Protocol 2.3: Adhere to Parameters for analysis

a. Definition of acute food insecurity and an analytical focus: According to the IPC, acute food insecurity refers to food deprivation that threatens lives or livelihoods, regardless of the causes, context or duration. The IPC Acute Food Insecurity classification focuses on identifying the needs for urgent action to decrease food gaps and protect and save lives and livelihoods. See Box 15 for a list of all analytical parameters.
b. Informing action with short-term strategic objectives: The Acute Food Insecurity classification primarily informs action that has measurable results immediately or within a one-year time period. Ideally, these should be linked to action with medium- and longer-term objectives. The IPC Chronic Food Insecurity classification focuses on identifying the need for these longer-term interventions.
c. Five severity phases: IPC classifies severity of Acute Food Insecurity into five severity phases: (1) None/Minimal; (2) Stressed; (3) Crisis; (4) Emergency; and (5) Catastrophe/Famine. 
d. Convergence of evidence: The IPC approach draws upon data and information from a wide range of sources to classify and distribute the population of households into the five phases of Acute Food Insecurity. The IPC approach relies on building consensus among a team of multisectoral experts who are brought together to evaluate and discuss evidence systematically. Convergence of evidence uses the IPC Analytical Framework with a livelihood-based lens supported by indicators directly measuring food security outcomes as well as contributing factors to estimate the proportion of households in each phase. Although convergence of evidence calls for all evidence to be assessed, only evidence that is relevant to acute food insecurity and of a minimum reliability should be used for classification. Evidence on malnutrition and mortality are only considered to the extent that they are driven by food gaps and livelihood changes due to limited access to food. Therefore, nutrition and mortality are considered to support food insecurity classification but not to drive the classification. Evidence that is less than somewhat reliable may only be used to contextualize and explain findings during the convergence of evidence.

e. The 20 percent rule for area classification: An area is classified according to a specific IPC phase when at least 20 percent of the population in the area are experiencing the conditions related to that phase or more severe phases. Ideally, the distribution of affected populations across Phases 1 to 5 should be provided, as each phase is linked to different severity and calls for different action. Whenever it is not possible to provide detailed population estimates, some form of aggregated numbers that respect IPC protocols should be provided.

f. Unit(s) of analysis: There are two key approaches to classification, which can be used independently or together in support of each other: 

  • Area-based analysis: Analysis is performed while considering the conditions experienced in a certain area, which is assessed through convergence of evidence that contain estimates for the whole area being analysed. Populations are distributed among different phases based on the co-existence of conditions. As good practice, even when household groups are not individually classified, information on different subgroups residing in the area, such as information on the conditions of the poorest or the agriculturalists, is helpful in supporting area-based classification. 
  • Household Analysis Group (HAG) analysis: The HAG analysis is performed considering relatively homogeneous subgroup(s) of households with regard to food security outcomes, based on a wide range of factors such as wealth, social affiliations, livelihoods and exposure to shocks. For example, displaced populations, subsistence farmers and poorest households in a certain area may be identified as a relevant HAG for analysis. Either all HAGs in an area can be classified or just a subset of them. HAG analysis may result in more precise and informative classification if available evidence and analytical skills are adequate for this type of analysis. These kinds of analyses can be very useful for classifying relatively homogeneous groups for which evidence is available, such as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Detailed population tables, which show the distribution of households across the five phases, cannot be produced unless all household subgroups are analysed so that the total population classified is 100 percent of the population living in the area. This analysis should include, as a minimum, household group(s) that will allow area classification based on the 20 percent rule.

g. Snapshot in time with validity period: The severity classification is a snapshot of food insecurity that is either: (i) currently occurring (thereby referring to the current analysis period); or (ii) projected in the future within a specified timeframe (referring to analysis projections). Classification is a real-time statement and has a validity period during which the situation is not expected to change. Time validity of the classification can refer to short or long periods, depending on the stability of the situation and the needs of decision-makers, and thus it can range from a period of a few weeks to up to a year. If the situation changes during the validity period of the analysis, an update or a new analysis may be required.

h. Incorporating humanitarian assistance: The current snapshot is based on actual conditions, without removing effects of any humanitarian assistance. The future projection includes anticipated effects of humanitarian assistance which is regularly programmed/inter-annual, and any ad hoc assistance which is planned and likely to be funded and delivered in the projection period. Newly appealed for assistance is not included in the projected classification.  Current population tables identify those currently found in different severity phases. A population in Phase 3+ does not necessarily reflect the full population in need of urgent action to decrease food gaps and protect and save lives and livelihoods. This is because some households may be in Phase 2 or even 1  but only because of receipt of assistance, and as a result they may be in need of continued action. As such, the population in Phase 3 or more severe  may or may not be the same as the number of people in need of urgent action. Decision-makers should be informed that estimations refer to numbers in need of action further to the action already taken. The IPC Technical Manual Version 3.0 does not provide protocols to generate population estimates without the effects of humanitarian assistance which is necessary to estimate total population in need of assistance. The IPC partnership acknowledges that this analysis is also important and is committed to exploring with relevant stakeholders how this analysis can be conducted. 

