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New WFP analysis shows every 1% cut in food assistance pushes 400,000 people into emergency hunger

ROME – Today, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) issued a stark warning for global food security, estimating that every one percent cut in food assistance risks pushing more than 400,000 people towards the brink of starvation.

WFP is being forced to drastically cut rations in most of its operations as international humanitarian funding plummets. Experts at the agency estimate that, as a result, an additional 24 million people could slip into emergency hunger over the next 12 months – a 50 percent increase on the current level.

“With the number of people around the world facing starvation at record levels, we need to be scaling up life-saving assistance - not cutting it,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “If we don’t receive the support we need to avert further catastrophe, the world will undoubtedly see more conflict, more unrest, and more hunger. Either we fan the flames of global instability, or we work quickly to put out the fire.”

There are currently 345 million people facing acute food insecurity (IPC3+) worldwide, with 40 million of these in emergency levels of hunger (IPC4). These are people forced to take desperate measures to survive and are at risk of dying from malnutrition. WFP’s food assistance is a vital lifeline, often the only thing separating them from starvation.

WFP has been struggling to meet the global need for food assistance while facing a funding shortfall of over 60% this year - the highest in WFP’s 60-year history. And for the first time ever, WFP has seen contributions decreasing while needs steadily increase.

Experts at the agency fear that a humanitarian ‘doom loop’ is being triggered, where WFP is being forced to save only the starving, at the cost of the hungry.  Massive reductions have already been implemented in almost half of WFP operations, including significant cuts in hotspots such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Jordan, Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia, and Syria. The ripple effects of these cuts in life-saving aid will cause emergency levels of hunger to skyrocket even higher.

“There’s only one way out of this,” the WFP chief said. “We need to fund emergency operations to feed the hungry today while simultaneously investing in long-term solutions that address the root causes of hunger. Our shared goal must be ending the vicious, unsustainable, and costly cycle of crisis and response.”


  • The analysis by WFP’s Research Assessment and Monitoring (RAM) division calculated at a macro level how cuts to WFP assistance would impact food insecure populations over a 12-month period following a reduction in humanitarian food aid.
  • The analysis reveals the aggregate effect of cuts to WFP assistance operations globally. The relationship between cuts and food insecurity is not linear with a cut from 10 to 11 percent of assistance having a smaller impact than the impact of a cut from 45 to 46 percent, for example.
  • To define the modelling, WFP’s RAM division looked at the agency’s six operational regions (Asia Pacific, Middle East, western Africa, southern Africa, eastern Africa and Latin America) and analysed the depth of current food insecurity and the extent to which people reply on food assistance in each region. An average was then taken to provide WFP with a global overview. The calculation cannot be applied at an individual country level.
  • The analysis uses a calculation based on WFP’s daily expenditure per person (including food costs, the total value of cash-based transfers and distribution costs) and is averaged across all programmes (food and cash assistance, nutrition, school meals and resilience programmes).
  • The analysis only considers the impact of cuts to WFP food assistance on hunger. The model does not include other drivers that could increase hunger globally, such as conflict or climate disasters, or lead to an improvement, such as a decline in domestic food inflation.
  • To name just a few operations that have already faced significant cuts to food assistance: In Afghanistan in May, WFP was forced to make a 66% cut (8 million people) to its caseload while in July there were big reductions in Syria, Somalia and Haiti: in Syria 45% (2.5 million people) were cut from assistance, in Haiti the caseload has been cut by 25% (100,000 people), while in Somalia, WFP reduced the caseload to 2.4 million, a 49% cut from the 4.7m people assisted at the peak of the famine response in late 2022.


Download the analysis here.


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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.


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Martin Penner, WFP Rome,
Mob. +39 345 614 2074

Annabel Symington, WFP Rome,
Mob. +44 7746 397099

Nina Valente, WFP/ London,
Mob. +44 796 8008 474

Martin Rentsch, WFP/Berlin,
Mob +49 160 99 261 730

Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York,
Mob. +1 929 289 9867

Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington,
Mob.  +1 202 770 5993

Zeina Habib, WFP/Dubai,
Mob +971 52472 4971