Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Establishing a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system


Establishing a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system
Etablissement d'un système d'information et de cartographie sur l'insécurité et la vulnérabilité alimentaires
Establecimiento de un sistema de información y cartografía sobre la inseguridad y la vulnerabilidad alimentarias

E. Boutrif
Ezzeddine Boutrif is Senior Officer in the FAO Food and Nutrition Division.

At the World Food Summit, held in Rome in November 1996, heads of State and government made the solemn commitment "to enable food insecure households, families and individuals to meet their food and nutritional requirements and to seek to assist those who are unable to do so" (FAO, 1997). As part of the Plan of Action to achieve this objective, governments and other members of civil society were asked to: "Develop and periodically update, where necessary, a national food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system, indicating areas and populations, including at local level, affected by or at-risk of hunger and malnutrition, and elements contributing to food insecurity, making maximum use of existing data and other information systems in order to avoid duplication of efforts" (FAO, 1997).

FAO was requested to play a catalytic part in this effort. As a first step towards the development of a Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS), FAO convened a technical consultation to establish ways and means of developing FIVIMS in a coordinated manner. The consultation was held on 24 and 25 March 1997 with the participation of representatives of nine agencies (FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD], the United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF], the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], the World Bank, the World Health Organization [WHO], the World Food Programme [WFP], the United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] and the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP]); five national institutions (the United States Agency for International Development [USAID], the German Agency for Technical Cooperation [GTZ], the Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA], France's National Institute for Agricultural Research [INRA] and the United Kingdom's Institute of Development Studies [IDS]); two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Save the Children Fund - United Kingdom and Helen Keller International); and 15 individual experts. The participants discussed three areas of work: assessment of chronic hunger and malnutrition; assessment of chronic and structural vulnerability; and assessment of current and acute vulnerability for improved relief operations. The outcome of the meeting is summarized here.

ASSESSMENT OF CHRONIC HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION

Food balance sheets

Participants agreed that the FAO food balance sheets approach is useful in the assessment of the extent of chronic undernutrition based on per caput food availability and distribution, and that it has no current substitute. However, these data have deficiencies and should be calibrated and verified through the use of more direct information on food availability and consumption.

Indicators such as per caput daily energy, protein and fat supply and consumption, the proportion and number of persons with inadequate food and relative inadequacy of food supply were recognized to be nested components of a single indicator, i.e. food availability. The experts felt that the reference to food inadequacy in this context could be misleading, as inadequate nutrition could imply overnutrition as well as undernutrition. The term "food insufficiency" seemed preferable.

Because of the inadequate coverage of non-cereal food crops (such as roots and tubers) in production statistics, the food balance sheets approach consistently tends to underestimate per caput food availability at the national level, especially in African countries. While this bias may not affect the trends, there may be consequences for estimating absolute levels of food inadequacy.

Subnational and local data

In the case of many large countries such as China, India and Brazil, there is a need for information at subnational levels. However, the cost and difficulty of obtaining disaggregated data were acknowledged. It would be desirable to have more information on local and particularly subnational levels of food stocks and trade, wages and labour market conditions.

Household information

The experts suggested that increased use be made of national household surveys that include actual distribution data related to income, expenditure and consumption. This information can be useful in making country-level estimates of food availability and determining the prevalence of food insufficiency. The participants also felt that qualitative perceptions of food insecurity and vulnerability should be taken into consideration; this recommendation would seem to be more appropriate in reference to household perceptions of medium-term insecurity rather than immediate perceptions of acute hunger.

Anthropometry

The consultation agreed that anthropometric indicators (underweight, wasting, stunting) should be used and that more attention should be given to comparison of age groups over time and across countries. The inclusion of mid-upper-arm circumference was recommended as an additional desirable indicator of undernutrition.

More attention should be given to mild and moderate malnutrition as well as severe malnutrition. If early child death is a problem of food insecurity, then mild to moderate malnutrition must be taken into consideration. To support this point, experts argued that two-thirds of child deaths were associated with non-clinically malnourished children.

