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Author: Ross Butler
Written on: 06 September 2018
Last updated: 06 September 2018

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Science, humanitarian
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Met Office, UK aid and US science fight cholera in Yemen


In a world first, an Anglo-American initiative has managed to predict cholera outbreaks in war-torn Yemen with 92% accuracy, using weather data and technology.

The project uses the Met-Office’s supercomputers, NASA satelites, and scientific expertise from the University of Maryland, to make the predictions.

This information is then provided to the UK Department for International Aid and UNICEF, who then provide targeted aid, by stock piling hygiene kits, jerry cans of clean water, chlorine and medical equipment in high risk areas.

Through our collaboration with DFID we are able to be part of this ground breaking approach to take early action against cholera, a waterborne disease, contracted through consuming contaminated water, says Helen Bye, head of the MetOffice’s international development. “Met Office meteorologists are able to translate our global modelling and scientific expertise to show where rain has fallen and where it will fall. We then provide weekly tailored guidance to DFID and humanitarian agencies including UNICEF to inform their life saving actions.”

So far this year there has not been a significant cholera outbreak in the region, and the number of suspected cases is much lower than 2017, when Yemen suffered the worst cholera epidemic for a generation, when more than a million cases.

There may be other factors contributing to the lower levels of outbreak, such as a late rainy season.

The Met Office’s supercomputer in Exeter makes 14 thousand trillion calculations per second allowing it to take in 215 billion weather observations from across the world every day. This data was used by scientists in Maryland to create super predictive models.

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