Emergency and transition programming
- 9 years
- is the average length of a humanitarian emergency
- Over 60%
- of WFP's total spending goes to emergency programming
- 83 million
- people were reached with emergency assistance in 2020, an increase of 36% compared with 2019
Humanitarian work is increasingly multilayered and complex, with a combination of conflict and recurrent climatic events affecting most humanitarian crises. This demand on WFP requires the organization to critically understand the operational contexts of where we operate, and ensure that the voices of those we serve are at the centre of everything we do.
Our Emergencies and Transitions team in Headquarters ensures that WFP country offices have the appropriate policies, guidance, tools and training to launch programmes that meet the needs of those we serve.
WFP operations in emergencies and protracted emergencies are at the core of the organization’s work. In these contexts, access to food and people’s ability to meet their nutrition and other essential needs are often hampered by conflict, gender inequality and exclusion.
A conflict-sensitive approach to programme and operations design and implementation is critical. WFP’s approach supports more evidenced-based and effective programmes, ensuring that its response provides a protective environment for beneficiaries while addressing their unique risks and requirements. We also place a strong emphasis on accountability to the people we serve.
WFP focuses on addressing risks to affected populations and integrating this understanding it into its programming cycle and day-to-day work. This helps our country offices be more people-centred and accountable to people who need our support. We prioritize beneficiary targeting and prioritization, community engagement and feedback systems, and monitoring of how WFP has reduced risks to populations and increased access to food. In addition to partnerships with local organizations and institutions, WFP seeks alliances with organizations that have skills in protection monitoring, conflict analysis and conflict-sensitive programming. Furthermore, partners with skills in access negotiations can support country offices in making more informed choices in how food-assistance programmes are designed and delivered.
Key areas of emergency and transition programming
Accountability to affected populations
WFP is first and foremost accountable to the people we serve, and in order to do this, we must ensure that the decision-making process is meaningful and engaging. This means people receiving appropriate and prompt information, so they can make informed decisions and have access to multiple safe and effective mechanisms to provide feedback. This in turn means that WFP can continuously adapt its programming.
Protection is about preventing all forms of violence against people, groups and communities. The assistance we provide should never create risks for those we serve, but rather contribute to their safety, dignity and integrity. Inclusion is a crucial part of protection – WFP must ensure assistance leaves no one behind, reaches the people who need it most, and is distributed in a way that meets people's different needs.
Conflict and hunger
Conflict is a leading cause of hunger. Most of our interventions occur amid conflicts. Where possible, we work to mitigate these, or at the very least to prevent them from escalating. By employing conflict-sensitive programming, we contribute in small but meaningful ways to peacebuilding at local and national levels. Conflict sensitivity helps ensure that we minimize the negative effects of our programming on existing tensions, do not create new tensions, and maximize the positive effects on social cohesion and peace where appropriate and possible.
Humanitarian principles and access
Humanitarian access is one of the greatest challenges we face. Our ability to deliver effective programming depends on being able to reach people, and their ability to access our services. We often engage in humanitarian negotiation to help ensure access. While negotiations are rarely straightforward, a strong understanding of context, meaningful community engagement and adherence to humanitarian and protection principles are essential to building trust with communities and securing sustainable and safe access.
Programming in urban settings
Over half of the world’s population lives in cities. Rapid, unplanned urbanization—coupled with growing pressure on natural resources—is worsening inequality and food and nutrition insecurity, especially in low and middle-income countries. In these countries, many urban residents struggle to meet high living costs and to afford healthy foods. Conflicts and resulting displacement are also expanding food insecurity into urban areas, including in Syria and Ukraine. In line with the upcoming Strategy for WFP’s Programming in Urban Areas, WFP has been supporting governments in adapting or setting up digital cash delivery mechanisms (like mobile money or banking) and on complementing and expanding national social protection systems to make them more shock-responsive and able to absorb the growing needs. WFP will increasingly focus on resilient food systems, including by promoting rural-urban links across the value chain.
Food insecurity is one of the main drivers of forced displacement, especially when combined with conflict, climate shocks and limited economic opportunities – 82 percent of internally displaced people and 67 percent of refugees and asylum seekers came from countries with food crises in 2021. WFP aims to meet the immediate, humanitarian needs of refugees, internally displaced people and migrants – among many different approaches are food and cash transfers, or the provision of emergency school feeding. At the same time, WFP promotes people’s self-reliance and addresses the root causes of displacement, for example through income-generation and livelihood-creation activities to strengthen resilience and foster social cohesion among refugees and host communities. Working with displaced populations requires strong partnerships at all levels. A key area of collaboration is the UNHCR-WFP Joint Programme Excellence and Targeting Hub. This is active in 11 countries where WFP and UNHCR are focused on enhanced assessments, targeting and programmatic response to displaced populations.