The consultation strongly recommended the inclusion of adult conditions in the assessment. It agreed that although body mass index (BMI) and its calibration were under debate, BMI should be used until further development.

Micronutrients

The consultation observed that there was a need for additional information on the difference between and overlap of micronutrient deficiencies and chronic undernutrition. The existing measurements and indicators of micronutrient deficiencies are valuable, although greater attention needs to be given to indicators at the subnational level. It was suggested that the link between consumption of animal products and reduced micronutrient deficiencies be explored to determine whether the consumption of animal products could be used as a proxy measure for certain micronutrient deficiencies in some countries and for some populations with specific dietary habits.

ASSESSMENT OF CHRONIC AND STRUCTURAL VULNERABILITY

The factors that dictate vulnerability will undoubtedly vary among and even within countries, and the availability of data for any indicator or set of indicators will also vary from place to place and through time. Thus it is unlikely that a single set of indicators could be developed that would be applicable across all countries at all times. Therefore the experts focused on the definition of clusters or classes of indicators which could be further elaborated to cover all situations, depending on the location or livelihood system being considered and the limitations of data.

The consultation recommended consideration of five basic classes of indicators:

· income and its sources,
· food production,
· food price,
· income distribution,
· impoverishment.

ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT AND ACUTE VULNERABILITY FOR IMPROVED RELIEF OPERATIONS

Existing methodologies for vulnerability assessment are based on a similar understanding of household organization and behaviour and of the factors that determine food security (FAO, 1996). In the experts' view, the "expert systems" and "indicator" approaches are complementary and there are strong methodological arguments for combining the two approaches.

The expert systems approach, as used in vulnerability assessment, uses explicit models of household food access and of household and market response. These models are often based on inputs from key informants which provide an understanding of households and their livelihood systems. The models can then be subjected to perturbations to determine household and market responses in times of stress.

In the indicator approach, conditions at the household level are inferred from data that have been collected for a broader area and for which a time series is available for the establishment of average conditions and general trends (i.e. subnational statistics). These data are interpreted against a conceptual model that describes household response to both economic and physical variations in order to develop a general picture of chronic and/or baseline vulnerability as well as current vulnerability conditions.

Vulnerability assessments derived from the various methodologies should be validated, using criteria developed jointly with governments and donors, as they will be important users of the assessments.

DATA SHARING

FIVIMS will make use of a number of data-gathering systems that already exist. The sharing of information and data among partners is imperative in view of the high cost of data collection and to avoid duplication of efforts. For example, FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) uses information derived from Save the Children Fund - United Kingdom, USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) and WFP.

FUTURE PLANS

The development and establishment of FIVIMS on a worldwide basis will require time, energy and resources, and actions are being taken to initiate the process. The main responsibility for establishing FIVIMS lies with governments. Much of FIVIMS work will focus on strengthening and establishing national food security units, particularly in the countries that are most vulnerable and least likely to be in a position to sustain such operations without appropriate assistance.

FIVIMS will first use currently available information or data collection systems and will seek the expansion of their geographical coverage both within countries and at global level.

Information on food insecurity and vulnerability at the country level constitutes the basis for the development of FIVIMS. The development of FIVIMS at the national and subnational levels would require prior consultation among the local institutions to define the system to be established, the structure of inputs, the institutions involved and the capacity-building needs.

The development of FIVIMS at the international level will be the responsibility of the concerned United Nations agencies in cooperation with other international institutions and NGOs. The partners will have to agree on a well-defined, simple set of national indicators for which all countries will need to provide data for the international database. The information generated by FIVIMS will be disseminated through a set of databases managed by different organizations, using the same agreed standards. Such databases must be accessible to all partners and could be combined to give a full assessment of the food insecurity and vulnerability situation.

REFERENCES

FAO. 1996. Second informal meeting on methodology for vulnerability assessment. Summary report. Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture. 9-10 December 1996. Rome.

FAO. 1997. World Food Summit Plan of Action. In Report of the World Food Summit, Part one. Rome.

