on the web: part database, part infographic, and part news aggregator. Taken together, they show the grim certainty with which this disaster unfolded.”
VOA Director David Ensor calls the data project, “an outstanding example of the way our journalists have been able to evaluate largely inaccessible public data and offer our worldwide audience a clear and concise picture of an unfolding humanitarian disaster.” Ensor notes VOA has been providing extensive coverage of the drought and relief efforts on its English and African language services.