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Food security for refugee populations and uncertainty around future budgets for food aid from the United Nations can only be reconciled with well-targeted food aid that is precise and efficient. Research from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and other institutions have proposed to simultaneously take into account individual data and aggregated data relating to the current resident and that of origin of refugees to identify families facing food insecurity. These results, published in the April issue of Food Security, open new perspectives in food policy.

Fighting against world hunger means to guarantee to vulnerable populations the fundamental right to food that is sufficient, safe and nutritional that satisfies their nutritional needs and their food preferences and that allows them to lead an active and healthy life. While the world currently has 22.5 million refugees, food security for these populations is a major issue and the aid given to them must be directed in priority to homes and families that are the most vulnerable.

Researchers from INRA and their colleagues from other universities studied the methods used by the different agencies of the United Nations that provide aid to refugees. Their goal was to improve the procedures by identifying homes that are the most vulnerable in the most precise and least costly way in order to avoid “leakage” (aid given to families that aren’t really in need) and “under coverage” (families that are vulnerable but aren’t identified as such through current methods). They used the data collected by the UN from Syrian refugees in Lebanon (more than one million individuals) that are receiving aid through the World Food Program to build and explicative model of family vulnerability.

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The researchers showed that simultaneously taking into account individual data and aggregated indicators at the level of districts of residence of families (access to drinkable water and sanitation facilities, access to health care and the level of chronic diseases, etc.) largely improves efficiency and precision in targeting aid provided to vulnerable populations.

Efficiency and precision in aid are higher if we look at poverty more than food insecurity – which is more difficult to measure with high precision. The level of coverage reaches 85% rather than 54%. The model combining individual data and aggregated indicators shows the best overall performance in terms of precision – coverage of vulnerable families is higher and the level of “leakage” is lower, allowing for an overall gain of 9% compared to current practices.

Link to the study (in English)