Wireless Technology Increases Efficiency and Reduces Error in Burundi
Though the United Nations World Food Program's (WFP) basic mission - providing food and agricultural assistance to the hungry - remains constant, its methods are constantly improving as new technologies become available.
A recently installed 3G high-speed wireless internet network in Burundi has transformed the way WFP works with Burundi's poor to ensure that their food needs are being met.
In the past, WFP staff in Burundi relied on pens and paperwork to track the country's food supply. But because Burundi is a small country, people can be found using technology such as cell phones even in remote rural areas. Now WFP's field agents can use PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) to input data from Burundian families about what they eat and how much it costs. The PDAs not only reduce the margin of error but also save time and reduce the need for paper.
An effective means of tracking and providing food assistance is critical in Burundi, where WFP estimates as much as 50 percent of the population is chronically malnourished. Fifteen years of civil war left the country's economy in tatters, and natural disasters such as floods and drought are common. WFP currently reaches an average of 600,000 people in Burundi per month through programs such as food for training, school meals and mother-and-child health and nutrition.
The Burundi PDA project comes after two successful PDA programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. Wireless technology has also been implemented in food voucher programs in Zambia and Iraq.
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