This section starts with an historical overview of DG ECHO humanitarian food assistance, until the elaboration of the key policy documents. It then provides an indication of the main contents of these documents, including a presentation of the conceptual framework, the objectives and the principles of humanitarian food assistance.
What does evidence-based intervention really mean?
As explained in the Communication on Humanitarian Food Assistance, the choice of the most appropriate intervention and transfer modality must be a context-specific and evidence-based choice which is regularly reviewed. The relevance and comparative advantage of the proposed response option – and the combination of tools to be used – must be demonstrated for the specific situation, based on needs assessments and causal analyses that are as accurate and up to date as possible, according to the urgency and complexity of the situation on the ground.
What does ECHO mean by a needs-based approach?
ECHO is a needs-based donor, meaning that all the funds are allocated basing on the evaluation of needs of the affected population. Humanitarian aid intervention aims to provide needs-based emergency response to preserve life, prevent and alleviate human suffering and maintain human dignity.
To implement its policy of assisting people with the greatest humanitarian needs and to define its priorities according to the humanitarian principles, ECHO identifies its beneficiaries using a twofold approach:
The first phase is a global evaluation with two dimensions:
– The Index for Risk Management (INFORM)
– The Forgotten Crisis Assessment (FCA)
The second phase of the framework focuses on context and response analysis with an Integrated Analysis Framework (IAF) conducted by DG ECHO’s experts in the field.
See this link to find more on this two-phase framework.
This framework provides the evidence base for prioritisation of needs, funding allocation, and development of humanitarian implementation plans (HIPs).
With limited resources and a broad potential scope of work, the Commission prioritises EU humanitarian food assistance activities and responses first and foremost to immediate life saving during emergencies and their aftermaths.
The humanitarian food assistance interventions will be prioritised according to:
Severity is related to the depth of food insecurity. Severity is considered against internationally recognised key outcome indicators, such as Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), Crude Mortality Rate (CMR), food consumption indicators, which are all embedded in the analytical framework of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), that ECHO uses to classify severity. Magnitude is about the number of people affected by the crisis and who are in need of assistance, though it can also consider the proportion of people affected in some contexts. This is an important criterion that influences the priority and scale of the intervention, and is based on a calculation of the cost of meeting the needs (determined in turn by the severity and magnitude of the crisis). Unmet needs are simply the gap in requirements: that which is not being met already by the national/ local authorities of the country concerned, or international sources. The absorption capacity of agencies on the ground, and the relative accessibility of target populations are also considered alongside unmet needs. How recently has the crises occurred or will occur? ECHO responds to the crisis of tomorrow before the crisis of next year, particularly in the case of high severity and magnitude.Interventions have to consider the potential to address the needs effectively, the comparative advantage of the EU’s humanitarian instruments for responding, the risk of doing harm and the comparative cost-effectiveness of the response chosen compared to other response options.
However, resource allocation must also be influenced by the expectation that the EU demonstrate solidarity on a global basis, share the burden of urgent unmet humanitarian needs in most crises, and particularly respond to forgotten crises.
FLEXILITY AND COST-EFFECTIVENESS
The EU and its Member States will support humanitarian food assistance operations with flexible resources so as to deliver the most appropriate and effective response in a specific context. The design of any response should compare alternative activities and tools on the basis of their cost effectiveness for meeting the defined needs. When food aid is deemed to be the most appropriate tool, local purchase (i.e. purchase in the country of operation) or, secondarily, regional food purchases (i.e. procuring from neighbouring countries) are favoured, so as to maximise acceptability of food products, protect or support local markets, and reduce transportation costs and delivery timeframes.
ECHO promotes the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of aid to ensure that EU-funded humanitarian aid actions are implemented in the most appropriate, rapid, efficient and effective manner, and that they attain their set results. Specifically, EU humanitarian food assistance should be results-based, measuring outcomes and impact across its operations (as well as from the practice of other players, and from relevant research) and using it to inform the design of subsequent humanitarian food assistance interventions.
Results-based means that the focus shifts from the financing of inputs to the financing of realistic results/ outcomes and from the analytical control of inputs to the assessment of the results achieved.