Establishing a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system

Summary

To enable food-insecure households to meet their food and nutrition requirements, governments participating in the World Food Summit, held in Rome in 1996, were asked to develop food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping systems (FIVIMS) at the national level. These systems will indicate the areas and populations affected by or at risk of hunger and malnutrition and the elements contributing to food insecurity. The World Food Summit Plan of Action encouraged United Nations agencies to initiate FIVIMS on a worldwide basis, and FAO will have a catalytic role in this effort.

As a first step, a technical consultation was held in March 1997 to discuss how FIVIMS should be developed. Participants from international agencies, bilateral organizations and non-governmental organizations and independent experts discussed ways to assess chronic hunger and malnutrition and structural vulnerability. They reviewed the kinds of information that will be essential for developing FIVIMS.

Food balance sheets are useful for assessing the extent of chronic undernutrition based on per caput food availability and distribution. More direct information on food availability and consumption is also needed. Information about food stocks, trade, wages and labour market conditions at the local and subnational levels is also required. National household surveys with distribution data related to income, expenditures and consumption can be useful, as can qualitative information about perceptions of food insecurity and vulnerability.

It was agreed that anthropometric indicators should be used and that comparison should be made among age groups over time and across countries. Attention must be given to mild and moderate malnutrition - often associated with child deaths - as well as severe malnutrition. Adult conditions should be assessed by using the body mass index (BMI).

The factors leading to vulnerability can differ among and even within countries, and the availability of data also varies. Thus, development of a single set of indicators that applies across all countries at all times seems unlikely. Five basic classes of indicators were recommended: income and its sources, food production, food prices, income distribution and impoverishment.

FIVIMS will use existing data-gathering systems and sharing of information among partners to reduce costs and avoid duplication of efforts. Much of FIVIMS work will focus on strengthening and establishing national food security units, particularly in countries that are most vulnerable and least likely to be in a position to sustain such operations without assistance.

Etablissement d'un système d'information et de cartographie sur l'insécurité et la vulnérabilité alimentaires

Résumé

Pour permettre aux ménages en situation d'insécurité alimentaire de couvrir leurs besoins alimentaires et nutritionnels, les gouvernements participant au Sommet mondial de l'alimentation, tenu à Rome en 1996, ont été invités à mettre au point des systèmes nationaux d'information et de cartographie sur l'insécurité et la vulnérabilité alimentaires (SICIVA). De tels systèmes indiqueront les zones et les populations victimes ou à risque de famine et de malnutrition, ainsi que les facteurs qui contribuent à l'insécurité alimentaire. Le Plan d'action du Sommet mondial de l'alimentation a encouragé les institutions des Nations Unies à instaurer le SICIVA, initiative pour laquelle la FAO sera appelée à jouer un rôle catalyseur.

La première étape a été l'organisation en mars 1997 d'une consultation technique en vue de définir les modalités d'élaboration du SICIVA. Les représentants d'institutions internationales, d'organisations bilatérales et d'organisations non gouvernementales, ainsi que des experts indépendants, se sont penchés sur la façon de procéder pour établir un diagnostic de la faim et de la malnutrition chroniques, et de la vulnérabilité structurelle. Ils ont fait le point des informations qui seront essentielles aux fins de l'élaboration du SICIVA.

Les bilans alimentaires sont utiles pour mesurer le degré de dénutrition chronique sur la base des disponibilités alimentaires par habitant et de leur distribution. Des informations plus directes concernant les disponibilités alimentaires et la consommation sont également nécessaires. Il faudra, par ailleurs, des informations sur les stocks et le commerce des denrées alimentaires, sur les salaires et la situation du marché du travail aux niveaux local et infranational. Des enquêtes nationales sur les ménages, avec des données concernant la répartition du revenu, des dépenses et de la consommation, peuvent s'avérer utiles, tout comme des informations qualitatives sur la perception de l'insécurité et de la vulnérabilité alimentaires.

Il a été convenu d'utiliser des indicateurs anthropométriques et de procéder à des comparaisons entre groupes d'âge dans le temps et à travers les pays. Il s'agira de prêter attention aussi bien à la malnutrition modérée - souvent associée à la mortalité infantile - qu'à la malnutrition avancée. L'indice de masse corporelle (IMC) permettra d'évaluer l'état nutritionnel des adultes.

