WFP at a glance
[Updated 19 May 2021]
WFP works to save and change the lives of more than 115.5 million people in more than 80 countries. WFP is among the first on the scene in an emergency, providing food and other assistance to the victims of conflict, drought, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and crop failures, as well as pandemics such as the current global outbreak of COVID-19. At the same time, we keep a sharp focus on sustainable development, providing governments with the support and skills to manage food security in the long term.
Nobel Peace Prize
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to WFP in October 2020 reflects our strong advocacy for the critical role of peace in ending hunger, and for the use of food as a tool for peace.
Conflict and insecurity are key drivers of hunger. Many of the people WFP supports are fleeing conflict, and have been forced to abandon their land, homes and jobs. This award increases WFP's opportunity to provide a stronger voice to more than 800 million hungry people in the world and to mobilize support for the food assistance that they need.
- WFP is funded entirely by voluntary donations, with a record US$8.4 billion raised in 2020 — still 5.3 billion short of requirements.
- More than 50% of the people WFP serves are women and girls.
- The average cost of a WFP ration is US$0.61.
- WFP has more than 20,600 staff, of whom more than 87 percent are field based.
In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, up to 811 million people — more than 10 per cent of the world's population — still go to bed hungry each night.
After nearly a decade of progress, the number of hungry people has slowly increased — driven by the twin scourges of conflict and climate change, and now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Asia is home to the greatest number of undernourished people at 418 million, Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment in percentage terms, at 21 percent. This is more than double the rate in all regions, according to the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.
Threat of famine
There are 41 million people in 43 countries at the ‘emergency’ phase of food insecurity in 2021, just one step away from a declaration of famine. The greatest threat currently lies in Yemen and South Sudan. Among the most vulnerable groups are internally displaced people and refugees caught between frontlines, many of whom are totally dependent on food assistance for their survival.
WFP urgently need US$6 billion to avert famine, chiefly through life-saving food and nutrition assistance. The price of doing nothing in the face of these growing hunger needs will inevitably be measured in terms of lost lives. See also: Fighting famine
WFP's core themes
Emergency response* and preparedness
WFP is the frontline agency responding to emergencies caused by conflict, climate shocks, pandemics and other disasters. We also coordinate responses to large-scale emergencies on behalf of the wider humanitarian community, as lead agency of the Logistics Cluster and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster. Our focus is also on emergency preparedness, working with partners to provide early warning and helping communities lessen the impact of looming disasters.
- Each day WFP has up to 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and 100 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance.
(*See also ‘Current emergencies' section below)
Climate shocks such as droughts and floods can wipe out crops, disrupt markets and destroy roads and bridges. WFP is working with governments and humanitarian partners on the frontlines, responding to an increasing number of disasters. At the same time, we take pre-emptive action which reduces the number of people needing humanitarian assistance.
WFP deploys Forecast-based Financing to provide cash to vulnerable families, allowing them to buy food, reinforce their homes and take other steps to build resilience ahead of climate disasters. This approach was used ahead of torrential rains in Bangladesh in July 2019.
- Before Hurricane Dorian made landfall in August 2019, WFP had deployed technical experts to support a rapid needs assessment. WFP airlifted storage units, generators and prefab offices. It also provided satellite equipment to ensure connectivity, as well as fortified food. This was made possible after WFP had set up an office in Barbados to support preparedness, after hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean In 2018.
- WFP has planted 6 billion trees in partnership with FAO over the past 50 years, and restored or forested 1.4 million hectares of land since 2014.
Sustainable development is only possible in communities where malnutrition is eradicated and future generations can flourish. WFP has broadened its focus in recent years from emergency interventions to addressing all forms of malnutrition including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and overweight and obesity.
WFP addresses malnutrition from the earliest stages through programmes targeting the first 1,000 days from conception to a child's second birthday. We provide access to healthy diets, targeting young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people living with HIV.
WFP is the largest humanitarian organization implementing school feeding. School meals improve children's nutrition and health, while also increasing access to a potentially life-changing education. Home-grown school feeding sources food from millions of smallholder farmers, increasing their incomes and boosting local economies.
