Conflict and Instability Vastly Increase Cost of Feeding Hungry World

Published July 20, 2017

ROME / GENEVA – A new global report shows how food assistance saves lives in humanitarian crises while addressing the root causes of hunger. World Food Assistance 2017: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead also highlights the huge costs that are linked to poor humanitarian access, instability and inefficient food systems at a time of skyrocketing humanitarian needs amid multiple complex emergencies across the globe.

As an example, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest international food assistance agency, has seen its costs spike by more than 140 percent over a seven-year period, from US$2.2 billion in 2009 to US$5.3 billion in 2015. Two regions home to massive and complex food emergencies – East and Central Africa and the Middle East and North Africa – account for a staggering 70 percent of WFP expenditure.

World Food Assistance 2017 finds that improved humanitarian access could reduce costs to WFP by almost US$1 billion each year. If the roughly 80 countries where WFP operates were better able to cope with climate-related, political, and economic shocks, another US$2.2 billion could be saved each year. And if food systems – the networks responsible for producing food, transforming it and ensuring that it reaches hungry people – could be improved in these countries, another US$440 million could be saved annually. If solutions or improvements to these challenges were found, cost savings to WFP could be as high as US$3.5 billion per year.

“More than anything else, the world needs to wake up, and end these wars and these conflicts, so we can make real progress in ending hunger,” said David Beasley, WFP Executive Director. “Around 800 million people – one in nine around the world – go to bed on an empty stomach. But man-made conflicts and other strife make it difficult to help those who need it most. Reducing these roadblocks would ease the path towards long-term solutions.”

The international food assistance sector has undergone significant change from 2009 to 2016. Within WFP, the share of assistance delivered as food declined from 54 percent to less than 40 percent. Conversely, the share of cash-based transfers surged from less than one percent in 2009 to 20 percent in 2016.

National governments’ collective investments in food assistance exceed those of international entities by several orders of magnitude. One such example is India, where a subsidized food distribution system provides support to around 800 million people. Reflecting the need to support these efforts, the amount of technical assistance provided by WFP also increased, from less than one percent to eight percent of expenditures.

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Download the report and supporting summaries.

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

For more information please contact (email address:

Dana Sacchetti, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 65133268, Mob. +39 3499800442

Bettina Luescher, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 842 8057

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.  +44 20 72409001, Mob. +44 7968 008474

Gerald Bourke, WFP/New York, Tel. +1 646 5566909, Mob. +1 646 525 9982