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New food security tool first for the region

Wheat field.
(Train4dev)

Zimbabwe will be the first country in Southern Africa to adopt a new food security analysis tool, developed in Somalia in 2004.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Framework (IPC) categorises the severity of a situation using a five-phase scale ranging from "generally food secure" to "famine/humanitarian catastrophe", based on comprehensive data on the impact of a crisis on food security and nutrition. The Food Security Analysis Unit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Somalia developed the tool.

FAO's Luca Alinovi told IRIN that during the training process in Zimbabwe, an IPC prototype analysis using real data from four Zimbabwean districts was produced. "We hope to have a map with the analysis ready by August, and the tool is expected to be adopted by the country sometime later this year, pending government validation of the first results."

The tool allows different agencies and stakeholders to use a common set of definitions and standards - a 'common currency' - for classifying the severity of diverse crisis scenarios and their impact on human lives and livelihoods, making it easier for aid agencies to compare disasters in other parts of the world and plan and prioritise their response accordingly.

A new report by leading aid analysts at the Boston-based, Tufts University in the US described the IPC as "the best means the food security community now has to address the issue of impartial allocation of resources".

The authors, Daniel Maxwell, Patrick Webb, Jennifer Coates and James Wirth, highlighted the need for the humanitarian community to respond to crises impartially, but said a well-balanced assessment "requires the capacity to make comparisons across very different contexts so as to be able to allocate resources according to real comparisons of need," which made the IPC very effective.

One-third of Zimbabwe's population, or about four million people, are receiving food aid in a country struggling with succesive years of food insecurity brought on by drought, a declining economy, and a mismanaged land reform programme.

FAO's Kisan Gunjal, who will lead the FAO/WFP joint Crop and Food supply assessment mission in Zimbabwe later this month, said: "The IPC could prove to be extremely useful to Zim VAC [Vulnerability Assessment Committee] to help identify the critical areas, the likely estimates of vulnerable populations and the time-frame when food is expected to run out, and the degree of vulnerability, which will help government agencies take action in time."

Work on the IPC, which is being rolled out in East and Central Africa, has begun in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and North and South Sudan.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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