Integrated Phase Classification

The use of the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) is a landmark in the fight against food insecurity. Widely accepted by the international community, IPC describes the severity of food emergencies. Based on common standards and language, this five-phase scale is intended to help governments and other humanitarian actors quickly understand a crisis (or potential crisis) and take action.

Along with the scale, IPC provides a framework for technical consensus, protocols for classification, tools for communication, and methods of quality assurance. In practice, analysts use various methods of data collection and analysis (e.g., food prices, seasonal calendars, rainfall, rapid food-security assessments, etc.), but with the IPC, they can describe their conclusions using the same, consistent language and standards. This harmonized approach is particularly useful in comparing situations across countries and regions, and over time.

The IPC was devised by a global partnership of governmental and nongovernmental agencies. FEWS NET, a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity, actively contributed to the design and implementation of the IPC. IPC Version 3.0 was officially launched in 2019 as an update to IPC Version 2.0. FEWS NET uses IPC 3.0 to describe the anticipated severity of acute food insecurity in its reports and mapping.

IPC Phases

The IPC allows analysts to classify households and areas according to a five-phase scale. The essence of each phase is captured in the phase descriptions, described in the table below. Classification is based on a convergence of available data and evidence, including indicators related to food consumption, livelihoods, malnutrition, and mortality. With this evidence, analysts use the IPC reference tables, which provide illustrative thresholds for each of the five phases, to classify the severity of the current or projected food security situation. Classifying Famine (IPC Phase 5), the fifth phase of food insecurity, is a technically rigorous process that requires analytical conclusions that meet three specific criteria:

  • At least one in five households faces an extreme lack of food

  • More than 30 percent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition (wasting)

  • At least two people out of every 10,000 are dying each day

IPC maps reflect the phase classification and the humanitarian food assistance mapping protocol: if a significant level of humanitarian food assistance is being/will be provided in an area, it is mapped with a wheat bag symbol. FEWS NET also produces IPC-compatible maps: if the phase classification would likely be worse without current or programmed humanitarian food assistance, this is indicated in the mapping with an exclamation point.

IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase Descriptions (Area)

PHASE 1
Minimal

Households are able to meet essential food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical and unsustainable strategies to access food and income. 

PHASE 2
Stressed

Households have minimally adequate food consumption but are unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures without engaging in stress-coping strategies.

PHASE 3
Crisis

Households either:
- Have food consumption gaps that are reflected by high or above-usual acute malnutrition;
OR
- Are marginally able to meet minimum food needs but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies. 

PHASE 4
Emergency

Households either:
- Have large food consumption gaps which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality;
OR
- Are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies and asset liquidation.

PHASE 5
Famine

Households have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. Starvation, death, destitution, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. (For Famine Classification, area needs to have extreme critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.)

At least 25 percent of households met at least 25 percent of their caloric requirements through humanitarian food assistance.

At least 25 percent of households met at least 50 percent of their caloric requirements through humanitarian food assistance. 

!

Phase classification would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian food assistance.

FEWS NET Maps

To visually illustrate food insecurity severity, FEWS NET produces three maps using the IPC Version 3.0 scale: a current status map, and two projection maps covering the eight-month food security outlook period. Each of these maps adheres to IPC 3.0 humanitarian assistance mapping protocols and flags where significant levels of humanitarian assistance are being/are expected to be provided. In addition, FEWS NET produces three maps for the same time periods that are IPC-compatible and map an (!) in areas that would likely be at least one phase worse without the effects of ongoing or planned, funded, and likely humanitarian food assistance. Countries that FEWS NET monitors remotely are depicted with a colored border that corresponds to the highest area-level IPC phase within that country.

IPC Analysis and "IPC-Compatible" Analysis

IPC analysis is defined by five main features: 1) the analysis represents a working consensus of technicians representing key stakeholder agencies and relevant sectoral expertise; 2) the IPC reference tables, which specify phase name and description, priority response objectives, and key outcome indicators, are used to determine the phase classification; 3) the analysis adheres to key parameters of units of analysis and accounts for humanitarian assistance; 4) evidence used to support the classification is clearly documented and made available; and 5) the analysis is mapped using the IPC color scheme and phase names.

IPC-compatible analysis includes all of the above five features, except the first; it does not represent a working consensus of technicians from key stakeholder agencies. Due to factors such as the timing of analysis, urgency of the situation, or the need for independence, some organizations may elect to conduct food security situation analysis and classification that is not part of or in agreement with a working consensus of technicians representing key stakeholders. In such cases, as long as the other main criteria of IPC analysis listed above are followed, the analysis can be labelled “IPC-compatible.” FEWS NET analysis is IPC-compatible.

Learn more about the IPC at www.ipcinfo.org.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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