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Project to enhance climate hazard resilience and related disease prevention in Africa receives funding boost

Experts from the University of Exeter will lead a pioneering project to design digital innovations to help communities across Africa become more resilient to climate hazards and prevent outbreaks of associated diseases.

A team of experts from Exeter’s The Centre for Water Systems (CWS) and the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) will lead the ground-breaking new project, called OVERCOME (digital innOVation in climatE hazaRd early warning and related disease prevention for COMmunity capacity building and rEsilience).

The project, a transnational research network, has been awarded funding of £134,894 from the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA) fund.

The OVERCOME team will collaborate with other interdisciplinary researchers to create a framework of new technological methodologies and applications, which can support strategic planning and decision making to enhance societal resilience to climatic hazards.

Within next 12 months, OVERCOME will engage with stakeholders in natural environment, health care, environment-economic, urban planning, utility services, disaster management, policy making and local communities to co-shape the research questions and targeted outcomes for future studies.

Dr Albert Chen, a Senior Lecturer at CWS, will coordinate the OVERCOME project, supported by Dr Kath Maguire, Prof Karyn Morrissey and Prof Slobodan Djordjevic.

Dr Chen said: “OVERCOME will strengthen the capacity of vulnerable communities in minimising the negative impact of climate disasters and associated health risks, which will improve country progress in addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Prof Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, the Associate Dean for International Development, is looking forward to expanding CEMPS networking with new collaborators in Africa. Prof Tsaneva-Atanasova said: “The excellent opportunity will enable us to work with key intuitions in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. OVERCOME will enhance the University of Exeter’s links with Global South countries in developing novel solutions for smart communities to safeguard public safety and health during climate disasters.”

Prof Karyn Morrissey, Associate Professor for Population Health at the ECEHH and an Alan Turing Fellow, said: ‘digital solutions are increasingly offering low cost, accessible solutions to the health- environment-climate nexus. Thinking about digital technology with communities, offers real scope to build community-based resilience for future generations.”.

Dr Kath Maguire, National Institute for Health Research Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellow agreed, adding “It is important for academics and communities to work together in designing systems that can be implemented in practice.”

The OVERCOME team consists of world-leading scientists from University of ExeterUniversity College of London, University of West London , Public Health England, and Aquobex Technologies in the UK; the University of Malawi, The Polytechnic in Malawi, the National Institute of Meteorology in Mozambique, the Chinhoyi University of Technology;  University of Zimbabwe, and University of Ghana.

An international multiplinary panel including experts from Columbia University, Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Malawi, ECMWF, Eurecat Technology Centre, FIWARE Foundation, Krüger A/S, Ministry of Agriculture Malawi, Ministry of Health Malawi, Ministry of Health Malawi, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Norwegian Meteorological Institute has be invited to share their knowledge and assist the OVERCOME team to co-design the research roadmap.

A virtual meeting between the OVERCOME team and the expert panel was held on 26 June 2020. Over 30 participants from 10 counties have participated in the discussion for identifying key challenges, research gaps and collaboration opportunities.

Date: 6 July 2020

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