WASHINGTON, DC (December 15, 2020) – Today, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation made a generous $500,000 one-year grant to World Food Program USA in support of the United Nations World Food Programme’s lifesaving food assistance operations in Burkina Faso and Burundi. As 270 million people march toward starvation due to the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic, conflict-ridden Burkina Faso is one of four nations teetering on the brink of famine. The Hilton Foundation’s contribution is critical in addressing urgent hunger in these nations.

“The World Food Programme knows that conflict and economic insecurity are the main drivers of hunger, and addressing hunger builds the foundation for stability and peace. We are deeply grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for their support and commitment to feeding those who are most in need and most at risk for starvation,” said Barron Segar, President and CEO, World Food Program USA. “With governments now facing tighter budgets because of the global pandemic, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is modeling the critical role that our country’s thriving private sector can play in saving lives.”

Of the nearly 700 million chronically hungry people in the world, 60 percent live in countries affected by conflict. In fact, about two-thirds of the U.N. World Food Programme’s life-saving food assistance goes to people affected by conflict-induced food crises. Since 2018, Burkina Faso, a landlocked country of about 20 million in West Africa, has faced increasing forced displacement and food insecurity due to conflict caused by non-state armed groups. The U.N. World Food Programme has been scaling up its operations in Burkina Faso to provide vital assistance to 1.2 million of the most vulnerable during the peak lean season. Due to funding shortfalls amid the growing need, it has been forced to cut rations there.

“At a time when so many communities around the world are feeling the combined effects of conflict, food insecurity and COVID-19, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is committed to supporting those that don’t reach the headlines,” said Marc Holley, vice president of strategy and programs at the Hilton Foundation. “Despite these challenging times, the humanitarian workers at the U.N. World Food Programme continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the people of Burkina Faso and Burundi have access to food and lifesaving support.”

The U.N. World Food Programme’s work in Burkina Faso and Burundi includes emergency food assistance, school feeding, malnutrition treatment and prevention, resilience building, government capacity strengthening, and support for smallholder farmers. Two million people in Burkina Faso are struggling to feed themselves, and of those, over one million are internally displaced after fleeing violence. Agriculture is the main livelihood for more than 80 percent of the country, and most of those displaced are subsistence farmers and herders who have been forced to abandon their farms, homes, and livelihoods. Burundi, a country of 11 million in East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world where more than 65 percent of people live in poverty and 50 percent of the population is chronically food insecure. Burundi’s prevalence of chronic malnutrition is the highest in the world, with 56 percent of children experiencing severe hunger. The U.N. World Food Programme provides lifesaving food assistance, helps strengthen the country’s own social protection system and capacity to cope and recover from crises, supports smallholder farmers, and implements malnutrition prevention initiatives through food fortification and climate adaptation.

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About World Food Program USA | World Food Program USA is the recognized leader in America’s pursuit to end global hunger. We work with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to generate financial and in-kind resources for the United Nations World Food Programme, 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, to feed families in need around the world and to develop policies necessary to alleviate global hunger. To learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission, please visit us at www.wfpusa.org.

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation | The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help individuals throughout the world living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage. The Foundation invests in several program areas, including providing access to safe water, supporting transition age foster youth, ending chronic homelessness, hospitality workforce development, disaster relief and recovery, helping young children affected by HIV and AIDS, and supporting the work of Catholic sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.8 billion in grants, distributing $110 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2019. Foundation assets are approximately $6.6 billion. For more information, please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org.

Media Contacts:

  • Toula Athas, World Food Program USA, tathas@wfpusa.org, 202-627-3940
  • Julia Friedman, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, julia@hiltonfoundation.org, 818-851-3754

ROME – A basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic joins conflict, climate change and economic troubles in pushing up levels of hunger around the world, according to a new study released today by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

The U.N. World Food Program’s Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report highlights the countries where a simple meal such as rice and beans costs the most, when compared with people’s incomes. South Sudan is once again top of the list, with basic ingredients costing a staggering 186 percent of a person’s daily income. Seventeen of the top 20 countries featured in the index are in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger,” said U.N. World Food Program’s Executive Director David Beasley. “It’s the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects. Their lives were already on the edge – prior to the coronavirus pandemic we were looking at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – and now their plight is so much worse as the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The report highlights conflict as a central driver for hunger in many countries, as it forced people from their homes, land and jobs, drastically reducing incomes and the availability of affordable food. The close connection between food security and peace was underlined last week when the U.N. World Food Programme was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work fighting hunger.

In the country with the most expensive plate of food, South Sudan, violence in the east has already displaced more than 60,000 people and is crippling harvests and livelihoods. This has combined with COVID-19 and climate shock to create the threat of famine.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the daily income spent on food by someone living in South Sudan has risen 27 points to 186 percent.

