Seconded to the World Food Programme (WFP) as an information management officer (IMO), Sean Ng Yat Weng, provided critical information management services in response to the growing food security needs caused by the pandemic and tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal.
COVID-19 swept across the world, leaving in its wake populations suffering from a range of economic and social issues. For countries that are prone to natural disasters, with vulnerable populations in need of assistance, the impact of the pandemic has been amplified.
In 2020, El Salvador was one of the many countries that were affected by ongoing natural disasters while suffering to a large extent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the revised Humanitarian Needs Overview, the country declared the first case of COVID-19 on the 18th of March 2020.
Compounding the effects of the global pandemic, tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal struck the country on the 31st of May and the 6th of June, 2020, bringing devastating consequences to the already-struggling communities.
As most of the population relies on informal work while living off daily wages, the restrictions left many individuals unable to meet their basic needs while the level of food insecurity increased among the vulnerable population.
According to the revised Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) of May 2020, 643,000 individuals, approximately 10% of the population, were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to these numbers, 331,000 individuals were further impacted by food insecurity.
The damage caused by the tropical storms, in combination with the ongoing health crisis, led the national government to declare a state of emergency. However, the delivery of aid was largely impacted due to conflicting figures of COVID-19 cases and the unavailability of accurate information.
In this context of uncertainty and rapidly evolving needs, The World Food Programme (WFP), the UN agency with the largest presence in El Salvador, requested personnel surge support from iMMAP in order to overcome the issue of presenting timely, reliable and accurate data. Through the iMMAP information management roster, Sean Ng Yat Weng was promptly selected and seconded to provide the necessary services to improve the management of critical humanitarian data to support the emergency response.
Initially, Sean was assigned to assist the Food Security Cluster with improving the data collection process, data cleaning and visualization to enable an integrated response to the tropical storms and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after and based on the rapidly changing context on the ground, he extended his support to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the local government to improve the coordination of the response.
Throughout his assignment, Sean supported the Food Security Cluster partners with improving the irregularities in the data collection processes, data cleaning and visualization. These activities supported a total of 14 cluster partner organizations in their response across the country, while allowing them to understand duplication of efforts and identify the areas that were being underserved.
Furthermore, Sean supported OCHA with building the HRP for 2021 by coordinating the data collection and visualization processes. These activities were complemented through the coordination of the IM working group to ensure all processes were streamlined and standardized across the response.
Upon the request of the WFP and OCHA, Sean further supported the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Defense department with the irregularities identified in the reporting of the number of individuals displaced as a result of the tropical storms.
“ONE CANNOT MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS WITH INACCURATE DATA. MUCH OF THE WORK HAS BEEN IN SERVICE OF A BETTERCOORDINATED, MORE THOROUGH RESPONSE.“
Sean Ng Yat Weng iMMAP IMO
The support provided to UN agencies, humanitarian clusters and the government departments improved the overall response through ensuring all humanitarian organizations were able to make informed decisions by minimizing duplication of efforts while focusing humanitarian response activities to support underserved communities.
Sean’s role and work emphasize the importance of information management activities, as seen by the following statement:
“One cannot make informed decisions with inaccurate data. Much of the work has been in service of a better-coordinated, more thorough response.“
iMMAP, with the support of the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), continues to provide critical information management surge support services to nine UN agencies in order to improve decision-making for coordinated and effective response activities across the world.