Les facteurs qui contribuent à la vulnérabilité diffèrent d'un pays à l'autre, voire au sein d'un même pays, tout comme les données disponibles. Aussi l'élaboration d'une unique série d'indicateurs, applicable à tous les pays et à tout moment, paraît-elle peu probable. Cinq catégories fondamentales d'indicateurs ont été recommandées, à savoir: le revenu et ses sources; la production alimentaire; le prix des denrées alimentaires; la répartition du revenu et la paupérisation.

Le SICIVA utilisera les systèmes de collecte de données existants et échangera des informations avec les entités partenaires, afin de réduire les coûts et d'éviter toute duplication d'effort. Le système s'attachera pour l'essentiel à renforcer et à mettre en place des unités nationales de sécurité alimentaire, notamment dans les pays les plus vulnérables et les moins susceptibles de pouvoir réaliser de telles opérations sans aide.

Establecimiento de un sistema de información y cartografía sobre la inseguridad y la vulnerabilidad alimentarias

Resumen

Con el fin de que las familias expuestas a la inseguridad alimentaria puedan cubrir sus necesidades alimentarias y nutricionales, se pidió a los gobiernos participantes en la Cumbre Mundial sobre la Alimentación de 1996 que establecieran sistemas nacionales de información y cartografía sobre la inseguridad y la vulnerabilidad alimentarias. Estos sistemas indicarán las zonas y poblaciones afectadas por el hambre y la malnutrición o expuestas a ellas, y los factores que contribuyen a la inseguridad alimentaria. El Plan de Acción de la Cumbre Mundial sobre la Alimentación alentó a los organismos de las Naciones Unidas a que establecieran un sistema de información y cartografía sobre la inseguridad y la vulnerabilidad alimentarias (SICIVA), esfuerzo en el que la FAO desempeñará una función catalizadora.

Como primera medida, en marzo de 1997 se celebró una consulta técnica para examinar el modo en que debía elaborarse el SICIVA. Representantes de organismos internacionales, organizaciones bilaterales y no gubernamentales y expertos independientes estudiaron medios para evaluar el hambre y la malnutrición crónicas y la vulnerabilidad estructural, y determinaron el tipo de información que será esencial para establecer el SICIVA.

Las hojas de balance de alimentos son útiles para evaluar el grado de desnutrición crónica sobre la base de la disponibilidad per cápita y la distribución de alimentos. También es necesaria más información directa sobre la disponibilidad y consumo de alimentos, así como sobre las existencias y el comercio de alimentos, los sueldos y las condiciones del mercado de trabajo a nivel local y subnacional. Pueden ser útiles encuestas nacionales por hogares con datos sobre distribución de ingresos, gastos y consumo, así como información cualitativa sobre los conceptos de inseguridad y vulnerabilidad alimentarias.

Se convino en que debían utilizarse indicadores antropométricos y realizarse comparaciones entre grupos de edades en diferentes momentos y países. Es necesario prestar atención tanto a la desnutrición leve y moderada, con frecuencia asociada con la mortalidad infantil, como a la malnutrición grave. El estado de los adultos debe evaluarse utilizando el índice de masa corporal.

Los factores que contribuyen a la vulnerabilidad difieren entre los países y dentro de éstos; también varía la disponibilidad de datos. Por consiguiente, no es posible establecer un único conjunto de indicadores que se aplique a todos los países en todo momento. Se recomendaron cinco tipos básicos de indicadores: los ingresos y sus fuentes, la producción de alimentos, los precios de éstos, la distribución de los ingresos y el empobrecimiento.

El SICIVA utilizará los sistemas de recopilación de datos existentes e intercambiará información con otros asociados para reducir costos y evitar la duplicación de esfuerzos. Su labor se centrará sobre todo en el establecimiento y consolidación de dependencias nacionales de seguridad alimentaria, especialmente en los países más vulnerables y con menos probabilidades de poder realizar tales operaciones sin ayuda.


Previous Page Top of Page Next Page