1.1 What the IPC is

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a common global scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and malnutrition. It is the result of a partnership of various organizations at the global, regional and country levels dedicated to developing and maintaining the highest possible quality in food security and nutrition analysis. Increasingly, the IPC is the international standard for classifying food insecurity and malnutrition.

The IPC is a ‘big picture’ classification focusing on providing information that is consistently required by stakeholders around the world for strategic decision-making. Nuanced information may also be needed to inform particular decisions or answer certain questions. The IPC provides the essential information needed in a wide range of contexts in consistent, comparable and accountable ways.

The IPC communicates actionable information for strategic decision-making. It analyses and consolidates complex food security and nutrition information, and presents it in a simple and accessible form. The IPC provides the evidence base to assess the situation by asking the following questions: how severe, how many, when, where, why, who, as well as the key characteristics. Together, these questions form the basis for situation analysis and help inform decision-making, which is the focus of the IPC (Box 1).    

The IPC estimates the number of people affected at different severities of food insecurity and malnutrition, and communicates the key drivers and characteristics of the situation, providing decision-makers with key information to support response-planning. 

IPC protocols are not designed – nor should they be used – to assess the impact of humanitarian or developmental assistance on food security and nutrition, nor to monitor the achievement of goals, which require separate monitoring and evaluation methods.

The IPC distinguishes between acute food insecurity, chronic food insecurity and acute malnutrition since different interventions are needed to address each situation. Furthermore, understanding their co-existence and relationship is invaluable for strategic decision-making. The IPC is a platform for presenting the linkages between food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as acute and Chronic Food Insecurity, to support more integrated and better coordinated response-planning. Table 1 details the focus of each classification scale and the action that they inform.