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early warning for famines?

This question was posted the Humanitarian systems forum area and has 3 replies. You can also reply via email – be sure to leave the subject unchanged.

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Indi Trehan

Normal user

9 Jan 2012, 15:49

Colleagues, is there a reputable international organization (WFP? IMF? etc.) that maintains an "early warning system" for potential impending famines? Maybe something based on poor rainfalls, poor distribution of promised fertilizer, decaying economic situation, something like that?

The background is that here in Malawi there is some anxiety on the street about poor rainfalls this rainy season and an impending famine. But we are unclear about whether this is a real danger or just a subjective perception. I am looking for any advice on how to find info or insight that might give us some information about early signs of food shortages. Thanks for your help.

Chris Hillbruner


Normal user

9 Jan 2012, 16:02

Yes, you can contact FEWS NET ( a USAID funded famine early warning system which has an office in Malawi. The Malawi representative is James Bwirani, he can be reached at


Friedman School of Nutr Science & Policy, Tufts Un

Normal user

9 Jan 2012, 16:07

Hello Indi,

There isn't one accepted system for the whole world, but certain countries use particular methods. The largest Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) is FEWS NET, a USAID program that covers about 30 countries, including Malawi.

You can find their web page for Malawi at :

Towards the top of the screen you'll see a box with SUMMARY written down the left side. Inside the box, what you probably want is the "food security updates" but do explore the site. There is some basic data on harvests and harvest projections.

Like all predictions, FEWS NET doesn't always get it right, so you'll still have to use your own judgment when you read the information.

Hope that helps.


Anonymous 118

Nutrition Advisor

Normal user

9 Jan 2012, 16:54

There is also FAO's IPC:

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