WFP and UNICEF are joining forces under a renewed commitment to millions of vulnerable children. The initiative will focus on supporting governments in adopting an integrated approach to schoolchildren's nutrition and health, incorporating school feeding, nutrition, deworming, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
- WFP provided school meals to 15 million children in 2020.
- More than 40 governments have taken over school meals programmes since 1990.
Smallholder farmers produce most of the world's food and are critical in achieving a zero-hunger world. WFP's support to farmers spans a range of activities to help build sustainable food systems, from business-skills training to opening up roads to markets.
- WFP connected smallholder farmers to markets in 35 countries in 2020.
- WFP bought 110,486 mt from smallholder farmers in 2020, which contributed directly to the farmers' livelihoods.
WFP's Food Assistance for Assets programme improves the prospects for long-term food security, while helping create conditions for peace. People receive food or cash to meet immediate food needs, which frees up their time for working on community assets or livelihood resources that can increase resilience to climate change and improve access to markets.
- Through food assistance for assets programmes in 2020, nearly 159,000 ha of land was developed and 1,800 hectares of forest was planted.
WFP is the largest cash provider in the humanitarian community. Cash provides better value for people and donors, allowing for increased food choices and diet diversity for beneficiaries while boosting local smallholder production, retail and the financial sector.
- US$2.1 billion was transferred through cash, value vouchers and commodity vouchers to 38.4 million people in 67 countries in 2020.
Through its Country Strategic Plans, WFP is transferring its skills and knowledge to a range of public, private and civil society actors who are pivotal to sustaining national policies and programmes. We are building governments' and other partners' capacities to manage disaster risk and improve food security, while also investing in early warning and preparedness systems for climate and other threats.
- WFP is training government staff in Ethiopia in the use of drones for activities such as mapping flood-risk zones and assessing damage to crops after disasters — building their abilities to deploy the technology without WFP's assistance.
- In Bangladesh, we provided training to staff from the NGO Social Assistance and Rehabilitation for the Physically Vulnerable, so they could implement a community-based nutrition project.
WFP's digital transformation is about embracing new technologies and data that will help realize the goal of zero hunger by 2030. WFP's Munich-based Innovation Accelerator was launched in 2015 to pilot new solutions and scale promising innovations to disrupt hunger. In just five years, we've supported more than 80 projects around the world, with 14 innovations scaling up to reach 3.7 million people.
- In Jordan, we deploy blockchain technology that allows more than 100,000 Syrian refugees to buy groceries from local shops using iris scans instead of cash, paper vouchers or credit cards.
- H2Grow allows people threatened by hunger to grow their own food in harsh conditions, using saline solutions instead of soil, in seven countries. In the Algerian desert, more than 200 hydroponic units are producing animal fodder which boosts the milk and meat yield of goats. This is turn improves food security for some of the thousands of Sahrawi refugees.
Current highest-level emergencies
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a devastating toll on the health and incomes of families and communities across the world, with its impact on jobs and livelihoods driving millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty. WFP estimates that, in the countries where it operates, 272 million people are already or are at risk of becoming acutely food-insecure due to the aggravating effect of the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the rising tide of hunger driven by the pandemic, WFP aims to assist 138 million people in 2021. COVID-19 has caused global disruptions to transport systems. WFP has also used its logistics capacity and expertise to step in and provide common services where commercial networks are not available. In this way we have ensured that critical health and humanitarian cargo and personnel can reach the places where they are most needed. See also: Emergency page
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Needs continue to grow, with a staggering 19.6 million people acutely food insecure — a consequence of escalating conflict and displacement, disease, economic decline, natural hazards and COVID-19. This is the highest of any country in the world. DRC’s five million displaced people – the largest number in Africa – live in crowded settlements or are crammed in with host families in urban areas with poor sanitation and healthcare and are scrambling to put food on their table. COVID-19 and associated lockdowns inflicted earnings losses and joblessness on a large scale, especially among the urban poor.
