HFA – Definitions

This section clarifies terminology and definitions as used by ECHO, compared with other agencies understanding of the same concept. A quick overview of the pillars of food security is also provided.

acuteAcute malnutrition, with its main characteristic of wasting, occurs as a result of rapid weight loss or a failure to gain weight within a relatively short period of time. Recovery from wasting is relatively quick once optimal feeding, health and care are restored. Wasting results from short-term but usually critical deficiencies in macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and is often linked to disease. Usually divided into moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and severe acute malnutrition (SAM), which combine as global acute malnutrition (GAM). food_consAn ultimate determinant of 'food-security', adequate food consumption is defined, for humanitarian purposes, as the bodily intake of sufficient food (in terms of quantity and quality) to avoid excessive (in absolute and relative terms) mortality, acute malnutrition, or other life-threatening effects and consequences (e.g. stress migration). insecurityA persistent inability to access adequate food and nutritional intake, either on a constant basis or on a periodic seasonal basis. (Maxwell, D. et al. 2008, see References). Chronic hunger and malnutrition are associated with, amongst other factors, structural poverty, low incomes, inadequate health and sanitation conditions, lack of education and the lack of empowerment of women. chronic_malChronic malnutrition, with its main characteristic of stunting, is a slow, cumulative process, resulting from sustained, but sometimes subtle nutrient and micro-nutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a failure to grow in stature, and occurs as a result of inadequate nutrition over a longer time period, which is why it is also referred to as chronic malnutrition. Stunting is not a good indicator of growth failure in emergencies as it does not reflect recent changes and requires a long-term response. com_advFor the context of this paper, this refers to the relative ability of one actor to efficiently and effectively meet a defined set of needs, on the basis of their mandate and operational parameters, compared to another actor. crisisA humanitarian crisis arising from inadequate food consumption, poor food utilisation or high prevalence of acute malnutrition. aid Assistance in the form of food commodities, or in the form of financing that supports the centralised procurement and distribution of food to beneficiaries. accessThe extent to which resources can be used to obtain adequate and appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Depends on income available to the household, on the distribution of income within the household, and on the price of food. assistanceAny intervention designed to tackle food insecurity, its immediate causes, and its various negative consequences. Food assistance may involve the direct provision of food, but may utilize a wider range of tools, including the transfer or provision of relevant services, inputs or commodities, cash or vouchers, skills or knowledge. availabilityThe extent to which sufficient quantities of adequate and appropriate food can be secured from household production, other domestic output, commercial imports or food aid. consumptionThe act of transferring food commodities, and the nutrients within them, to the body. securityWhen all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (World Food Summit, 1996). utilisationThe physical use of food by an individual prior to consumption (including storage, and processing), and the body’s biological use of food, its energy and its micronutrients, after consumption. Determinants of food utilisation are as diverse as access to water and adequate sanitation, access to cooking utensils, health status and disease burden, as well as knowledge within the household of food storage, basic principles of nutrition, and proper child care and child feeding practices. hum_crisisA humanitarian crisis is an event or series of events which represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security or wellbeing of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area. A humanitarian crisis can have natural or manmade causes, can have a rapid or slow onset and can be of short or protracted duration. assistanceFood Assistance provided to assist victims of humanitarian crises. Hum_riskThe probability of a life-threatening humanitarian crisis developing. The specific risk of transient food-insecurity, malnutrition or compromised livelihoods may be assessed and measured by indicators reflecting food access, availability and utilisation (e.g. food prices, food consumption patterns, meal frequencies, expenditure patterns, climate forecasts, coping behaviours etc.) and related trend analysis. HungerAn uncomfortable or painful sensation caused by insufficient food intake, specifically to insufficient food energy consumption. Scientifically, hunger is referred to as food deprivation. MalnutritionMalnutrition results from deficiencies, excesses or imbalances of energy, protein and other nutrients.The vast majority of malnourished individuals in the developing world experience under-nutrition (a deficiency of energy, proteins, or vitamins and minerals) as opposed to over-nutrition (an excess of certain food components such as saturated fats and added sugars in combination with low levels of physical activity, normally resulting in obesity). contiguumA situation where emergency, recovery and development needs co-exist simultaneously. continuumA situation where there is a linear consecutive transition from emergency needs to recovery needs to development needs. transientPeriods of intensified pressure caused by a specific shock including; natural disasters, economic collapse, governance failures or conflict. It implies a precipitous decline in access and consumption against baseline conditions. (Maxwell, D. et al. 2008). Such a decline can be sudden (e.g. following a natural disaster) or gradual (e.g. in protracted crises).    VulnerabilityVulnerability comprises the characteristics of population groups that make them more or less susceptible to experiencing, stress, harm or damage when exposed to particular hazards.Therefore those who are vulnerable to food insecurity may currently be able to maintain an acceptable food intake, but are at risk of becoming food insecure in the future if exposed to a shock.

Additional resources

ECHO, Humanitarian Food Assistance Glossary
ACF-USA, Position Paper on US Gov Food Assistance Reform
Action Against Hunger, Maximising the Nutritional Impact of Food Security and Livelihoods Interventions: A Manual For Field Workers
Action Against Hunger, Glossary
CaLP, Glossary
CaLP, Library
Humanitarian Policy Group, Food aid and food assistance in emergency and transitional contexts – Synthesis Paper
Livelihood Resource Centre, Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets
Oxfam – Humanitarian policy notes: Food aid, Policy Compendium Note on Food Aid

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