Scaling Up our Drought Impact Tracker

Building on our tool for assisting vulnerable populations during droughts in Indonesia, we teamed up again with the World Food Programme to spread the approach to Sri Lanka. This wasn’t just a one-way transfer of tech: in contextualising the tool to Sri Lanka, we made improvements which will inform the development of the Indonesian version.

Across the Pond

Over the past ten years, many Asian countries have experienced regular hydro-meteorological disasters, namely floods and droughts, often in quick succession. Sri Lanka continues to suffer from an ongoing dry weather pattern, lasting over a year to date, as well as recover from flooding and landslides which started in May of this year. Driven by climate change, these extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common, and are impacting the food and livelihood security of vulnerable groups.

The Platform for Real-time Information and Situation Monitoring (PRISM), a disaster management information system, was recently developed and is being installed in the Ministry of Disaster Management of the Government of Sri Lanka, based on a similar system in Indonesia known as the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for the Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE). Both systems were developed alongside the domain experts from the World Food Programme offices in these countries.

By providing rapid access to information on the number of people requiring assistance, as well as on geographic priorities (identified by a computation algorithm), it is hoped that the disruption caused by weather extremes and natural disasters can be minimised. The PRISM system enables early warning, preparedness, and response that can prevent malnutrition, food and livelihood insecurity, and ultimately save lives.

System Improvements

Sri Lanka’s PRISM features functionality and data layers, including:

  • (a) Baseline Data Layer — provides basic information from official statistics such as population data and socio-economic indicators;
  • (b) Climate Layer — compiles satellite data showing meteorological drought (rainfall anomaly) and agriculture drought (Standardised Precipitation Index and Vegetation Health Index); and
  • (c) Impact Layer — delivers insights derived from the combination of baseline and climate layers such as area of crops affected and number of persons at risk of food insecurity.

Besides the predefined layers, users can easily supplement the information with their own data without having to use a predefined format as before.

Additional new functionality includes reporting capabilities, with templates developed for producing regular drought situation reports.

A screenshot from the Sri Lanka version of the tool.

The system embedded in Sri Lanka improves upon the original system developed in Indonesia. The updated system refines the data acquisition mechanism and shortens the time between updates across most data sets. It includes the Standardised Precipitation Index drought indicator and automates vegetation health indices processing and analysis as well.

While the PRISM system design monitors drought conditions and societal impact (with utility for other conditions such as flooding, landslide and food production), VAMPIRE in its original design focused on drought monitoring using remote sensing, as well as food price monitoring as an impact of drought in Indonesia.

We are in the process of updating VAMPIRE based on these improvements. In addition, the World Food Programme is interested in developing additional layers to improve flood monitoring, and better vulnerability models to accelerate disaster response. These new features will be incorporated into the existing versions of the system, as well as into a generalised version of the tool which is under development, with the intention of facilitating its use by other countries across the region.


Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Australia.