TRIPOLI/TUNIS – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are expanding their support for food insecure refugees and asylum seekers in Libya with emergency food assistance in response to the severe socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country as well as the effects of the ongoing conflict.

The two agencies will expand their partnership, launched in June, to provide food support for people in areas outside of Tripoli, including Zawiya, Misrata, Benghazi and Zwara, as well as continuing in Tripoli.

Coronavirus infections have surged in the country, rising from 200 reported cases in June to nearly 28,000 cases.  COVID-19 related movement restrictions and curfews, as well as the ongoing conflict and economic crisis, have led to sharp increases in food prices, while making it hard for most refugees and asylum seekers to find daily work to support themselves.

According to the latest Joint Market Monitoring Initiative, the cost of a minimum expenditure basket that would meet a family’s basic needs, including food items, was 19.2% more expensive in August than in March, when the first coronavirus cases were reported in Libya. Cooking fuel prices increased by 66.7% in August compared to the previous month.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. Many people can’t access food for a number of reasons including prices going up and limited food availability. At the same time, there are almost no opportunities to work,” said U.N. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director in Libya Samer AbdelJaber. “This is exhausting people’s ability to continue to cope with the growing pressures. At times like these, when meeting basic needs becomes increasingly hard, food support becomes even more of an imperative.”

People will be receiving locally produced ready-to-eat food which supports the local economy. This food assistance does not require any cooking, which helps people at a time when cooking fuel prices are soaring.

The micronutrient-dense, ready-to-eat emergency food packages, providing enough food for one month, include hummus, canned beans, canned tuna, halawa (Middle Eastern spread made with sesame seed paste and sugar) and date bars. Each package covers 53 percent of the daily caloric requirement of a healthy person (around 1,100 calories).

Food needs in the new focus areas for support were verified through U.N. World Food Programme rapid needs assessments.  They showed that, on average, one out of two respondents had a poor or borderline food consumption score. A majority of the respondents reported significantly higher frequency of using negative coping strategies, such as skipping meals to adapt to food scarcity. 73 percent of respondents reported not having any food at home, while 69 percent had no money to buy food over the last month.

“The coronavirus pandemic affected our daily meals,” said Bashir, a 29-year-old refugee from Sudan who came to Libya to work as a daily laborer, and was among those interviewed. “There’s no work anymore, so there is no money. We have not been able to pay for food. Some days, if we can borrow a dinar, we buy bread just to fill our stomachs. That is the food we survive on.”

Both agencies have reported increases in requests for food assistance over the past few months. During the U.N. World Food Programme Country Director’s July virtual meetings with mayors throughout Libya, food was listed as a top need in every conversation, with accompanying requests of additional assistance. In Libya, the U.N. World Food Programme also supports crisis-affected internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, and non-displaced populations including host communities and school children.

Among those who will continue to be assisted under the joint agency food assistance project are refugees and asylum seekers recently released from detention centers. More than 20 people, including minors, were provided with assistance earlier this month after being released from Triq al Sikka detention center. This type of assistance supports alternative solutions to detention by helping to meet people’s basic needs outside of the centers.

“The help we provide under this project is lifesaving,” said UNHCR’s chief of Mission Jean-Paul Cavalieri. “It’s especially crucial for those just released from detention, who struggle initially to support themselves in urban settings.”

The expanded food distributions, supported by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa), began over the weekend at a U.N. World Food Programme distribution point in Zawiya. An additional 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers will be reached in this second phase, with 10,000 people targeted with assistance through the end of this year.

U.N. World Food Programme and UNHCR staff, as well as their partners, will continue to ensure COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as personal protection equipment, social distancing, disinfection and enhanced crowd controls, are in place for the distributions.

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. | Follow them on Twitter @UNHCRLibya

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 @WFPUSA, @WFP_MENA and @SamerWFP

Contact:

UNHCR
Tripoli: Caroline Gluck gluck@unhcr.org +218 91000 7195
Tunis: Tarik Argaz argaz@unhcr.org +216 299 61295
Geneva: Charlie Yaxley yaxley@unhcr.org +41 79 580 8702

WFP
Tunis/Tripoli: Flavia Brunetti flavia.brunetti@wfp.org +216 58558309
Cairo: Abeer Etefa abeer.etefa@wfp.org +201 0666 3435 2

Transcript of remarks as delivered by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley to today’s virtual session of the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (segment on food security risks in DRC, Yemen, Northeast Nigeria and South Sudan).

NEW YORK – Five months ago, I warned the Council the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It’s a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we don’t continue to act like we’ve been acting.

