This session explains when and with whom DG ECHO intervenes in the field of Food Assistance.
It gives an overview of the EU’s Food Assistance instruments, describes the entry and exit criteria, how does the Commission prioritise interventions, which are the main Partnerships established.
As a final point, it gives a snapshot of the ineligible interventions and the possible exceptions.
In which cases can the Commission intervene in a food crisis with its humanitarian instruments?
We can distinguish two different entry criteria.
The Commission can use its humanitarian food assistance instrument, when, due to insufficient food consumption, emergency or excessive rates of mortality or acute malnutrition have been reached or are likely to be reached in a predictable future. The Commission defines an emergency based on a combination of absolute thresholds (e.g. the one used by the Sphere standards and incorporated within the Integrated food security Phase Classification (IPC) and also the relative indicators set against a contextual norm.
For instance, emergency rates refers to an absolute threshold as recognised by international standards, such as Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates of target population above 15% or 10% in presence of aggravating factors like high food insecurity. But it also takes into account local context. For instance, a country that normally has 3% GAM but suddenly finds itself at 12% with an observed critical deterioration in the food security is considered as being in an emergency situation.
The second element that can trigger a humanitarian food assistance intervention entails compromised livelihoods or extreme coping strategies that pose, or are expected to pose, a severe threat to life, or a risk of extreme suffering, whether arising from, or leading to, inadequate food consumption. Extreme coping strategies can include distress migration, resorting to unsafe or insecure survival practices such as prostitution or significant sale of productive assets.
What are the main criteria taken into consideration, when you have to decide whether intervene or not in a specific context?
The decision to fund interventions will be based on many different criteria. The main ones are:
– severity and magnitude of the crisis;
– the anticipated future severity (negative trend);
– the funding gap and the presence of other donors and/or partners and their respective comparative advantages;
– the commitment and response capacity of local authorities;
– the extent to which the core principles of humanitarian food assistance are respected.
Let us now clarify these aspects. When we talk about magnitude, we refer to absolute terms, namely the number of people affected. The most objective framework for classifying food insecurity is the Integrated Phase Classification of Food Security (IPC), developed by the FAO and other partners of ECHO and with ECHO's contribution. It is used to classify the severity of food insecurity, using a common classification scale composed of internationally accepted thresholds. It summarises a great deal of information, and triangulates it to determine one of five Food Security Phases. At the extreme end of the spectrum a geographical zone classified with an IPC phase 5, is defined as a famine and having among other indicators a GAM above 30%. Less severe phases (such as ‘emergency’ or ‘crisis’) have different thresholds. Both severity and magnitude have to be considered against the unmet food needs within the crisis, based on indicators of food consumption, availability of and access to nutritious food, coping strategies, and malnutrition rates. Anticipated future severity has to be calculated on established indicators that are expected to become critical within a timeframe appropriate to the Commission’s humanitarian’s remit. Finally, humanitarian food assistance principles including humanitarian access and the ability to monitor the delivery of food assistance must be respected.
What happens if the criteria are met but the specific context requires a long-term intervention?
The Commission recognises that, in protracted crises, its humanitarian entry criteria may legitimise a sustained humanitarian engagement over several years. In such circumstances, the limitations of the Commission’s necessarily short-cycle humanitarian planning and programming cycles are acknowledged, and should be factored into any analysis of its comparative advantage, for the context, compared to other instruments or sources of funding. Even where its instruments prohibit the provision of multi-annual funding predictability, the Commission will encourage and accommodate partners’ multi-annual strategies and planning horizons in protracted crises.
How does DG ECHO decide to disengage from a specific crisis?
This is indeed a key point.
It is strongly advisable for DG ECHO and its partners to have a defined and realistic exit-strategy in place wherever possible, possibly before delivering humanitarian food assistance.
DG ECHO will consider exiting or phasing out its humanitarian food assistance interventions when indicators of acute malnutrition, mortality and extreme coping strategies, are, or are expected to become stable and below emergency levels. This should result from the majority of the crisis-affected population achieving, for a sustained period and for the predictable future, improvements in food consumption and food utilisation, without resorting to detrimental coping strategies, and independently of any Commission humanitarian support. This could also imply that persisting needs continue to be met either by other humanitarian donors, or by development or state actors.
For situations deemed to be fragile with persistent humanitarian risk, the Commission will ensure that it can monitor the humanitarian situation after its exit, and will keep all options open for re-engagement if needed.
Can DG ECHO intervene with its humanitarian food assistance in all types of food insecurity contexts?
The Commission will not use humanitarian food assistance to address chronic food insecurity, except:
– where non-intervention poses immediate or imminent humanitarian risk of significant scale and severity;
– where other more appropriate actors are either unable or unwilling to act, and cannot be persuaded to act; and
– where, in spite of its comparative disadvantages, positive impact can be expected within the time limitations of its intervention.
In such cases, the Commission will only engage humanitarian food assistance on the basis of dialogue, coordination and advocacy with potential development players, where they exist, and with a clear and realistic exit-strategy defined.
Other EU funds addressing Food Insecurity
The EU has various non-humanitarian instruments and programmes addressing food security needs in developing countries. Among them Development and Trust Funds. To know more about them, please click here.