If a resident in New York State had to pay the same proportion of their salary for a basic meal, the meal would cost $393.

The Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report is released as the U.N. World Food Programme estimates that the lives and livelihoods of up to 270 million people will be under severe threat in 2020, unless immediate action is taken to tackle the pandemic.

Burkina Faso is featured for the first time, with a surge in conflict along with climate changes, being the main drivers.  The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.4 million people, while famine threatens 11,000 living in the northern provinces. Burundi is also on the index, as political instability, steep declines in remittances and disruptions to trade and employment leave it exposed to growing hunger.

Haiti is also featured among the top 20, with consumers spending more than a third of their daily incomes on a plate of food – the equivalent of $74 for someone in New York State. Imports account for more than half of food and 83 percent of rice consumed in Haiti, making it vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets, especially during crises such as the current global pandemic.

“People in urban areas are now highly susceptible too, with COVID-19 leading to huge rises in unemployment, rendering people powerless to use the markets they depend on for food. For millions of people, missing a day’s wages means missing a day’s worth of food, for themselves and their children. This can also cause rising social tensions and instability,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Beasley.

U.N. World Food Programme support includes providing food and cash assistance, and helping governments extend their own safety nets. In South Sudan, on top of regular assistance to 5 million people, the U.N. World Food Programme will assist an additional 1.6 million – mostly in urban settings.

In the longer term, effective food systems are essential for access to affordable, nutritious food. The U.N. World Food Programme’s procurement of food means it has a critical role to play in improving the systems that produce food and bring it to people’s tables.

This is the third edition of the U.N. World Food Programme’s Cost of a Plate of Food report (formerly called Counting the Beans) with 36 countries featured this year. The report takes an estimated per capita average income across each country and calculates what percentage people must spend for a basic meal, some beans or lentils for example, and a carbohydrate matching local preferences. The price someone in New York State might pay was calculated by applying the meal-to-income ratio for someone in a developing country to a consumer in the US State.

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Photos available here

The U.N. World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

For more information, contact: 

Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob.  +1 202 770 5993

NAIROBI – The dire socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may more than double the number of hungry people in East Africa and the Horn over the next three months, a report from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has found.

The most vulnerable and at risk are poor urban communities living hand-to-mouth in informal settlements, and millions of refugees located in densely populated camps across the region.

An estimated 20 million people already faced acute food insecurity in nine countries before COVID-19 arrived in East Africa and the Horn, with numerous food crises, a massive outbreak of desert locusts and extensive flooding threatening millions across the region, which includes Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.

WFP projects that the number of acutely food insecure people is likely to increase to between 34 and 43 million from May through July due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. If the number of hungry reaches 43 million, it would have more than doubled. Among the hungry may be 3.3 million refugees spread across the nine countries.

“A shortage of funding already means most refugees in the region are not receiving all the food they need, and they could face further cuts as scarce resources become even more over-stretched,” said UNHCR Regional Director Clementine Nkweta Salami.

“High levels of malnutrition in densely populated camps and settlements make refugees particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak,” she added. “Some refugees also live in urban areas, often in the poorest informal settlements, representing a significant proportion of the urban poor in many countries in the region.”

“COVID-19 is unprecedented as it affects not just one country or region, but the whole world. It is not just a supply side problem, such as drought, or a demand side issue such as a recession – it is both at the same time and on a global scale,” said WFP Deputy Regional Director Brenda Behan.

“More people are expected to die from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself,” she said. “And refugees and the urban poor across the region are at greatest risk.”

Some half of the urban population in the region lives in informal urban settlements or slums, with 25 million people living hand-to-mouth each day. Millions have already lost their jobs as economies falter amid lockdowns and curfews to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Governments and humanitarian organizations are scrambling to address the loss of food security for many families in urban areas, or risk the destabilizing effects of urban unrest.

WFP has a funding shortfall of $103 million to provide full food rations or full cash transfers to more than 3 million refugees in the nine countries in the region through September.

With governments in the region imposing restrictions delaying cross-border trade because of fears that truck drivers are spreading COVID-19, WFP calls for cooperation to keep both commercial and humanitarian goods flowing so people receive the right food at the right time.

COVID-19 is spreading across the region at the same time as fears are increasing that new swarms of desert locusts, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and near Somalia may eat newly planted crops ahead of the main harvest from July to September. Floods during the current long rains are another additional threat to people and food supplies in much of the region.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFP_Africa @WFPUSA

A link to the WFP report is here: https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000115462/download/

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi Tel. + 254 20 7622179, Mob. +254 707 722104

Today the U.N. Human Rights Chief warned that Burundi is “at a bursting point, on the very cusp of civil war.”

