Using Earth Observation Data to Forecast Cholera Outbreaks in Yemen

The use of Earth observation data among interdisciplinary and multi-agency teams can significantly advance our scientific knowledge of our global ecosystem and support disease preparedness and response actions in disease epidemic or humanitarian efforts. With funding by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one research team developed a forecasting tool with 92% accuracy to predict the high-risk geographic areas for Vibrio cholerae spread and distribution across Yemen in 2017. Led by Antar Jutla (West Virginia University), Rita Colwell (University of Maryland, College Park), and Anwar Huq (University of Maryland, College Park), the research team developed their model by analyzing Earth observation data for environmental conditions that influence V. cholerae proliferation such as the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments.

After the World Health Organization reported this occurrence as the world’s worst cholera outbreak, humanitarian agencies aimed to take forward steps in 2018. As such, international organizations, such as the U.K. Aid, the U.K. Met Office, and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), collaborated with these NASA-funded researchers and used the model to identify predicted cholera risk and inform decision-makers where to best allocate preparedness and support measures based on the model’s predictions.

Please visit the BBC News, Business Insider, NASA, UK Department for International Development, and West Virginia University websites to learn more about this initiative.