Early action plus investment would avert food crises, saving billions in global food assistance spending

Published on 14 May 2018

WFP food distributions in Ituri province, DRC. Copyright: WFP/Jacques David

ROME – Chronic hunger is increasing around the world and food crises are spreading and intensifying. A new report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), World Food Assistance: Preventing Food Crises, examines these crises, asking what causes them to break out, what determines their scale and how they might be prevented.

Among the most telling findings of the report is the huge amount of money in food assistance costs that could be saved by the taking of preventative action. An end to violent conflict – one of the main drivers of hunger – could reduce food assistance costs by up to 50 percent per annum.

A one-point increase in peace and stability on the World Bank’s measure of these conditions – known as the Index of Political Stability and Absence of Violence - could result in a saving of nearly US$3 billion (based on 2016 data). In real terms, this would mean –

In Syria, WFP would save US$300 million a year

In Yemen, WFP would save US$205 million a year

In Somalia, WFP would save US$85 million a year

Ending conflict is vital,” says WFP’s Chief of Food Systems Steven Were Omamo who masterminded the report. “But preventing food crises also requires long-term investment in education, infrastructure and economic growth. While increases in per capita income help countries limit the scale of food crises, even low-income countries can prevent crises by making these investments.”

If the world were to come to grips with all the causes of food crisis – not just conflict but climate shocks, chronic hunger and malnutrition, poorly functioning food systems, and flawed political, social and economic structures – WFP’s annual food assistance expenditure would be more than $5 billion lower. In other words, there would be virtually no need for food assistance and the money saved could be spent on longer-term developmental initiatives to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

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