Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

How WFP Is Helping Keep the Air Clean and the Skies Blue

World Food Programme
September 7, 2021

For International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, we’re taking a look at how #healthyairhealthyplanet and #ZeroHunger go hand in hand. 

By 2050, climate change could cause a 20 percent increase in hunger and malnutrition. Among other factors, air pollution is one important contributor to climate change and damages plants, animals and people.

man lifting up bag of food
Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

In 2020, the U.N. World Food Programme provided food assistance to 115.5 million people in 84 countries.

The United Nations International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies calls on everyone to take action to reduce air pollution and bring transformative change into our lifestyles. Today, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this call is more important than ever.

On one hand, studies are showing that air pollution is correlated with COVID-19 severity. On the other hand, changes to individual lifestyles and lockdowns have led to a reduction of up to 30 percent of pollution in some COVID-19 epicenters.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) believes that small actions can help change the world. Here are four things we are doing to ensure that our work to reach zero hunger has minimal impacts on the local communities we serve and the planet.

1) Clean Cooking for the People We Serve

Smoke from cooking with wood or charcoal on traditional cookstoves causes respiratory diseases, which are responsible for more premature deaths worldwide every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. In 2020, the U.N. World Food Programme provided 1.2 million people with innovative ways to reduce the potential health impacts of air pollution caused by cooking.

group of people standing with cooking ware in COVID masks
Photo: WFP/Margaret Mkandawire

The U.N. World Food Programme Malawi Country Office Team with their new e-cookers.

In Malawi, where over 90 percent of people depend on wood fuel for cooking, forest area has decreased by approximately 18 percent between 2003 and 2018 alone, posing a serious threat to the food security of small-scale farmers. To address this, the U.N. World Food Programme is distributing solar-powered electric cookers in eight districts of Malawi’s Southern region. By replacing wood fuel with solar energy, these environmentally friendly cookers help families improve their health while saving money and time.

2) Greening Our Fleet

Road transport represents 74 percent of global transport CO2 emissions. Greening our passenger and heavy fleets is a key priority for the U.N. World Food Programme. Shifting to smaller vehicles with 30 percent less fuel consumption rates, providing nearly 5,000 U.N. drivers with eco-driving training and optimizing our operational requirement for efficiency and effectiveness are just a few actions the U.N. World Food Programme has taken to reduce emissions.

white truck with big tires driving through river
Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford

This unstoppable super truck is a game-changer in South Sudan.

3) Keeping the Skies Blue

The global aviation industry produces around 2 percent of all human-induced CO2 emissions. From the start of our humanitarian mission back in the 1960s, the U.N. World Food Programme has leveraged air transport to bring food and humanitarian workers to the world’s most remote places.

The the U.N. World Food Programme Aviation Service’s environmental program sets a clear vision for us to continue measuring, reporting and reducing emissions, promoting alternative fuel usage, enhancing efficiency, optimizing aircraft use and exploring carbon offsetting options.

man installing solar panel on roof
Photo: WFP/Dina El-Kassabi

Installing a solar panel in Jordan.

4) Environmentally-Friendly Operations

U.N. World Food Programme Engineers are present throughout our global operations and, whenever possible, propose cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas. This includes incorporating energy efficient equipment and renewable energy systems that save thousands of tons of emissions per year, as well as circular economy solutions like reusing, repairing, refurbishing, repurposing or recycling products and materials.

Every Action Counts

Despite the complex challenges the U.N. World Food Programme faces every day in our global operations, we remain committed to making the environment a priority. Whether it’s something as simple as recycling right, or as big as using superhero-like amphibious vehicles, it all adds up to create a healthier tomorrow.

This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories and was written by Anthony Priolo and Shadtha Ali.