WFP needs US$177 million until August 2021, in order to prevent millions of Congolese most at risk from plunging deeper into hunger. The aim is to reach 8.7 million people during the year, despite an extremely tough operating environment. See also: Emergency page
A combination of escalating conflict and COVID-19 could spell a hunger catastrophe for millions of Nigerians living in the north-east. Millions are already facing dangerous levels of hunger as their lives and livelihoods are being severely disrupted by non-state armed groups vying with each other and fighting against government forces for control of territory. WFP is expanding its assistance into COVID-19 hotspots in cities in Kano, Abuja and Lagos, where lockdowns and movement restrictions have severely affected people's sources of livelihood and created extreme levels of vulnerability. See also: Emergency page
The Central Sahel — encompassing Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger — is facing a serious food and nutrition crisis, with some people in parts of northern Burkina Faso on the verge of a hunger catastrophe. A total 3.7 million people in the region don't know where their next meal will come from due to conflict and climate shocks, compounded by the impact of COVID-19. This number could rise to 5.4 million people by the June-August lean season, according to the Cadre Harmonisé regional food security analysis.
We have scaled up to meet this challenge but while our capacity to respond is strong, our financial outlook is worrying — WFP urgently needs US$182 million to respond to the growing needs of the region. See also: Emergency page
South Sudan is facing its highest levels of food insecurity since the country declared independence 10 years ago, with 60 percent of the population increasingly hungry. Chronic sporadic violence, extreme weather and the economic impact of COVID-19 have pushed 7.24 million people into severe insecurity. This figure includes 108,000 people in hard-to-reach areas of six counties who are at “risk of famine”, according to the Famine Review Committee’s report in December 2020. In 2021, WFP plans to reach over 5.3 million people with food and nutrition assistance.
WFP requires US$169 million over the next six months to continue its lifesaving operations. Without this support, millions of people are at risk of malnutrition, which can have devastating long-term social and economic consequences for individuals, communities, and the entire country. See also: Emergency page
Almost 60 percent of the country’s population is now facing a humanitarian crisis. As food prices continue to soar, the economic downturn is putting immense pressures on the country's most vulnerable families who have nothing left after a decade of conflict. A total 12.4 million people are suffering from hunger, representing the worst food-security situation since the start of the conflict. The number of people who are food insecure has increased by a staggering 4.5 million in the last year alone.
WFP needs US$375 million from now until August for operations in Syria, where it assists 4.8 million people every month. To stretch existing funding, the agency has had to reduce food rations to most of these by 30 percent. Almost exactly one-third of the country, 6.7 million people, are internally displaced and highly vulnerable. In response to COVID-19, WFP and UNFPA have provided cash assistance top-ups to pregnant and nursing mothers so they can buy both food and hygiene items during the pandemic. This will benefit more than 377,000 people. See also: Emergency page
WFP is working to prevent famine in Yemen, providing emergency food assistance and special foods to treat and prevent malnutrition. But the operation faces funding gaps and our ability to sustain the response remains uncertain. A total 50,000 people are facing famine-like conditions, with 5 million just a step away. To prevent famine, WFP needs at least US$1.9 billion in 2021. So far this year, we have received $1.24 billion.
WFP has increased food assistance in all famine-risk areas since the start of the year as additional funds have become available. But around 3 million of the 13 million people WFP supports with food assistance are still receiving food assistance on alternate months, as funding remains uncertain. See also: Emergency page
#StopTheWaste is a movement for change which highlights the global issue of food waste and simple solutions we can all take to prevent it. Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion metric tons per year. The financial costs of food wastage amount to about US$1 trillion each year. This is clearly a challenge we must solve as we work towards achieving zero hunger by 2030.
Funding in 2020
Total contributions: US$8.4 billion (a record). Total budgetary needs: US$13.7 billion
WFP’s top five donors accounted for 74 percent of total contribution revenue, slightly less than in 2019.
WFP Aviation manages the only UN-mandated air transport service, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). The service connects the entire humanitarian and development community to people in need, reaching the most remote and dangerous locations on earth. It also ensures an uninterrupted delivery of supplies when other transport is disrupted by insecurity or damaged roads or other infrastructure, and where almost no other commercial airline is flying.
UNHAS served 400 regular destinations in 23 countries facing crises and emergencies in 2020, operating more than 100 aircraft. The service supported the global response to COVID-19, including providing a Medical Evacuation Service and transporting medical cargo and staff.
Latest information and resources: Overview, Hunger, Conflict, and Improving the Prospects for Peace, Emergency Response and Preparedness, Humanitarian Development (factsheets), 12 things you didn't know about the World Food Programme, wfp.org, Insight.