Along with its five-phase acute food insecurity scale, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system provides protocols that serve the functions of building technical consensus, classifying severity and identifying key drivers, communicating for action, and quality assurance.
In practice, analysts use various methods of data collection and analysis (e.g., food prices, seasonal calendars and post-harvest surveys, 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 between time periods.
The IPC was devised by a global partnership of governmental and non-governmental 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. In 2021, Version 3.0 was upgraded to Version 3.1. FEWS NET uses IPC Version 3.1 to describe the current and anticipated severity of acute food insecurity in its reports and mapping.
IPC Acute Food Insecurity Scale
The IPC Acute Food Insecurity Scale allows for the classification of acute food insecurity at both the household and area level. In order for a household to be classified in a given IPC Phase, it must meet the specific Phase description provided in the table below. These descriptions differ for each Phase and describe a household’s ability to meet their basic food and non-food needs without engaging in negative and unsustainable coping.
In order for a geographic area to be classified in a given IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase, at least 20 percent of the area’s population must meet the specific classification description for that Phase or a higher Phase (e.g., IPC Phase 2: ≥ 20 percent of the population is facing IPC Phase 2 or higher Phase outcomes). It is important to recognize that there may be households in the assessed area experiencing a worse IPC Phase than the area-level Phase classification reflected on FEWS NET’s acute food insecurity maps for that geographic area, but these households make up less than 20 percent of the assessed area’s overall population.
Classification is based on a convergence of available data and evidence, including indicators related to food consumption, livelihoods, malnutrition, and mortality. Analysts use this evidence alongside the IPC reference tables, which provide illustrative thresholds for each of the five IPC Phases, to classify the severity of the current or projected food security situation.
IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase Descriptions
|Households are able to meet essential food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical and unsustainable strategies to access food and income.|
|Households have minimally adequate food consumption but are unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures without engaging in stress-coping strategies.|
|Households either: |
- Have food consumption gaps that are reflected by high or above-usual acute malnutrition;
- Are marginally able to meet minimum food needs but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies.
|Households either: |
- Have large food consumption gaps which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality;
- Are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies and asset liquidation.
|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 but less than 50 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.|
Household vs. Area-Level Classifications
Two phases – IPC Phase 1 and IPC Phase 5 – take on different names when referring to a household classification vs. an area-level classification.
IPC Phase 1 is referred to as “None” when classifying a household and “Minimal” when classifying an area.
|None (IPC Phase 1)||Occurs when a household is able to meet essential food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical and unsustainable strategies.|
|Minimal (IPC Phase 1)||Occurs when over 80 percent of the population in a given area is in None (IPC Phase 1).|
IPC Phase 5 is referred to as “Catastrophe” when classifying a household and “Famine” when classifying an area. In certain cases, areas may be classified in “Famine Likely” which indicates the same level of severity as “Famine” but means that the analysis was based on less available evidence than one that results in a “Famine” classification.
|Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)||Occurs when a household has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies.|
|Famine (IPC Phase 5)||Occurs when at least 20 percent of the population in a given area have an extreme lack of food; the Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence (measured by weight-for-height z-score) exceeds 30 percent; and mortality (measured by the Crude Death Rate) exceeds 2 people per 10,000 per day.|
|Famine (IPC Phase 5) & Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5)||These classifications are used to describe the same outcomes. The classification Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5) indicates that although information is insufficient to confirm or deny if all three thresholds that define a Famine declaration have been met, available evidence suggests two of the three thresholds have been surpassed and that Famine is likely ongoing.|
FEWS NET Acute Food Insecurity Maps
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, then the area is mapped with a humanitarian food assistance bag symbol.
FEWS NET Maps
To visually illustrate the severity of food insecurity, FEWS NET produces three maps using the IPC Version 3.1 scale, including a current status map, and two projection maps covering the eight-month food security outlook period. Each of these maps adheres to IPC 3.1 humanitarian assistance mapping protocols and flags where significant levels of humanitarian food assistance are being/are expected to be provided. In addition, FEWS NET produces three maps for the same time periods that include an (!) in areas that would likely be at least one Phase worse without the effects of humanitarian food assistance that is either ongoing or planned, and likely to be funded and delivered. Countries that FEWS NET monitors remotely are depicted using a colored national border that corresponds to the highest area-level IPC Phase within that country.
IPC Analysis and "IPC-Compatible" Analysis
IPC analysis adheres to all IPC protocols, with key protocols including: 1) Conduct the analysis on a consensual basis; 2) Use Analytical Frameworks to guide the convergence of evidence; (3) Compare evidence against the IPC Acute Food Insecurity (IPC AFI) Reference Tables, which specify IPC Phase names and descriptions, priority response objectives, and key outcome indicators to determine the IPC Phase classification; 4) Ensure analysis adheres to key parameters of units of analysis and accounts for humanitarian assistance; 5) Clearly document evidence used to support the classification and make such evidence available upon request; and 6) Adhere to mapping standards, including using the IPC color scheme and Phase names.
IPC-compatible analysis uses key IPC protocols, but it is not necessarily built on multi-partner technical consensus. 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. FEWS NET analysis is IPC-compatible.
IPC Acute Malnutrition Scale
The IPC Acute Malnutrition Scale is a five-phase scale of increasing severity: Phase 1: Acceptable; Phase 2: Alert; Phase 3: Serious; Phase 4: Critical; Phase 5: Extremely Critical. Each phase is characterized by a certain prevalence of acute malnutrition. (See the IPC 3.1 manual for more information).
Nutritional status is both a driving factor that influences food security and an outcome of food insecurity. As such, nutritional status can serve as an indicator of a population’s level of food insecurity and is incorporated into FEWS NET’s analysis. The incorporation of nutritional status is both reflected in the IPC analytical framework (page 33) and FEWS NET’s analytical framework.
Several factors can drive acute malnutrition, and it is possible for high levels of acute malnutrition to exist in areas not experiencing acute food insecurity. However, if a significant portion of a population experiences large and prolonged food consumption gaps (deficits), these conditions are likely to result in high levels of acute malnutrition and, eventually, elevated mortality levels. A literature review of the impacts of varying degrees of energy restriction on body mass and related health consequences evidences the linkages between acute food insecurity, acute malnutrition, and mortality.
The prevalence of acute malnutrition and mortality among a population is captured at the area level. As the severity of acute food insecurity at the household level becomes more severe, it becomes increasingly difficult for households to protect and maintain a sufficient level of food consumption, even after resorting to unsustainable coping strategies that compromise their livelihoods. With more severe levels of acute food insecurity, households begin to face progressively larger deficits in their kilocalorie intake (food consumption), deteriorating physiological health, and an increased risk of acute malnutrition and mortality. Consequently, as the severity of acute food insecurity increases at the area level, the prevalence of acute malnutrition and rate of mortality is expected to increase.