ROME – The world is at risk of yet another year of record hunger as the global food crisis continues to drive yet more people into worsening levels of severe hunger, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in a call for urgent action to address the root causes of today’s crisis ahead of World Food Day on October 16.

The global food crisis is a confluence of competing crises – caused by climate shocks, conflict and economic pressures – that has pushed the number of severely hungry people around the world from 282 million to 345 million in just the first months of 2022. The U.N. World Food Programme scaled up food assistance targets to reach a record 153 million people in 2022, and by mid-year had already delivered assistance to 111.2 million people.

“We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst. For the last three years hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks. Let me be clear: things can and will get worse unless there is a large scale and coordinated effort to address the root causes of this crisis. We cannot have another year of record hunger,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley.

The U.N. World Food Programme and humanitarian partners are holding back famine in five countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Too often, it is conflict that drives the most vulnerable into catastrophic hunger with communications disrupted, humanitarian access restricted and communities displaced. The conflict in Ukraine has also disrupted global trade – pushing up transport costs and lead times while leaving farmers without access to the agricultural inputs they need. The knock-on effect on upcoming harvests will reverberate around the world.

Climate shocks are increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving those affected no time to recover between disasters. An unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa is pushing more people into alarming levels of food insecurity, with famine now projected in Somalia. Floods have devastated homes and farmland in several countries, most strikingly in Pakistan.  Anticipatory action must be at the core of the humanitarian response to protect the most vulnerable from these shocks – and a core part of the agenda at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) next month in Egypt.

Meanwhile, governments’ ability to respond is constrained by their own economic woes – currency depreciation, inflation, debt distress – as the threat of global recession also mounts. This will see an increasing number of people unable to afford food and needing humanitarian support to meet their basic needs.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s operational plan for 2022 is the agency’s most ambitious ever. It prioritizes action to prevent millions of people from dying of hunger while working to stabilize – and where possible build – resilient national food systems and supply chains.

So far this year, the U.N. World Food Programme has increased assistance six-fold in Sri Lanka in response to the economic crisis, launched an emergency flood response in Pakistan and expanded operations to records levels in Somalia as famine looms. In Afghanistan, two out of every five Afghans have been supported by U.N. World Food Programme assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme also launched an emergency operation in Ukraine and opened a new office Moldova to support families fleeing the conflict.

With the cost of delivering assistance rising and lead times increasing, the U.N. World Food Programme continues to diversify its supplier base, including boosting local and regional procurement: So far in 2022, 47% of the food the U.N. World Food Programme has purchased is from countries where it operates – a value of $1.2 billion. The U.N. World Food Programme has also expanded the use of cash-based transfers to deliver food assistance in the most efficient and cost-effective way in the face of these rising costs. Cash transfers now represent 35% of the agency’s emergency food assistance.

The U.N. World Food Programme has secured $655 million in contributions and service provision agreements from international financial institutions to support national social protection systems. Similar efforts are underway to expand innovative climate financing partnerships. The U.N. World Food Programme continues to support governments with supply chain services, such as the procurement and transport of food commodities to replenish national grain reserves to support national safety net programs.

While these efforts provide succor to some of the severely vulnerable, it is against a challenging global backdrop in which the number of acutely hungry people continues to increase requiring a concerted global action for peace, economic stability and continued humanitarian support to ensure food security around the world.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is 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

COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing food vouchers to pregnant women in underserved districts of Colombo on June 16, marking the start of the U.N. World Food Programme’s emergency response in the country. The U.N. World Food Programme is working to provide lifesaving food, cash and voucher assistance to 3 million of the most vulnerable people who can no longer meet their food needs due to Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis.

The monthly vouchers are valued at $40 and will enable more than 2,000 women to buy food. The vouchers are delivered alongside prenatal care provided by the Public Health Division of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

Food inflation in Colombo set a record high of 57.4% in May, and widespread shortages of fuel for cooking and transport mean families living in poverty are struggling to afford food. Nearly 5 million people, or 22% of the Sri Lankan population, are hungry and in need of assistance. Nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits and protein-rich products are now out of reach for many low-income families. The U.N. World Food Programme’s recent surveys indicated 86% of families are resorting to at least one coping mechanism including eating less, eating less nutritious food and even skipping meals altogether.

