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Across the world, up to 811 million people do not have enough food. According to recent estimates, 45 million people in 43 countries are at risk of sliding into famine – the most extreme form of hunger, which can result in death from starvation or disease. Indeed, parts of  Yemen, South Sudan and Madagascar may be close to or are already in the grip of famine. 

The consequence of diets poor in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are affecting the health and life prospects of millions more, and casting a shadow over the future of communities and entire countries.  

Although enough food is produced to feed everyone on this planet, the goal of a world with zero hunger, as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically in Sustainable Development Goal 2, remains hugely challenging due to a toxic cocktail of conflict, climate change, disasters and structural poverty and inequality. Over the past year, the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated the situation by pushing millions of vulnerable people into greater food insecurity. 

Chief drivers of hunger

Conflict

60 percent of the world’s hungry people live in zones affected by conflict, which is the main driver in 8 out of 10 of the worst hunger crises (as in the case of Yemen, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, for example).

What we are doing

Food and nutrition assistance
Syria, Aleppo. Children join their parents in line, or are sent to collect bread alone before going to school. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

WFP brings life-saving food and nutrition assistance to people trapped or displaced by fighting, wherever they are. With the help of local partners, we reach those in need even in the most remote areas, using all-terrain vehicles and dropping food from planes when all other avenues are closed.

Our assistance can help create pathways to peace, as recognized in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to WFP in 2020.

Prospects for peace
Mitib Ibrahim (L) and Mohammed Jama'a (R) are from different tribes and got to know each other working together on the rehabilitation of an irrigation canal in Ramadi. Photo: WFP/David Orr

Preliminary findings from a joint research study with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute indicated that WFP’s work contributed to improving prospects for peace by enhancing access to contested natural resources, boosting social cohesion and resolving grievances within and between communities, while increasing opportunities and trust between people and government through strengthening state accountability and service delivery. The study focused on El Salvador, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Mali.

Climate change

Climate change-related shocks such as floods or drought affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, aggravating poverty, hunger and social tensions. WFP helps governments and communities to understand these increasing risks and to take targeted measures to manage the impact of climate shocks on food security.

What we are doing

Forecast-based financing
WFP staff explain the registration process to the members of Irosin community who are participating in the forecast-based financing project. Photo: WFP Philippines/Arete

WFP’s Forecast-based Financing uses improved early warning based on weather forecasts, so communities can be alerted to climate-related and other shocks 15 days in advance and provided with insurance to take preparatory measures.

Climate-smart energy solutions
Rwanda. School cook, Felicien Rwatangaro. Photo: WFP/Daniel Kibsgaard

To ensure people can cook and consume food safely, WFP facilitates access to modern cooking solutions – such as gas stoves, mini-gasifiers or electric pressure cookers. WFP also strives to empower smallholder farmers through the sustainable dissemination of energy equipment and services for productive uses to boost agricultural market development.

Disasters

When an earthquake, cyclone, a hurricane or other disaster strikes, WFP is a first responder, bringing food and other life-saving assistance to populations that have lost everything.

What we are doing

Logistics
Logistics Officers check personal protective equipment (PPE) being offloaded at the temperature controlled warehouse in Lologo, Juba. Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo

As the leader of the inter-agency Logistics cluster, WFP provides coordination and information management in the response to large-scale disasters.

Connectivity
Haiti, Port au Prince. Telecommunications mast. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud

WFP leads the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, which provides life-saving connectivity in emergency situations. WFP’s Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team of responders (FITTEST) is ready to deploy anywhere in the world to establish and restore communications and information technology networks.

Geospatial analyses
Geospatial analysis. GIS image.

Targeted geospatial analyses show the immediate impact of natural disasters and allow for a faster response matched to needs. Our Geographic Information Systems tools such as ADAM (Automatic Disaster Analysis & Mapping) provide 24/7 mapping of earthquakes and tropical cyclones.

Inequality

Inequality drives hunger by limiting people's opportunities and increasing levels of hunger. Increasing access to employment, finance and markets, for example, can lift people out of poverty very quickly, increasing their productivity and spending power and stimulating local markets.

What we are doing

Food assistance for assets
Kakhobwe's irrigation scheme, under DFID funded Prosper programme in Malawi. Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets programme involves people working on community projects such as restoring unproductive land, in return for cash or food. The private sector-focused Farm to Market Alliance connects smallholders to markets and helps them diversify their crops and increase their business potential.

Cash transfers
Malawi. WFP distributing cash to urban and rural households affected by climate shocks and economic effects of COVID-19. Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Where markets and financial systems are functioning, WFP provides assistance in cash. Whether in the form of bank notes, vouchers, debit cards, e-money or mobile money, cash transfers allow people to make choices that improve their food security and nutrition, and inject cash into the local economy.

Social safety nets
Local school authorities and WFP distribute Take-Home Rations (THR) among school children and their parents in La Guajira department, Colombia. Photo: WFP/Miller Choles

WFP supports governments in strengthening the social safety nets they have in place to protect their citizens from poverty, inequality and food insecurity. We also work to enhance the ability of these systems to respond to shocks such as disasters or mass population displacements.

Food loss

Poor storage facilities in farms lead to pest infestations and mould ruining crops. Lack of access to technology and markets means many farmers are forced to watch their crops rot in fields as the labour and financial investment required to harvest them is often unavailable.

What we are doing

Zero post-harvest losses
Malawi. Stop the Waste. Storing food in the warehouse. Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

WFP’s Zero Post-Harvest Losses project helps smallholder farmers learn how to use improved post-harvest handling methods, combined with simple but effective hermetic storage equipment to protect crops against insects, rodents, mould and moisture.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed millions more people into food insecurity by disrupting production, trade and livelihoods, putting millions out of work.

What we are doing

Common services
UNHRD Panama is preparing to dispatch consignments of Personal protective equipment (PPE) items for WHO. Photo: WFP/Elio Rujano

WFP set up Common Services – global passenger and cargo movement services – allowing humanitarian staff and food and health supplies to reach vulnerable people around the world who would otherwise be cut off from support when they needed it most.

Food and cash assistance
WFP food card helps 800 LGBTI households through the pandemic. Photo: WFP/Hetze Tosta

To address the increased needs created by the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, WFP has stepped up its cash and food assistance, and supported governments in strengthening their own social safety nets.