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Disasters are amongst the main drivers of hunger and malnutrition in the world. Their impacts result in the loss of lives and livelihoods, destruction of homes, damage to productive assets and infrastructure, and reduced availability of food and water. The strategies affected people adopt to cope with disaster impacts – including cutting back on meals, selling livestock and tools and taking children out of school – can have long-lasting effects, trapping them in repetitive cycles of hunger and poverty.

For the World Food Programme (WFP), working to prevent, mitigate and prepare for disasters is an essential part of its mandate to combat hunger in the world. In fact, WFP’s country programmes integrate dedicated actions to address the risks of climate disasters and mitigate their repercussions on food security. However, much more needs to be done considering that the number of disasters, induced by natural hazards, are increasing over time. An extension of this trend, climate-related disasters have arisen, with 334 disaster events per year in 2000-2019 compared to 182 events per year in 1980-1999.

Climate change is expected to affect disaster risks through the possible increase in weather and climate hazards; and, through the increases in vulnerability of communities to natural hazards resulting from ecosystem degradation, reductions in water and food availability, and changes to livelihoods.

WFP’s Policy on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management commits the organization to preventing acute hunger and investing in disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures. Since 2011, this Policy has guided WFP’s action to support the implementation of the international United Nations framework for disaster risk reduction, the Sendai Framework, at global, government and community levels.

WFP supports activities that reduce disaster risk in communities, whilst at the same time improving their food security. These include soil and water conservation, the development of flood protection and drainage infrastructure, the construction of communal ponds and reservoirs, and the terracing of slopes that are prone to erosion and landslides.

Areas of Work

Improve social infrastructure
WFP and its partners are improving communities’ access to social infrastructure and markets as well as constructing water ponds for irrigation and livestock during periods of drought, for example, in Burkina Faso and Sudan. In El Salvador, Food Assistance for Assets programmes contribute to establishing tree nurseries, soil/stone bunds and small dikes, which are essential to prevent erosion and recharge groundwater.
Enhance emergency preparedness
WFP employs emergency preparedness, early warning, and disaster risk financing tools to ensure readiness to respond to disasters and reduce their impact on vulnerable populations. In Zambia, WFP is encouraging conservation agriculture, to reduce soil erosion and degradation; sharing access to tailored climate information to enable better decision-making about what, when and where to plant; and providing access to savings and loans programmes that support farmers to better absorb risks as they arise.
Climate risk insurance as safety nets
WFP is the leading UN agency making climate risk insurance work for food insecure populations. In 2020, 2 million people in eight countries are protected with climate risk insurance products developed and supported by WFP. To date in 2020, through the ‘R4’ Rural Resilience initiative, a WFP-supported microinsurance scheme, WFP is protecting 93,000 farming households in Ethiopia, Senegal and Bangladesh from the risks of irregular rainfall or floods.
Early warning for anticipatory action
WFP supports early warning for enabling early action. In Bangladesh, WFP and partners used robust early warning data to transfer cash to almost 30,000 vulnerable families four days before their livelihoods were affected by the monsoon floods in 2020. Beneficiaries have used these funds to buy food and medicine, fortify homesteads, protect critical assets and transport livestock and vulnerable family members to safe places.