Since April, more than 220,000 people have fled ongoing violence in the Central African nation. Even before fighting escalated earlier this year, WFP delivered lifesaving food assistance and agricultural support to communities still recovering from what one U.N. official called the country’s “deeply troubled, dark and horrendously violent past.”

So how critical is the situation? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Burundi has been plagued by ongoing civil war for the past 15 years. Burundi’s first democratically elected president was assassinated in October of 1993 after only 100 days in office, triggering widespread ethnic violence. More than 200,000 Burundians perished during the conflict that spanned almost a dozen years.
  2. Less than one-third of Burundi’s population has enough food to eat throughout the year. As a result, nearly 60% of Burundi’s population is chronically malnourished.
  3. Agriculture is the backbone of Burundi’s economy. 90% of families in Burundi are subsistence farmers who rely on farming to meet their food and income needs.
  4. Even during harvest season when food is most plentiful, households spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. Burundi is one of the ‘red zone’ countries identified by WFP as being among the most affected by soaring food prices. This is mainly the result of inadequate domestic food production. In fact, last year Burundi faced a food production deficit of over 32%.
  5. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty is widespread: 90–95 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day.
  6. It’s also the most population-dense country in Africa. There is an average of 248 people per square mile and the population is growing rapidly at nearly 3% each year. This reduces the amount of farming land available for food production.
  7. Like much of Central Africa, Burundi is prone to natural disasters such as floods, hailstorms, drought and torrential rain. In recent years, the country has registered an unusually high number of natural disasters, which have contributed to the displacement of communities, the destruction of homes, the disruption of livelihoods and the further deterioration of food and nutrition security.
  8. WFP has been working in Burundi since 1968. WFP is currently supporting more than 800,000 of Burundi’s most vulnerable families through the rehabilitation of children suffering from malnutrition, the provision of school meals, food assistance to victims of natural disasters, and the empowerment of communities to improve food production.
  9. More than 220,000 refugees have fled Burundi due to the recent violence. WFP is providing food and nutrition assistance to the refugees who have fled to Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To support families on the move, High Energy Biscuits are provided along the way. Refugees also receive hot meals in transit centers. Once a family has settled in either a camp or host community, WFP distributes rations including maize, beans, oil, salt, and Super Cereal.
  10. None of this would be possible without your support. WFP—and its operation in Burundi—is entirely funded by voluntary donations. We need your continued dedication and generosity to reach more families in need as the situation deteriorates.

To learn more about WFP’s work in Burundi check out Estella’s story of hope and resilience. 


Landlocked and Hungry

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world – over 1 million of its people are facing emergency and crisis levels of hunger today. But WFP is there – and we’re shoring up resilience.

A landlocked and densely populated country in East Africa, Burundi is the second country most affected by chronic malnutrition in the world. These alarming levels of hunger are driven by poverty, rapid population growth, climate-related shocks, poor access to clean water, and low access to basic services such as health and education.


of children under 5 are stunted


lowest GDP in the world


refugees live in the country

Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo


The majority of Burundi’s poor live in rural areas, where 90 percent of people rely heavily on subsistence agriculture and informal employment.

And a hilly landscape makes the country vulnerable to climate-related shocks such as flooding.

Adding to the pressure on Burundi’s stretched resources, over 50,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are hosted in already food-insecure areas and rely on assistance for basic food and nutrition.

Only 32 percent of Burundi’s children complete their lower secondary education. Although women play a central role in the development of the country, gender equality is among the lowest in the world.

But peaceful general elections in May 2020 and subsequent political developments helped the international community recognize Burundi as a country with a huge potential for development.


Working in conjunction with United Nations partners, we support the Government of Burundi by addressing the root causes of malnutrition, providing life-saving support to vulnerable people and improving resilience through school meals, capacity strengthening, gender equality, building sustainable food systems and more.

Combatting Malnutrition

As part of a national strategy, in partnership with the Government of Burundi, we run a stunting prevention program for kids under 5. We also treat malnutrition with nutritious foods for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in four of the most food insecure provinces. Food fortification initiatives also play a key role in this strategy.

Food Systems

We’re working with the government and smallholder farmers to increase the quantity and quality of food production and therefore smallholder farmers’ livelihoods. How? We purchase food from them for our Home-Grown school feeding program. And we’re working on the value chain production of nutritious flour and milk across the country.

School Meals

We’re serving healthy meals in primary schools to ensure kids’ physical and intellectual growth. And we also pursue nutritional, environmental and economic development objectives by linking farmers to schools, organizing nutrition sensitization campaigns and building fuel-efficient stoves to cook school meals.

Help Save Lives by Sending Food

You can help deliver food to vulnerable populations in Burundi and other countries by donating to WFP.

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