Comparing Household Food Consumption Indicators to Inform Acute Food Insecurity Phase Classification

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a set of tools and procedures for classifying the severity of chronic and acute food insecurity across geographic areas and time using a convergence of available data. One important IPC component is the Acute Food Insecurity Reference Table for Household Group Classification (household reference table), which provides qualitative, graduated descriptions of five acute food insecurity phases, along with thresholds for key household-level outcome indicators that can be used to classify the severity of acute food insecurity. However, to date little analysis has explored how well the household food consumption outcome indicators and their thresholds in the acute IPC’s household reference table align with one another or with the table’s phase descriptions. Researchers affiliated with FANTA partner, Tufts University, with support and guidance from FANTA and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), and technical support from the World Food Programme and the IPC Global Support Unit conducted a study (using secondary data) to examine the relationships among select household food consumption outcome indicators commonly used in acute IPC analyses. Among the study’s key findings were:  

  • The selected diet diversity and experiential indicators were reasonably well correlated but likely measure different dimensions of food security, suggesting that these indicators are complementary but not interchangeable
  • None of the selected indicators performed well across the full range of food insecurity severity the acute IPC measures, suggesting that attention to which indicators perform best within a given severity range is necessary when undertaking any analysis
  • By adjusting the selected indicators’ current thresholds in the acute IPC household reference table, agreement between any pair of the selected indicators can be increased from 42.7% to 61.4%, but further improvements in agreement were not logically possible within the dataset used, suggesting that the dimensions of food security the indicators capture and the broad context in which they are collected must be considered

The study recommended a series of changes to the household food consumption outcome indicators and thresholds used in the acute IPC household reference table to improve the overall quality of classifications of acute food insecurity severity. 

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