The INFORM Severity Index is a composite indicator designed to measure the severity of humanitarian crises globally, against a common scale. It aggregates data from various sources to categorise all crises into five levels of severity.

A full description of the methodology is published and agreed by INFORM partners. The methodology is completely open and all the underlying data, metadata and calculations are publicly available.


INFORM Severity Methodology
(3.9 MB - PDF)

Analytical framework

The term ‘analytical framework’ describes the way the INFORM Severity Index is constructed in a conceptual sense. The analytical framework is constructed through an iterative process with INFORM Partners and other experts to define concepts, select the components and identify indicators. Of course any analytical framework is a simplified and subjective view of reality.
The analytical framework is a hierarchical structure, which - at its highest level - describes the overall severity of a humanitarian crisis at a specific point in time. At the next level, it includes three dimensions that describe:
  1. The impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, human and physical effects;
  2. The conditions and status of the people affected, including information about the distribution of severity (i.e. the number of people in each category of severity within a crisis);
  3. The complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.
Each dimension is further broken down into categories and components, which are chosen to capture the concept of the dimension and are created from one or more indicators.
INFORM Methodology - Hazard Exposure

Calculating the level of severity

The three dimensions of the INFORM Severity Index are in a mutually consequential relationship. The impact of an event generates different conditions for affected people, in a context that can make it more or less complex to provide assistance to them. This is represented by the formula:

Severity = Impact x Conditions of Affected People + Complexity

A weighting is applied at the dimension level as follows. The overall severity is therefore most sensitive to the conditions of affected people.
INFORM Methodology - Hazard Exposure
The dimension values are generated by aggregation of indicators into components, components into categories and categories into dimensions (i.e. from the lowest to highest levels of the analytical framework). A number of aggregation methods (min, max, geometric mean, arithmetic mean) are used.

Criteria for inclusion of crises in the Index

A crisis is included in the INFORM Severity Index when BOTH of the following criteria - which apply to all types of crisis - are met:
The number of people affected is at least 30,000 OR at least 1% of the population of the country
The number of people in need is at least 10,000 people
Some crises may be included in the results but the final severity value is not calculated due to lack of data for parts of the Index. The severity value is only calculated when all three dimensions are present.
A crisis phases out of the Index when no updates have been made to the monitored sources for 3 months.

Data sources, data collection and updates

The INFORM Severity Index aggregates information from a range of credible, publicly available sources, such as UN agencies, governments and other multilateral organisations. The country’s Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) is used if one is available and other sector-specific sources are monitored. The results spreadsheet contains metadata, showing the sources and dates of all included figures, as well as key assessments or judgements made in their inclusion.
Human analysts (at ACAPS) monitor sources of information for each crisis on an ongoing basis. This includes:
  • Changes in the humanitarian situation
  • New data/information about humanitarian situation available
  • Contextual, economic, or political information that affects the humanitarian situation
  • Uncertainty/ambiguity about an event or piece of information
  • Significant information gaps
Latest information is included in the Index at the end of each month. There is no defined update cycle for the indicators. This largely depends on the availability of new data about the actual humanitarian situation, which can vary according to the availability of resources to conduct assessments, the assessment cycle and access to affected people. Indicators are updated as soon as more up-to-date or more reliable information is available. Each monthly release therefore represents a snapshot of the most up-to-date and reliable information about the crisis at that moment.