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NEWS of FEWS: Famine Early Warning Systems, the World Wide Web, and the International Famine Centre at University College Cork.

Famine Early Warning Systems, the World Wide Web, and the International Famine Centre at University College Cork.

Successive emergencies in the 1980s and early 1990s spurred efforts to develop systems of early warning for famines. But the question remains: is the international community ever really short of warnings of impending famine? Is there a shortage of will to act?

Probably; but there may be yet another dimension to the problem. The FEWS project of USAID, the GIEWS project of FAO, and the Food Economy system of SCF all claim degrees of success in predicting when famine is going to break out, producing figures and projections on a regular basis for a wide range of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. But perhaps it is not so much an absence of information as an inability to hear amidst all the noise. At University College Cork (UCC), we in the International Famine Centre asked ourselves whether the problem isn't, in part, one of information delivery. Granted that information exists to alert us to famine, but that information may be more voluminous and more technical than harried international civil servants can contend with. Maybe, then, there is a role for an information intermediary who interprets, simplifies, and above all summarises these warnings for easy consumption by policy makers.

This is the goal of the Famine N.E.W.S. project (Nexus of Early Warning Systems), a pilot effort of UCC. The goal is to use the technologies of the internet and the world wide web to gather information and to publish a monthly summary of developments impacting upon global food security. None of the information included is new or original to our project: rather, our website will provide a 'front-end' summarising key bulletins from elsewhere, and providing links that take the user direct to the fuller source as necessary.

The N.E.W.S. project is currently in development, and will be launched formally towards the end of the year. Reader's comments and criticisms on the pilot editions are gratefully received. These pilots can be found at: http://www.ucc.ie/famine/index.html.
Comments can be mailed to s.jackson@ucc.ie Stephen Jackson, Director, International Famine Centre, University College, Cork, Ireland

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NEWS of FEWS: Famine Early Warning Systems, the World Wide Web, and the International Famine Centre at University College Cork.. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p12. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/news

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