i. Current classifications: These are based on actual conditions prevalent at the time of analysis, regardless of causes, context and duration. Analysis should consider the following:

  • Classification is based on actual food security contributing factors and outcomes as measured by taking into account all interactions among different contributing factors. Analysis of contributing factors must consider aggravating factors such as conflict, loss of food production and price increases, as well as mitigating factors, such as good rainfall, access to wild foods and humanitarian assistance. This combined analysis not only informs the expected actual food insecurity status, but also provides analysts with the key drivers and mitigating factors of crises. These interactions manifest at the household and individual levels through food consumption, livelihood changes, nutrition and mortality, which are assessed through outcome indicators.
  • Emphasis should be on contributing factors and first-level outcomes of food consumption and livelihood change. Analysis should include measurements of indicators included in the Reference Table, as well as any other relevant indicators and analysis of contributing factors. These should be supported by the second-level outcomes of nutrition and mortality. Given that food insecurity and malnutrition do not always concur due to their different causes, different aggravating factors and time-lag, acute food insecurity classification does not necessarily imply that Acute Malnutrition and mortality are at the same or similar level as food insecurity. However, differences between recorded levels of malnutrition and food insecurity should be critically analysed and explained.

j. Projection classifications: These are based on the most likely expected situation in the future and should consider the following

  • Projections should forecast the most likely conditions based on a sound understanding of the current situation, historical trends and assumptions on the evolution of the situation. Assumptions should be clearly documented, and as in current classification, projection classification should take into account the likely trend of both aggravating and mitigating factors, including any effects of humanitarian assistance that is planned and is likely to be funded and delivered. Assumptions must consider relevant events that have already occurred and are expected to continue to have consequences, or events that are most likely to occur within the projected period.
  • All mapping and population estimates are limited to most-likely scenario only. Nevertheless, other supporting analyses may inform alternate ‘worse or better’ scenarios, which can be communicated in text form to decision-makers.
  • Projections can be updated whenever there is a need, or when new information alters assumptions made during previous analysis. Although less labour-intensive than projection analysis, projection updates still require that all protocols in the four Functions are completed. Projection updates differ from new current classifications since they review a previous analysis, with analysts assessing if assumptions and forecasts developed as expected. Updates can be prepared without new direct evidence on outcomes, but need to rely on new evidence on contributing factors. Updates can only cover the timespan up to the end of the latest projection validity period and cannot be the basis for successive further projections. Both area classification and population tables may be revised during updates. If evidence is available on outcomes, analysts can decide if an update or a new current classification should be completed.

k. The identification of areas that received or will likely receive significant humanitarian food assistance: This should be carried out after phase classifications and consider the following:

  • IPC protocols are not designed (nor should they be used) to assess or evaluate the impact of any humanitarian food assistance on food insecurity, or to monitor achievements towards programme-level goals.
  • Humanitarian food assistance to be considered includes direct resource transfers in response to acute events that aim to reduce food gaps, and protect and save lives and livelihoods. Only transfers that have an immediate positive effect on access to food are to be considered. Humanitarian food assistance may include different modalities, such as transfers of food, cash, livestock and other productive tools if they immediately improve households’ access to food during the analysis period. Inter-annual assistance in the form of safety nets, grants, insurances or another mode that is predictable and part of normal livelihoods should not be included. Nevertheless, ad-hoc increases of inter-annual assistance that are a response to an acute crisis must be considered.
  • Identification of areas should follow two rules based on coverage and size of assistance as follows:
    • Areas where at least 25 percent of households met at least 25 percent of their caloric needs through humanitarian assistance.
    • Areas where at least 25 percent of households met at least 50 percent of their caloric needs through humanitarian food assistance.
  • For projections, only humanitarian food assistance that has been planned and is either already funded or likely to be funded and delivered should be considered. Analysts should review plans from implementing partners and assess if there are constraints to delivery of assistance, such as lack of humanitarian access and conflict which could prevent delivery of planned  assistance. 
  • Phase classification and population estimates should not change in areas identified as receiving substantial humanitarian food assistance (i.e. this analysis does not lead to a modification of the classification). See Figure 6 for summary of analysis of humanitarian food assistance and its relationship to area classification and population estimates.

l. Identification of key drivers and most affected populations: IPC Acute Food Insecurity analysis provides tools that can be used for a basic analysis of key drivers and limiting factors as per the IPC Food Insecurity Analytical Framework. Limiting factors of food insecurity are analysed by identifying which combination of factors related to availability, access, utilization and stability prevent people from being food-secure. By identifying key shocks and vulnerabilities affecting current conditions, analysts are also able to indicate the likely key drivers of acute food insecurity and, to the extent possible, the most affected populations.