Fortunately, since we talked about this back in April the world really listened. Donors, leaders all over the word responded, they acted. Countries large and small took extraordinary measures to save the lives of their citizens and support their economies, spending $17 trillion on fiscal stimulus and central bank support. The IMF and the G20 nations threw a lifeline to the poorest nations by suspending debt repayments. That made a huge impact. Donors stepped up with advanced funding so we could pre-position food and move cargo earlier, as well as supporting with additional life-saving dollars. With our donors’ help, the global humanitarian community launched a huge and unprecedented global fightback against the Coronavirus.

Along with our partners, the UN World Food Programme is going all-out to reach as many as 138 million people this year – the biggest scale-up in our history. Already, in the first six months of 2020, we’ve reached 85 million people.

The UN World Food Programme is doing what we do best – adapting and innovating to meet the unique demands of the pandemic. Launching new food and cash programs to support the hungry in urban areas. Supporting over 50 governments to scale up their safety nets and social protection programs for the most vulnerable. Getting nutritious food to millions of school children shut out of the classroom during lockdown.

Every day, we are succeeding – because of you – in keeping people alive and avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe. But we’re not out of the woods.

This fight is far, far, far from over – the 270 million people marching toward the brink of starvation need our help today more than ever.

We’re doing just about all we can do to stop the dam from bursting. But, without the resources we need, a wave of hunger and famine still threatens to sweep across the globe. And if it does, it will overwhelm nations and communities already weakened by years of conflict and instability.

This Council made a historic decision when it endorsed Resolution 2417 and condemned the human cost of conflict paid in suffering and hunger. The resolution called for effective early warning systems and, once more, I am here with my colleagues to sound the alarm.

Excellencies, the global hunger crisis caused by conflict, and now compounded by COVID-19, is moving into a new and dangerous phase – especially in nations already scarred by violence. The threat of famine is looming again, so we have to step up, not step back. Quite frankly, 2021 will be a make-or-break year.

Financially, 2020 was a record year for the UN World Food Programme. We hit $8 billion for the first time ever – but our budget was set before the pandemic hit. Economies were strong. Reserve and emergency funds were available. But now, I am truly worried about what will happen next year. I know your governments are spending billions on domestic stimulus packages. National budgets are tight, and reserves are running low if not out. And, economies are shrinking. But I urge you – don’t walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance. Don’t turn your backs on the world’s hungriest people.

As COVID-19 pushed countries everywhere to lock down, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs have been destroyed, and remittances have collapsed. The impact has been felt hardest by the 2 billion people who work in the informal economy around the world – mainly in middle and low-income countries. They were already only one day’s work away from going hungry, in other words living hand to mouth. You and I have food in the pantry in a lockdown. We have enough food for two or three weeks. These people don’t have that luxury. If they miss a day’s wages, they miss a day’s worth of food and their children suffer.  They don’t have the money to buy their daily bread in those circumstances. This inevitably creates a risk of rising social tensions and instability.

It is critically important we balance sensible measures to contain the spread of the virus, with the need to keep borders open and supply chains going and trade flows moving. We also have to be vigilant and guard against unintended consequences, which could hit the poorest people the hardest. In fact, in the 80-odd countries that we’re in, we’re working with the presidents, the prime ministers, the ministers of government, literally on an hourly basis, dealing with issues that are popping up because of quarantines and lockdowns at distribution points. We’re all learning from this and making headway.

But let me just give you a couple of examples, because a lot of people thought that the virus would be even more deadly in Africa, and it is definitely impacting Africa. We’re not out of the woods yet. But the good news is: It hasn’t been as deadly, but it has been devastating in other ways. For example, the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine has analyzed the closure of vaccination clinics in Africa during lockdown. It calculated that, for every COVID-19 death prevented, as many as 80 children may die due to a lack of routine immunizations.

There is a grave danger that many more people will die from the broader economic and social consequences of COVID-19 than from the virus itself, especially in Africa. And the last thing we need is to have the cure be worse than the disease itself.

Your continued support for humanitarian programs is critical right now. It’s a matter of life and death – literally – for millions of people in the countries being discussed today, and for many millions more in the other countries edging closer to the brink of starvation. We know that, already, there are 30 million people who rely solely on the UN World Food Programme for their survival. That’s the only food they get. If they don’t get the food we provide, they die.

Let me turn to the countries on today’s agenda. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict and instability had already forced 15.5 million people into crisis levels of food insecurity. These are people on the brink of starvation. The latest assessment indicates that the upsurge in violence, coupled with COVID-19, has sent this total sky-rocketing to nearly 22 million people, an increase of 6.5 million people. And I should warn you these numbers assume the UN World Food Programme is able to maintain current levels of food assistance. If we are forced to scale back operations, the outlook is even worse.

In Yemen, the world’s worst catastrophe, the worst human disaster, it continues…years of conflict-induced hunger and now the COVID-19 pandemic. 20 million people are already in crisis due to war, a collapsed economy and currency devaluation, crippling food prices and the destruction of public infrastructure. We believe a further 3 million may now face starvation due to the virus.

