Needs assessment

This section provides a snapshot of the main requirements in needs assessments when operating in the Food Assistance sector, and of the main tools available for a Food Assistance-related situation analysis.

Needs’ assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs.
The Commission does its own needs assessment in order to decide how to allocate its humanitarian budget, while Partners have to provide action-related information in section 3 of the Single Form.

Main purpose: define/describe characteristics of the population to understand underlying causes of poverty and vulnerability.
Type of information/question addressed: What is the nature and extent of poverty? What are the basic livelihood systems? What hazards may impact on these systems and what is the likelihood of their occurrence? - especially natural hazards, but social, economic and environmental as well. Who are the most vulnerable groups and why? What capacities and coping/risk reduction strategies exist to mitigate their vulnerability status?

Main purpose: monitor and identify unusual deviatoins from normal situations providing timely warning of potential problems.
Type of information/question addressed: Monitoring (usually seasonal). Indicator and trend analysis; identification of unusual trends. Where and how quickly is problem developing? What are the geographic dimensions of the problem? Where should in-dept assessments be conducted?

Main purpose: if early warning identifies existing or developing problem, then refine and focus information.
Type of information/question addressed: More specific targeting of most vulnerable groups. More specific definition of nature and dimensions of the problem. What and how much is needed where? What is the most appropriate response?

Main purpose: is the intervention or programme achieving the desired results?
Type of information/question addressed: Tracking inputs and outputs. What adjustements are necessary? What strategies exist for exit or transition into longer-term (e.g. linkage with development programmes/policies)? How to improve overall programme (information, preparedness, response - feedback process)?

Internally, the Commission’s decisions on the allocation of humanitarian funds will take full account of internal analyses (including field assessments carried out by its own staff, and the DG ECHO Global Needs Assessment) and assessments carried out by partners and other relevant response agencies. An annual Food-Insecurity Needs Assessment exercise is conducted by the Commission in all priority countries suffering, or at risk of, significant food crises, and will contribute to strategic planning, programming and resource allocation.

The Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF) is a tool used internally by ECHO to analyse and compare humanitarian needs at country and regional level.
The IAF is feed by the INDEX FOR RISK MANAGEMENT (INFORM). INFORM is a tool to measure the risk of humanitarian crises and disasters. INFORM can help identify where and why a crisis might occur, which means we can reduce the risk, build peoples’ resilience and better prepare for when crises do happen.
The overall INFORM risk index identifies countries at risk from humanitarian crises and disasters that could overwhelm national response capacity. It is made up of three dimensions 1) hazards and exposure, 2) vulnerability and 3) lack of coping capacity.

Within the IAF a dedicated section to HFA and Nutrition is included, in the section 3. This section incorporates the previously called Food Insecurity Needs Assessment Template exercise (FINAT).
The methodology of FINAT used by the Commission contributes to establish the allocation of the budget per country/region. The results of the analysis are factored into the overall allocations so as to ensure coherence and be proportionate to the current level of response.

It is based on two major elements: a situation analysis score, combining the measurement of the severity and magnitude of the crisis, and a composite indicator of the Commission's comparative advantage.
The detailed analysis bases itself on food assistance/nutrition key indicators and risk factors (e.g. food availability, food access, livelihood, nutrition and health data, information on food price developments), as well as the absorption capacity of Partners on the ground.
Funding sources available from other donors are systematically taken into account and the analysis is complemented by information and field reports from country/regional experts.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a set of tools and procedures to classify the nature and severity of food insecurity.
To know more, see topic 21.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) is a tool developed by USAID that provides objective, evidence-based analysis to help government decision-makers and relief agencies plan for and respond to humanitarian crises.
Whenever available information from IPC and FEWSNET are used to feed:
1. section 3 of the IAF (completed by DG ECHO staff);
2. Single Form (completed by the proposing / implementing partner).

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