Constraints and Complexities of Information and Analysis in Emergencies
Nigeria has been experiencing a humanitarian crisis in the north-eastern of the country since the mid-2000s, resulting primarily from the Boko Haram conflict and subsequent displacement of the population. To classify the severity of food security crises and famine conditions, the Government of Nigeria and humanitarian actors use the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis, which synthesizes and analyses nutrition, mortality, and food security data to produce reports on current levels of food insecurity. Like, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system, CH aims to inform decision-making and action. However, linkages between data, analysis, and action to declare emergencies and famines is still not well understood.
The Constraints and Complexities of Information and Analysis in Humanitarian Emergencies: Evidence from Nigeria project was launched in September 2017 to better understand the technical and political obstacles of producing an independent food insecurity analysis tool. Partners conducted an in-depth background desk review, a series of key informant interviews, and meetings with key stakeholders.
Nearly all respondents noted that the CH process has improved since its first use in 2015; however, key challenges still exist (see final report). Primary issues surround the lack of financial and human resources to fund and analyze data. Additionally, the data required to conduct the analysis are missing, out of date, unobtainable, or collected in uncoordinated timelines. Moreover, much like other early warning systems, only information on current food security status is collected, making it difficult to understand causal factors and key drivers of insecurity.
Lastly, even though CH is an analysis tool, it has become both an indicator of the overall conflict and an indicator of the need for additional funding. For example, if the results of the analysis do not improve, donors may question the impact of the ongoing response, whereas if the results improve too much, this might lead to an assumption that the crisis has ended. Consequently, CH analysis has faced difficulties obtaining technical consensus and remaining free from political and donor influence. Balancing between these types of pressures can undermine the validity and independence of the analysis.
Reported recommendations for managing and alleviating the existing influences include:
- Ensuring capacity building and training on methodology;
- Improving coordination for data collection and sharing;
- Encouraging participation of scientific, operational, and political stakeholders in design and analysis processes;
- Obtaining an independent assessment of the analysis prior to finalization; and
- Including data from several other sectors and improving contextual analysis.
In addition to the case study conducted in Nigeria, the research team also investigated Integrated Food Security Phase Classification and other early warning systems in South Sudan and Somalia. These comparative case studies will hopefully provide us with an analysis and synthesis of findings of the main obstacles to producing high quality, independent, and operationally informative food insecurity analyses, especially when used for forecasting crises and declaring famines.
Action Against Hunger is currently working to develop new models to anticipate surges in wasting as an alternative method to forecasting food insecurity, leading on the Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition (MERIAM) project. We will continue to engage with key global stakeholders on the outputs of these studies and drive forward some of the key recommendations to address the barriers and challenges faced in conducting food insecurity analyses.