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close this bookC.I.S.F.A.M.: Consolidated Information System for Famine Management in Africa - Phase One Report (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - World Health Organisation, 1987, 33 p.)
close this folderCHAPTER 2: CISFAM: An Experimental Information System
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1. Background and Rationale
View the document2.2. Typology and Framework
Open this folder and view contents2.3 Overview of the Databases Examined
View the document2.4 Data Source Agencies and Negotiations

2.1. Background and Rationale

CISFAM was launched in March, 1986, as a joint initiative of Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (WHO) and Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) as a initial effort to upgrade the preparedness and management concept in famine relief and recovery in Africa.


The actual project was a result of four main observations.

(i) Resource constraints were getting increasingly serious with grave implications for continued international assistance;

(ii) While the health sector is a focal point in famine relief, the crisis is essentially a multisectoral problem and requires multi-disciplinary data for effective programme planning and resource allocation;

(iii) Large quantities of data existed in specialized agencies of the larger U.N. family, and in national archives. While the international data-collections are frequently in sophisticated and technical form that are inaccessible to the uninitiated, the national ones on the other hand are non-standardized, non-computerized and dusty;

(iv) The NGOs were observed to frequently have regular data reporting systems which were not adequately processed or used either by themselves or the governments with whom they work. These agencies formed a potentially important repository of sub-national data.

Beside the principal sector of health, five additional sectors were selected as being relevant to any famine programme planning and these were: demography, agriculture, logistic and infrastructure, socio-economic, environment and meteorology.

A quick inventory of the large databases revealed that, even at the international reporting level, most of these countries had poor data, particularly in health.

The project is currently housed at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disaster, (CRED), Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium. The CISFAM project has a team of six members at CRED, with varied responsibilities in their respective areas of competence.

Its main functions are to acquire collaboration from the source agencies, collate, digest and classify the data to ensure ease of access, comprehensibility, and useability of different types of data by field planners and managers of famine and food programmes at short notice. Furthermore, it is expected once the process becomes operational, to ensure system-wide compatibility of information flows.


To provide quick and easy access to country data on multiple sectors to:

. National governments
. International and bi-lateral agencies
. Non-governmental organizations.

To conceptualize and design a ready to use information system, (including staff training), for transfer to the national health authorities or the relief and recovery management unit.

To identify and develop image, graphic and map-linked databases for quick interpretation and operational decision-making.