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USAID Office of Food for Peace


Integrating Relief and Development to Accelerate Reductions in Food Insecurity in Shock-Prone Areas

Lawrence Haddad and Tim Frankenberger

Occasional Paper No. 2

June 2003

This document was commissioned by the USAID Office of Food for Peace and published on and
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Executive Summary

For the past decade, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partners throughout the international development community considered food security achieved when:

  1. a wide variety of food was available in local markets or fields (availability);

  2. people had enough money to purchase a variety of foods (access);

  3. food was eaten in an environment that supplied appropriate care, clean water, and good sanitation and health services (utilization); and
  4. the risk of losing these levels of availability, access, and utilization was low.
Too often, however, strategies to reduce food insecurity have been operationalized that considered only the first three components of the food security definition. In emergency or relief interventions, there is an obvious priority on getting food to those with immediate need. The challenge, however, is to address the needs of households that may be food secure today but are using coping strategies that may compromise their food security tomorrow. Emergency and relief actors operate within timeframes and institutional settings that constrain them from considering the long-term impact of emergency interventions on development activities. On the other hand, development actors do not always consider the ability of households to manage future risk, especially in shock-prone areas.

The perspective that both emergency and development actors are missing is vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined here as the ability to manage risk. Vulnerability can be lessened by 1) reducing exposure to risks from shocks that affect many (e.g., drought) or shocks that affect individuals, households, or communities (e.g., the death of the household head); 2) increasing the ability to manage such risks; or 3) both. This paper concludes that the food assistance community can and should do the following:

  • Develop a new conceptual framework to integrate relief and development interventions to accelerate reductions in food insecurity. Vulnerability concepts should be at the core of this framework. In addition, the framework should be flexible enough to allow adaptation to different contexts such as urban areas and areas heavily affected by HIV/AIDS.

  • Play a more active role in the broader development and poverty debate. Safety net transfers are not just residual to the growth process—they should be an integral part of a growth strategy.

  • Form partnerships with applied research organizations that work in these areas to update the food aid community on concepts such as vulnerability, targeting, livelihoods, governance, rights, and social capital. Research organizations will also benefit from the operational experiences of development organizations.

  • Support rigorous evaluations of key programming issues.

  • Contribute to improving and widely disseminating good data on global food insecurity levels and changes over time.

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