The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing when “people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.
Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA)
Food security includes both physical (i.e. direct) access as well as economic access to food. Food security is a matter of sustainable development of communities; therefore, food security aid has a more long-term focus than more urgent food and nutrition aid in response to emergencies. It is also a matter of the environment, trade and economic development.
Prior to an intervention, agencies often work together, as well as with national governments, to conduct an emergency food security assessment (EFSA) to determine what the nature of the response to a particular situation ought to be. The World Food Programme, which is among the major agencies working on nutrition and food security, conducts EFSAs that can be initial (6 to 10 days after the crisis), rapid (3 to 6 weeks after the crisis) or in-depth (6 to 12 weeks). To conduct this analysis, experts often use advanced technologies such as satellite images and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to determine the following questions:
- Unconditional cash transfers: people are given money as a direct grant with no conditions or work requirements. There is no requirement to repay any money, and people are entitled to use the money however they wish.
- Who is vulnerable to food insecurity?
- How many people are affected?
- Where are they?
- What are the causes of this vulnerability?
- What are some grave risks and how is the situation likely to evolve?
- What should be done to save their lives as well as their livelihoods?
Some of these evaluations can be emergency assessments to determine urgent needs for food aid, whereas others can be market analyses to determine the functioning of the economy and the way that it affects the provision of food to populations. In addition to such assessments, key actions in food security interventions include general and more particularized food distributions, cash transfers (see our factsheet on cash transfer programs for more details), distributions of livelihood assets (such as seeds, tools, and livestock), destocking of livestock in times of drought, the protection of assets (such as providing healthcare for animals that are important for livelihoods, and protecting farms and other properties from floods), and building livelihood capacity (such as farm extensions, providing skills training).
Like several other elements of humanitarian responses, there is a Food Security Cluster, co-led by the World Food Program and the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, to enhance coordination between agencies.