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Essential Needs Guidelines

Essential Needs Analysis & Programming, June 2021

The analysis of essential needs, how people meet them and where there are gaps or constraints to meeting them enriches insight into food insecurity, its drivers and how it is connected with meeting other needs. A thorough understanding of essential needs helps in the design of effective food security responses.

The essential needs workstream is a collaboration between WFP's Research Assessment and Monitoring (RAM) and Cash-Based Transfer (CBT) divisions. Based on best practices by WFP and partners, an integrated analytical package has been prepared to provide guidance on how to analyse essential needs. This package builds on existing guidance and research together with practical experience and lessons learned. It is designed to provide analytical results that can be used to inform strategic and operational decision making and programme design. 

As analysing, understanding and assisting people in meeting their essential needs is by definition not a single-agency undertaking, the package developed by WFP is intended as an analytical starting point for interagency collaboration. It offers data-driven approaches and quantitative indicators but also allows for analytical flexibility, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, qualitative inquiry and contextual adaptation.

The WFP essential needs analysis package consists of three guidance notes: 

  • essential needs assessment
  • minimum expenditure baskets
  • supply analysis

and is complemented by online learning resource, case studies and several operational guidance notes. Assessment examples are available on the Reports Explorer of the WFP VAM dataviz (selecting the ENA theme). Technical documentation such as survey modules are available on the VAM resource centre.

For support on essential needs analysis and programming, reach out to and