Special Interest: Extreme Poverty
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.
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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.
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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.
DAMASCUS/BEIRUT – United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has warned that more Syrians are in the grip of hunger today than at any time during their country’s decade-long conflict, blaming a deadly combination of conflict, climate change, COVID and rising food and fuel costs.
During a three-day visit to the country, Beasley met with vulnerable families receiving U.N. World Food Programme food assistance in Aleppo. Mothers he spoke to in nutrition and food distribution centers complained about the skyrocketing food prices and described the hard choices they must make to survive.
A mother of four children, Hanan, whom Beasley met in Aleppo, described her daily struggles: “We are tired, worn out and now hungry too as the economic situation takes its toll,” she said. “I have not been able to get any fresh food, dairy or eggs for my children for the last four months. I have to make difficult decisions, like deciding which of my children should eat on the basis of who is most fragile and sick or who will slip into severe malnutrition if not fed today.”
Some 12.4 million people — almost 60 percent of the population — are now hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from. This is a 57 percent increase since 2019 and the highest number ever recorded in the history of Syria.
Syria’s agricultural sector struggles to produce enough to meet the population’s needs and food prices across the country reached record highs in September. Compared to just one year ago, the price of a basket of staple foods has more than doubled and is now beyond the reach of millions of families. Record lows both in levels of rainfall and in the level of the Euphrates are affecting 3.4 million people as governorates producing wheat and barley report significant losses.
“Conflict, climate change, COVID-19 and now the cost of living are pushing people beyond their limits,” Beasley said. “Mothers are telling me that with the upcoming winter they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They either feed their children, and let them freeze, or keep them warm and let them go hungry. They cannot afford both fuel and food.”
The impact of the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon and the decline in the value of the Syrian pound compounded by the long-term impact of COVID-19 have all contributed to Syria’s economic downturn, pushing millions of people, already weakened by 10 years of conflict and displacement, into hunger, desperation and extreme poverty.
The U.N. World Food Programme is assisting over five million people with food assistance across Syria every month. But the agency faces severe funding constraints and was recently forced to reduce the size of the monthly food ration that families receive. The U.N. World Food Programme is only 31 percent funded and urgently requires close to $480 million for the next six months.
“History has shown us that if we do not help people before they become destitute, they will take drastic measures and we will see mass migration,” Beasley warned. “It is cheaper to help people where they are than to do so after they have fled their homes and became refugees in other places. We need the resources to be able to save lives and stabilize the situation.”
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The United Nations 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.
KHARTOUM – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for $24.6 million to meet the immediate needs of Ethiopian refugees seeking safety in Sudan. The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia that escalated on November 4 has forced more than 30,000 Ethiopians to flee across the border into Sudan.
“We were in our town, doing our jobs, when we heard a huge explosion and started to flee to the Sudanese border. The event was abrupt, and no one even has money in their pockets. Many departed from their families and now they don’t know where they are,” said Dejen Fantay, a 25-year-old refugee in Um Rakuba Camp in Gedaref State.
“I want to thank the Sudanese Government, local authorities, the U.N. World Food Programme and other organizations helping to support us to survive here,” he added.”
As of 19 November, UNHCR estimates that over 31,000 people had arrived in Sudan and were in urgent need of food and other support. People continue to stream into the country every day from Ethiopia, and estimates suggest that up to 200,000 people could take refuge in eastern Sudan in the coming six months if instability in Tigray continues.
“The humanitarian situation on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan is quickly deteriorating and is extremely urgent. The U.N. World Food Programme is playing a critical role in providing food and logistics support together with UN agencies, the Sudanese Government and local partners,” said Dr. Hameed Nuru, U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Sudan.
“All actors need to step up to respond to this dire situation. We appeal to donors to give generously, so that we can save lives in this crisis,” he added.
The U.N. World Food Programme is providing hot meals for refugees arriving at reception centers. Where cooking facilities are not available, the U.N. World Food Programme supplies fortified high-energy biscuits. Once refugees reach the camps after passing through reception centers, they receive rations including lentils, sorghum, oil and salt.
The U.N. World Food Programme is also providing logistics support to the humanitarian community – establishing supply hubs for the storage of food and other vital humanitarian assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme is also playing a critical role in transporting humanitarian responders to the affected areas on the U.N. World Food Programme-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).
The U.N. World Food Programme has rapidly dispatched enough food supplies to feed 60,000 people for one month. However, the food had to be borrowed from existing program. The influx of new arrivals will strain the U.N. World Food Programme’s ability to respond to existing needs in Sudan as it deals with multiple crises throughout the country.
The U.N. World Food Programme faces a shortfall of $153 million over the next six months for its operation to meet the food needs of the most vulnerable in Sudan, including $20 million to provide food and nutrition assistance to arriving Ethiopian refugees, $3.8 million to increase the number of UNHAS flights to eastern Sudan, and $750,000 for road repairs to allow responders to reach remote and inaccessible areas where refugees are arriving.
The additional funding is essential to ensure that food insecure people, who are at their most vulnerable, can receive continuous support over the next six months.
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The United Nations 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 @wfp_media @WFP_Africa @WFP_Sudan
For more information, contact:
Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob. +1 202 770 5993, email@example.com