“Pregnant mothers need to eat nutritious meals every day, but the poorest find it harder and harder to afford the basics. When they skip meals they’re putting their and their children’s health at risk,” said Anthea Webb, U.N. World Food Programme deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific from Colombo.

“Poor families in cities and those who work on estates have seen their incomes plummet while market prices have soared. Each day that passes sees an increase in food and fuel prices globally, making it vital that we act now,” she noted.

The U.N. World Food Programme has long supported the Sri Lankan government’s national nutrition programs, but they are severely constrained by the economic crisis. To bolster existing social safety net programs, the U.N. World Food Programme’s emergency response program aims to assist:

  • 1 million children through the national school meal program
  • 1 million people participating in the Thriposha program, which provides nutritionally-fortified food to mothers and children
  • 1 million people in need of emergency food rations through food, cash or vouchers

The U.N. World Food Programme’s response is part of the Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan launched by the United Nations in Sri Lanka on June 9, which called for $47 million to provide lifesaving assistance to 1.7 million people through September. Given its concern that food and nutrition needs will persist beyond September, the U.N. World Food Programme estimates it will require $60 million to assist 3 million people from June through December 2022.

Existing donors to the U.N. World Food Programme’s Sri Lanka program include Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Mastercard, Russia, Switzerland, United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and the United States.

#                 #                   #

The United Nations World Food Programme is 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, @wfp_media and @WFPSriLanka

CAIRO – The war in Ukraine has dealt a fresh hammer blow to Syria’s ability to feed itself just as the country struggles to deal with levels of hunger that are up by half since 2019, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said prior to an annual donor pledging conference held in Brussels.

With years of conflict, a severe economic downturn and food prices rising relentlessly since 2020, the Ukraine crisis is exacerbating what was already an alarming food security scenario in Syria. In March, food prices increased by 24% in just one month, following an 800% increase in the last two years. This has brought food prices to their highest level since 2013.

“Saying that the situation in Syria is alarming is a huge understatement. The heart-breaking reality for millions of Syrian families is that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley. “The international community must recognize that not taking action now will inevitably lead to a catastrophic future for Syrians. They deserve our immediate and unconditional support.”

Some 12 million people in Syria – more than half the population – currently face acute food insecurity. That is 51% more than in 2019 and an additional 1.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger. With basic meals becoming a luxury for millions, nutrition is becoming a serious issue.

Data from 2021 shows that one in eight children in Syria suffers from stunting while pregnant and nursing mothers show record levels of acute wasting. Both facts point to devastating health consequences for future generations.

Plagued by continual crises for over a decade, Syrian families have exhausted their ability to cope. As last resort measures, people are turning to extreme measures, such as child labor, early and forced marriages, and the removal of children from school.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme’s resources are under more pressure than ever, and funding is not keeping pace with the staggering needs of people across the country. Over time, the U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to progressively reduce the size of the monthly food ration across the country. A 13% ration cut is looming this month in Northwest Syria, where people will start receiving food that translates into 1,177 kilocalories, just over half of the recommended daily intake.

The U.N. World Food Programme is 27% funded until October, with a shortfall of $595 million. Additional funding is urgently needed to continue to assist millions of people across the country. Without new funding, the U.N. World Food Programme could be forced to undertake additional drastic cuts in the coming months.

“In a year of unprecedented needs, the compounding effect of the war in Ukraine requires our donors to step in and help us avoid reducing rations or the cutting the number of people we assist,” emphasized Beasley.

Support from donors has allowed the U.N. World Food Programme to help millions of vulnerable Syrians obtain food when they have needed it most. Each month the U.N. World Food Programme distributes lifesaving food to 5.6 million people, injects around $3 million into local economy through cash-based transfers (CBT), provides fortified date bars, fresh meals and/or food vouchers to schoolchildren, and provides nutritional support to women who have recently given birth or will do soon.

“If I knew my life would end up like this, I wouldn’t have had my children; I would have saved them all this suffering,” said one mother in the western Syrian city of Hama.

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