Celebrating UN70: WFP's Emergency Operations Through The Years

The United Nations turns 70 on 24 October 2015. Join us in celebrating by travelling back in time to some of WFP’s most significant emergency operations over the last 30 years.

1984-85: Horn of Africa Drought

The Ethiopian famine caught the world’s attention as stark images lined the covers of major news outlets; Millions of Ethiopians faced severe hunger due to drought and the effects of civil war.

From 1983 to 1985, WFP mounted 87 separate emergency operations. At the height of the humanitarian response, WFP was moving around 10,000 tonnes of relief supplies every month from the East African coast to drought-stricken areas.



1989: Operation Lifeline Sudan

Operation Lifeline Sudan was launched by a consortium of UN agencies and NGO's when civil war and drought threatened millions of lives in southern Sudan.

WFP staged the longest-running humanitarian airdrop in history through Lokichoggio air base in northern Kenya, airdropping more than 1.5 million tonnes of food into what is present-day South Sudan. On a daily basis, close to 40 airdrops were performed to over 300 locations, with peak deliveries of more than 700 tons per day.

Photo:WFP/Jeff Share

​Photo:WFP/Jeff Share

2003: Iraq War

With the country in the throes of war, the Iraqi national Public Distribution System was temporarily disrupted. As a vast network of mills, silos, warehouses, and food agents, the PSD delivered food aid to the Iraqi people.

WFP replenished the PDS, bringing in an estimated 480,000 tonnes of food commodities each month – benefiting Iraq’s entire population of 27 million people. To do this, nearly 10,000 trucks operated along corridors out of six neighbouring countries. It is the single largest WFP operation to date.

​Photo:WFP/Antonia Paradela

February 2004: Darfur Crisis

The UN declared Darfur “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world” due to longstanding drought in the region and the breakout of conflict between Darfur insurgents and the Sudanese government.

By the end of 2004, WFP was feeding 1.7 million people every month, most of whom had fled their homes or been driven away by the war. As fighting spread and humanitarian needs increased, WFP’s operation peaked at providing food to 4 million each month.

Photo:WFP/Rathi Palakrishnan

December 2004: Indian Ocean Tsunami

A massive earthquake and tsunami affected 14 countries across south-eastern Asia and coastal Africa. With more than 225,000 deaths, it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

In response, WFP mounted one of its most complex and far-reaching emergency operations to-date. By the end of January 2005, more than 18,000 tons of food had been delivered for 1.3 million tsunami survivors across two continents. At the height of the response in May 2005, WFP was reaching 2.3 million people with food assistance, using an average of 350 trucks and 15 aircraft every day.

Photo:WFP/Rein Skullerud

Photo:WFP/Rein Skullerud

January 2010: Haiti Earthquake

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the small Caribbean island of Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people and forcing 2.3 million from their homes.

Just hours after the earthquake struck, WFP began distributing High-Energy Biscuits. From early February to mid-April 2010, WFP provided food to more than two-thirds of the population in the affected areas by utilizing its four logistics bases holding pre-positioned emergency stocks around the country. At the peak of the operation, WFP reached 4.5 million people with food aid.

Photo:WFP/Jim Farrell

Photo:WFP/Rein Skullerud

September 2010: Floods in Pakistan

When torrential monsoon rains and flash floods engulfed northern Pakistan in one day, more than 1,700 people were killed and 14 million were affected by flooding and infrastructure damage.

WFP’s relief operation was off the ground within 24 hours, reaching over three million people in the first month with emergency food assistance. In the months that followed, that number grew to over 8.7 million people and WFP supported recovery projects all over flood-hit regions in Pakistan.

Photo:WFP/Rein Skullerud

2011-Present: Crisis in Syria

Access to basic needs such as food, water, electricity and medical supplies has been interrupted in areas of prolonged, intense conflict in Syria. A growing number of primary breadwinners are unemployed, and soaring food and fuel prices across the country have exacerbated the situation.

WFP, in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and other local organizations, is providing monthly food assistance to close to four million people inside Syria every month.


Photo:WFP/Hani Al Homsh

2013-Present: South Sudan Emergency

Over two million people in South Sudan have been forced to flee their homes since conflict broke out in 2013. Intense fighting has damaged farming and trade economies, subsequently crippling the livelihoods that depend on this agribusiness. A recent analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) indicates that 3.9 million people in South Sudan face severe hunger.

WFP is planning to assist three million food insecure people, using all means possible – such as all-terrain trucks, airdrops, river boats, and distributions of cash or vouchers – to reach those in conflict zones and elsewhere with life-saving emergency food and nutrition products.


2014-Present: Ebola Response

In mid-2014, the Ebola Virus disease outbreak in West Africa required an unprecedented response from the international community.

Since April 2014, WFP has provided food for over three million people affected by Ebola, and has helped more than 22,000 survivors get back on their feet. WFP worked closely with medical, humanitarian, and government partners to coordinate the logistics of the response. This included providing essential services, such as transport and storage of relief items across the three affected countries, air transport of aid workers, as well as the construction of Ebola Treatment Units for the World Health Organization.

Photo:WFP/Victoria Cavanagh

Photo:WFP/Victoria Cavanagh

If you want to know more, visit our emergencies page
Interested in Logistics? Visit our Logistics section