Sh87.8 million funds to boost weatherman's warning systems

Left, Dr Guleid Artan, Director at the ICPAC, and Kenya Meteorological Department (MET) director Dr David Gikungu (centre) pose for a photo during the launch. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Kenya and Ethiopia will benefit from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) funding to boost disaster preparedness and response.

This is after IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) last week said it has received USD665,434 (Sh87.8 billion) in financial support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

The funds will be used to implement a pioneering project titled, “Strengthening Early Warning Systems for Anticipatory Actions (SEWAA).”

The initiative aims to leverage machine learning to enhance early warning information systems.

It marks a collaborative effort involving leading weather and climate research institutions, a university, and a humanitarian organisation.

The funding provided by WFP will also benefit the Kenya Meteorological Department (MET) and Ethiopian Meteorological Institute, aiding in the enhancement of their national and sub-national forecasts. Both Ethiopia and Kenya will get USD120,000 (Sh15.8 million) in funding.

By transforming the quality of early warning information available to communities in disaster-prone regions, the project endeavours to facilitate proactive responses to critical alerts.

Supported by Google.org, this project will address pressing needs by harnessing cutting-edge technology and innovative approaches.

Through the utilisation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, the project aims to enhance the accuracy and timeliness of disaster alerts, empowering communities to take proactive measures to safeguard lives and livelihoods.

Dr Guleid Artan, Director at the ICPAC, welcomed the collaboration and the combination of expertise in weather forecasting, disaster risk reduction and technological capabilities.

“By combining the strength of different organisations and leveraging their collective knowledge, we can address the challenges faced in weather and climate modelling. Together, we can overcome the limitations of traditional forecasting methods and develop new approaches that are more accurate, reliable, and efficient,” said Dr Artan.

He added: “With the involvement of partners such as Google, the University of Oxford, the Ethiopian Meteorological Institute, the Kenya Meteorological Department, and the World Food Programme, the project aspires to revolutionise early warning systems in the IGAD region and enable communities to prepare and act preemptively against impending hazards.”

Other project partners include the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

Pedro Mortara, deputy resilience and climate unit at WFP Regional Bureau Nairobi said partnership with ICPAC and the National Meteorological Services is critical to WFP which supports the shift from always responding to crises to proactive risk management.

“This partnership will allow all of us to connect the cutting edge of scientific knowledge with actions that will impact people’s lives, initially in Kenya and Ethiopia and later throughout the whole region,” said Mortara.

He added: “Supporting people affected by disasters through Anticipatory Actions instead of a regular response is more effective in reducing humanitarian needs from these shocks. To do this at scale and effectively change the humanitarian system, we need high resolution, timely and reliable forecasts, and SEWAA is a key step in this direction.”

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