CAN BE MONITORED
In pursuit of transparency, accountability and effectiveness, the Commission will strive to ensure that all humanitarian food assistance actions are designed around targets and outcome indicators that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Such indicators will be routinely monitored and should form the basis of systematic reporting by the partner, as well as any internal or external evaluation of the operation.
Where available, nutritional information and data should be monitored and reviewed within all food assistance operations. Where operations specifically seek to address malnutrition, nutritional outcome-indicators will be fully incorporated into the project cycle and log-frame.
Result-oriented monitoring, evaluation and reporting exercises will be analysed by the Commission and its partners, alongside more qualitative narrative reporting, not only to appraise the performance and outcome of a given intervention, but also to learn lessons which will be fed into the design, programming decisions and implementation of future operations.
DO NO HARM
The EU and its Member States will ensure that human dignity is respected in the provision of humanitarian food assistance. They will seek the involvement of beneficiary communities in identifying needs, and designing and implementing responses. They will ensure that the special needs of vulnerable groups within their beneficiary caseloads (e.g. disabled, elderly, chronically ill) be factored into the design of humanitarian food assistance responses.
To this end it is necessary to incorporate:
The humanitarian organisation will recognise the different needs, capacities and roles of women, girls, boys and men, the EU and its Member States will systematically seek to mainstream gender considerations within humanitarian food-needs assessments, in the design of humanitarian food assistance responses, and in analysing their impact.
For example, in need assessments humanitarian organisations should will ensure that sufficient women are interviewed. In the designing of responses, it must be taken into account women’s dual productive and child-caring roles, or the intra-household control of cash resources. Finally, it is essential in the analysis phase at the beginning and at the end of the intervention to disaggregate beneficiaries’ data by gender. Protection considerations need to be purposely integrated into situation and response analysis, programme design and implementation of humanitarian food assistance. Humanitarian protection refers to activities aimed at reducing the risk, and mitigating the impact, of violence, coercion, deprivation and abuse in the context of humanitarian crises. Food Assistance interventions must ensure that actions, at a minimum, do not undermine protection
Ref. Thematic policy document on Humanitarian Protection.
Complementary response options may also include support to responsive and remedial humanitarian protection actions, where protection concerns may trigger, or arise from, acute food insecurity (for instance, ensuring safe passage to agricultural fields outside refugee camps, or safeguarding against abuse and exploitation at distribution points).
Ref. Thematic policy document on Humanitarian Food Assistance. The EU and its Member States will incorporate nutritional perspectives in all needs assessments, monitoring and reporting, and will pay particular attention to the specific nutritional needs of defined vulnerable groups affected by the crisis (including children under-two and pregnant and lactating women).
The Commission and its partners will specifically prioritise the integration of nutritional and livelihoods perspectives, into their emergency food needs analyses and into the design of their humanitarian food assistance responses.
For example by performing an analysis of the nutritional status of the affected population, focusing where possible on acute malnutrition, and supported by recent and relevant nutritional data, where available, or consideration of the trends of malnutrition. It is important to remember that preventing high rates of acute malnutrition is one of the key aims of EU humanitarian food assistance. See more.
LINKING RELIEF, REHABILITATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Transition and LRRD are crucial to build better coherence and complementarity between humanitarian and development contexts, to prevent gaps or duplication in assistance, to ensure continuity and comprehensiveness and to promote sustainability. For DG ECHO it is desirable to maximise sustainability, therefore whenever possible, Humanitarian Food Assistance and developmental food security should be jointly designed and implemented in such a way that together they:
– ensure optimal coverage of needs;
– maximize sustainability;
– tackle humanitarian symptoms and structural root causes of food-insecurity.
LRRD should be pursued to the end of ensuring optimal impact for shared beneficiaries, and not solely to provide humanitarian actors with a handover / exit strategy. Accordingly, LRRD should be undertaken through effective cooperation between the humanitarian and development actors, including national authorities and other donors, and not just internally between Commission services.
More recently, the concept of building resilience has been included across sectors, but particularly in the food security and DRR sectors. This implies that humanitarian and development assistance should be more closely aligned to ensure that both humanitarian needs are met alongside efforts to address underlying causes, and thereby reduce the future need for humanitarian action. The EU has developed a Communication on this: The EU Approach to Resilience: Learning from Food Security Crises (October 2012).