Protocol 2.1: Use Analytical Framework to guide convergence of evidence

The purpose of the Food Security Analytical Framework (Box 8) is to guide the convergence of evidence through a logical outline of acute food insecurity. The same framework is used for the outline of chronic food insecurity. The framework is divided into ‘contributing factors’ and ‘outcomes’. While contributing factors include causal factors and food security dimensions, outcomes include the expected manifestation of food insecurity at the household and individual levels related to inadequate food consumption, negative livelihood change and Acute Malnutrition.

Causal factors: vulnerabilities and acute events or ongoing conditions

According to the IPC, the interaction between hazards and vulnerabilities drives food insecurity. Thus, analysis of these interactions identifies the key drivers of food insecurity. Vulnerability is defined as the household’s exposure, susceptibility and resilience to specific hazards. According to the IPC, vulnerability analysis is mainly driven by an understanding of: the livelihood strategies of households (e.g. how they obtain food and income, their common coping strategies, expenditure patterns); the livelihood assets that the household can rely on (financial, physical, human, social, and natural assets); and how policies, institutions and processes, gender, and mitigating factors positively or negatively affect or could affect their ability to successfully respond to shocks and ongoing conditions.  Once the vulnerabilities are clearly understood, the impacts of hazards are assessed based on their severity, magnitude and occurrence or probability of occurring. Hazards can be phenomena that have occurred or may occur in the future. They include acute events or ongoing conditions that can be natural or human-made, including droughts, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, sharp price increases, energy or food shortages, war, civil unrest, HIV/AIDS, cholera, malaria and other events that can impact on acute food insecurity (Box 9).

The concept of resilience is explicitly included in the IPC Analytical Framework, since resilience is acknowledged as a factor that, together with exposure and susceptibility, determines the vulnerability of households to specific acute events and ongoing conditions. Consideration of resilience is ensured through the examination of livelihood strategies, assets and policies, institutions and processes. IPC analyses can contribute to and benefit from more comprehensive analyses of resilience.

Food security dimensions: availability, access, household utilization and stability 

The four food security dimensions (food availability, access, utilization and stability) will be directly impacted by the results of the interactions between shocks and vulnerabilities. Analysis of how each of the dimensions limits food security is important to confirm and contextualize outcome indicators (Box 10). This information enables a better design of interventions, which may differ depending on what is limiting food security (i.e. food availability, access, utilization or stability). These dimensions interact in a sequential and systematic manner; i.e. food must be available, then households must have access to it and must utilize it appropriately, and the whole system must be stable, as follows: 

  • Food availability addresses whether food is actually or potentially physically present for purchase or acquisition for consumption, including: aspects of production, food reserves, imports, markets and transportation, and wild foods. 
  • Once assessments have been carried out on the presence of food, the next question is how households will access it through different food sources (e.g. own production, purchases, gifts, aid, gathering, or other forms) and whether they will be able to acquire enough food to cover their nutritional needs from the sources available. The ability to access enough food will directly depend on physical access (e.g. own production, distance to markets), financial access (e.g. purchasing power, access to credit) and social access (e.g. ability to secure food through social networks, based on extended family, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation). 
  • If food is available and households have adequate access to it, the next question is whether households are maximizing the consumption of adequate nutrition and energy, which is usually a factor of food preferences, preparation, storage and access to adequate quantity and quality of water. 
  • If the dimensions of availability, access and utilization are sufficiently met so that households have adequate diets, the next question is whether the whole system is stable, thus ensuring that the households are/will be food-secure at all times, including during future forecasts conducted during acute classifications. For the IPC Acute Scale of Food Insecurity, stability problems of specific interest include those that have or will impact food security in the short term. The IPC Chronic Scale of Food Insecurity mostly focuses on medium-and long-term instability, which can lead to recurrent acute food insecurity and/or chronic food insecurity. Climatic, economic, social and political factors can all be a source of instability.

First-level outcomes: food consumption and livelihood change

If food availability, access, utilization and stability are inadequate, the household’s consumption is likely to also be inadequate. The severity of the inadequacy of food consumption is dependent on how inadequate one or more elements are, and to what extent households are resorting to unsustainable livelihood change to decrease food gaps. In this regard, it is important to note that if food consumption gaps have been mitigated by unsustainable coping strategies, for the IPC, households are food insecure. The IPC also uses information on the type of food consumption inadequacy. For IPC Acute Food Insecurity analysis, severity of inadequacy of energy intake is key for classification and not necessarily the adequacy of both the micronutrient and energy intake, which is important for classifying Chronic Food Insecurity. 

If households have difficulties in securing enough food, they may engage in unsustainable strategies, such as selling assets, decreasing expenses in education and health, and consuming seeds. Livelihood changes need to be carefully contextualized, since households may engage in activities for reasons other than food insecurity. Livelihood changes that are not driven by food insecurity (e.g. seasonal migration) may not be evidence of outcome-level changes; nevertheless, impacts of these changes on the food security dimensions should be considered. See Box 11 for examples on first-level outcomes.

Second-level outcomes: nutritional status and mortality

Inadequate food consumption and negative livelihood changes to cope with shortage of food, together with other non-food security-specific factors such as inadequate access to health services are expected to increase malnutrition and mortality levels (Box 12). At the area level, high or increasing levels of Acute Malnutrition and mortality could be expected if severe energy gaps are found within large proportion of populations, since the interaction of dietary consumption and disease have a direct impact on malnutrition and eventual death. The interaction is usually consequential, and some time-lag is often noted with dietary intake and health conditions being impacted first, followed by Acute Malnutrition, and finally ending in mortality.

Because the contributing factors to malnutrition and mortality may not be specific to food security, evidence of them are not to be used to drive classification, but rather to support and confirm (or question) food insecurity classifications. Thus, it is essential for analysts to carefully examine whether these are the result of food security drivers or non-food security drivers, by following evidence-based consensus-building. Although it is best to have some evidence on the statistical correlation between malnutrition, mortality, inadequate food consumption and negative livelihood change, even when there is no proof of it, the linkages between these different elements can be assessed qualitatively.