Top 12 Things You Didn’t Know About the World Food Programme

World Food Programme
December 30, 2020
Photo: WFP/Mohammed Awadh

As we ring in the New Year, we’re looking back at some of the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) greatest accomplishments in 2020, including picking up a Nobel Peace Prize. We’re the world’s largest humanitarian organization — working with U.N. sister agencies, other partners and donors — to deliver lifesaving food to the planet’s most vulnerable people. If you didn’t know us before, here are a few facts about the U.N. World Food Programme that might surprise you:

1.) The U.N. World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, assisting 100 million people in 88 countries.

Woman wearing medical mask standing in front of WFP truck.
Photo: WFP/Antoine Vallas

Haiti: Admin officer Chiara Camassa at WFP’s warehouse in Port-au-Prince.

2.) Each day The U.N. World Food Programme has up to 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and 100 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance in some of the most remote and challenging parts of the world.

Two humanitarian aid workers standing next to a plane. WFP worker is looking at ticket.
Photo: WFP/Jean Pierre Kitungwa

Democratic Republic of Congo:WFP provides essential air transportation and other logistical support to the humanitarian community.

WFP helicopter sitting on a grass field.
Photo: WFP/John Wessels

Democratic Republic of Congo: WFP facilitates United Nations Humanitarian Air Service flights.

3.) The U.N. World Food Programme is the frontline agency responding to emergencies caused by conflict, climate shocks, pandemics and other disasters. We’re tackling ongoing emergencies in 20 countries or regions, the majority fueled by conflict.

Woman smiling and holding money standing next to a man on a wooden boat with WFP sign above him. Water surrounds them.
Photo: WFP/Sayed Asif Mahmud

Bangladesh: Cash grants allotted before floods hit allow families to prepare.

4.) The U.N. World Food Programme provides school meals to 17.3 million children, improving both their nutrition and their access to a potentially life-changing education. Since 1990, we’ve built the capacity of national governments, with more than 40 taking over school meal programs.

Children in a school cafeteria. Two boys are feeding and looking at the camera.
Photo: WFP/Daniil Usmanov

Kyrgyzstan: Free meals inspire parents to make sure their children attend schools such as this one in the village Dyikan.

5.) Contributions to the U.N. World Food Programme have increased in recent years, and in 2019 reached a record level of $8 billion — but there is still a $4.1 billion funding gap. Rising needs due to the high cost of assisting people amidst drawn-out conflicts, climate-related disasters and the coronavirus pandemic mean that we need increased financial support now more than ever.

Waiting to buy groceries, woman wearing medical mask looks into camera. Table covered with onions in the background.
Photo: WFP/Alice Rahmoun

People’s Republic of Congo: A woman in Brazzaville waits her turn to buy groceries with WFP urban cash transfers.

6.) The U.N. World Food Programme connects small-scale farmers to markets in more than 40 countries. Small-scale farmers produce most of the world’s food, and in 2019 we bought $37.2 million dollars’ worth of food from them.

Member of the Akha community sitting at a small table speaking with WFP worker. Community members are wearing head pieces and traditional attire.
Photo: WFP/Vilakhone Sipaseuth

Laos: Members of the Akha community at a WFP food distribution site in Luang Namtha region.

7.) More than 500 square miles of land was developed and 30 square miles of forests were planted in 2019 under our Food Assistance for Assets initiative, which improves people’s long-term food security and resilience to climate change.

A boy washes a saucepan in the flood waters of Aweil - a town in the north of South Sudan.
Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

South Sudan: A boy washes a saucepan in the flood waters of Aweil.

8.) The U.N. World Food Programme delivered 4.2 million metric tons of food in 2019, the equivalent weight of 840,000 Asian elephants – the equivalent of 24 billion meals.

Porters loading WFP food bags onto cargo ship.
Photo: WFP/Kabir Dhanji

Kenya: Porters load part of the 4500 tons of cargo being sent to Somalia.

9.) More than three quarters of the food we buy comes from developing countries, saving time and money on transport costs and helping sustain and grow local economies.

Women standing and waiting to collect food. Building rubble behind them.
Photo: WFP/Jessica Lawson

Syria: Mothers in rural Deir Ez-Zor wait to collect food from a WFP assistance point.

10.) We are the largest cash provider in the humanitarian community. More than $2 billion dollars of assistance was provided this way in 64 countries in 2019. Cash increases consumer choice and strengthens local markets.

Two women wearing medical masks and holding bags of food are standing and looking at camera.
Photo: WFP/Mathias Roed

Colombia: WFP and World Vision provide 5,000 food baskets to Colombians and migrants in Soacha, near Bogotá.

11.) The U.N. World Food Programme is helping 15 countries forecast extreme climate events and trigger preventive action before vulnerable families are hit by disasters. Cash transfers ahead of floods, droughts and storms allow people in harm’s way to evacuate assets and livestock, reinforce homesteads, and buy food, seeds and emergency items so they are better prepared to deal with a food crisis.

Women line up at outlet to take out cash.
Photo: WFP/Mehedi Rahman

Bangladesh: Women line up at a market to take out cash from their mobile wallets.

12.) More than 50% of the people we serve are women and girls. In 2019, 60% of the participants in our Rural Resilience Initiative were women. This enabled 56,102 women across seven countries to better manage their climate risks with insurance policies that protect them from a range of risks to their livelihoods.

Woman from Zimbabwe is standing while pouring WFP grain from a green bucket into another green bucket.
Photo: WFP/Claire Nevill

Zimbabwe: Farmer Rebecca received WFP assistance after her corn crop failed earlier this year.

We will undoubtedly face enormous challenges next year as the number of severely hungry people is expected to double and we face our biggest scale-up in history. The accomplishments of 2020 will be a vital foundation as we work to bring lifesaving meals to millions more of the most vulnerable people on the planet. You can support our efforts by donating here.

This post was written by Paul Anthem, Simona Beltrami and Mert Er and originally appeared on