Rome/Geneva/New York (FAO/epo). - United Nations humanitarian agencies and partners of the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a body that fosters enhanced interagency collaboration on humanitarian policy and operations, launched today a new humanitarian early warning service Web site, HEWSweb.

This Web site (www.hewsweb.org) displays the latest forecasts, reports and alerts on drought, floods, tropical storms, locust infestation, El Nino, earthquakes and volcanic activity. It has dedicated pages for each of these natural hazards, including additional references and resources. In the near future, HEWSweb will also offer the opportunity to access and share information on sociopolitical crises.

HEWSweb represents a humanitarian partnership project developed by the IASC to foster enhanced humanitarian preparedness, and it is supported by a variety of partners including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN refugee organization (UNHCR), UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as a consortium of international non-governmental organizations.

HEWSweb has been conceived as the first global one-stop shop for early warning information, to facilitate access to the latest early warnings by bringing together and rationalizing under one platform the vast amount of information now available on the Internet from multiple specialized institutions. The FAO, for example, provides early warning information on the impact of drought and other weather-related events on food production and food security, as well as early warnings of transboundary animal diseases, pest infestations, and wildfires. WFP has provided leadership and support to the development of this new initiative.

The HEWSweb service responds to the exceptional challenges now facing the UN and the humanitarian community in monitoring and anticipating crisis situations, which are increasingly greater in number, intensity and complexity, and hence the corresponding need for effective early warning systems and for early planning and preparedness. HEWSweb aims at broadening the range of partnerships with specialized institutions, which already comprise several key entities.

On the eve of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction to be held in Kobe, Japan, on 18-22 January 2005, it is indeed timely to offer this service in support of the global efforts to enhance early warning systems, and in turn support humanitarian preparedness and response as well as risk reduction.

HEWS


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