Because of a lack of funding, 8.5 million of our beneficiaries in Yemen now only receive assistance every other month. We will be forced to cut rations for the remaining 4.5 million by December if funds do not increase. You can only imagine the impact that will have on the Yemeni people.

The decision by the Ansar Allah authorities to close Sana’a International Airport last week has made an already impossible situation worse. As the only airport in northern Yemen, it is a critical access point for humanitarian staff.  The inability to move people in and out will hamper our efforts to stave off famine.

The alarm bells in Yemen are ringing loud and clear, and the world needs to open its eyes to the Yemeni people’s desperate plight before famine takes hold. And that famine is knocking on the door right before our eyes.

In Nigeria, COVID-19 is also forcing more people into food insecurity. Analysis shows measures imposed to contain the virus reduced incomes in 80 percent of households. You can imagine the devastation with that alone.

In the northeast of the country, 4.3 million people are food insecure, up by 600,000 largely due to COVID-19. While in the large urban area of Kano, the number of food insecure people during that lockdown period from March to June went from 568,000 to 1.5 million people – an increase of 1 million people. Very troubling.

In South Sudan, the outlook is similarly worrying, where even before the pandemic, 6.5 million people were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season, made worse by the violence in Jonglei State in recent months. This has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, a large number of abducted women and children, and widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods. In addition, virus outbreaks in urban areas such as Juba could put as many as another 1.6 million people at risk of starvation.

Finally, even though it is not on today’s agenda, I also want to highlight the disaster unfolding in Burkina Faso, driven by the upsurge in violence. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID compounds the situation…displacement, security and access problems. For 11,000 of these people living in the northern provinces, famine is knocking on the door as we speak.

Excellencies, we know what we need to do. We have made huge strides forward in spotting the early warning signs of famine, in understanding its causes and consequences. But, tragically, we have seen this story play out too many times before. The world stands by until it is too late, while hunger kills, it stokes community tensions, fuels conflict and instability, and forces families from their homes.

I recently learned that, in Latin America, hungry families have started hanging white flags outside their houses to show they need help. And there are a lot of them: 17.1 million severely food insecure people today, compared with 4.5 million only six or seven months ago.

A white flag is the sign of surrender – of giving up. Well, we cannot and we must not surrender, or tell ourselves there is nothing we can do, because millions of people around the world desperately need our help.

The truth is, we are all out of excuses for failing to act – swiftly and decisively – while children, women and men starve to death. Today, as humanitarians, we are here to warn you of the pressures caused by conflict and COVID-19. We must act and we must act before the dam bursts.

There is hope amid the turmoil. We’ve seen some bright light in the last few weeks. The peace agreement signed in Sudan and in the Middle East in the last couple of weeks gives us some hope, because peace is the key to all of this. And this is what the Resolution 2417 is all about.

We need everyone on board. And so, Mr. President, the governments are strapped, people are strapped financially. It’s time for the private sector to step up.

Quite frankly, you may wonder why I am bringing this up at the Security Council. But I will take every opportunity I get to sound the alarm before it is too late.

We need $4.9 billion to feed, for one year, all 30 million people who will die without the UN World Food Programme’s assistance.

Worldwide, there are over 2,000 billionaires with a net worth of $8 trillion. In my home country, the USA, there are 12 individuals alone worth $1 trillion. In fact, reports state that three of them made billions upon billions during COVID! I am not opposed to people making money, but humanity is facing the greatest crisis any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

It’s time for those who have the most to step up, to help those who have the least in this extraordinary time in world history. To show you truly love your neighbor. The world needs you right now and it’s time to do the right thing.

For photos, click here.

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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 @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

KINSHASA – As conflict and the coronavirus escalate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), aggravating one of the world’s biggest but most under-funded hunger crises, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that millions of lives could be lost unless the international community steps up with more help.

Four in ten of DRC’s estimated 100 million people are food insecure, according to the most recent nationwide data, with 15.6 million suffering “crisis” or “emergency” hunger.

“So many Congolese are on the edge, and in even greater danger now of being tipped over the edge,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative in DRC. “The world just can’t let that happen, worried though it understandably is about the huge toll COVID-19 is taking on lives and livelihoods elsewhere.”

The U.N. World Food Programme needs another $172 million to be able to fully implement its emergency operation in the country over the next six months. It plans to support 8.6 million people this year – including almost a million of those hit hardest by the pandemic – up from a record 6.9 million reached in 2019.

But without the necessary funding, food rations and cash assistance will have to be cut, then the number of people being helped. Interventions to treat and prevent acute malnutrition – which afflicts 3.4 million Congolese children – are at immediate risk.

Malnutrition is particularly pervasive in conflict-ravaged, mineral-rich eastern DRC, where decades of brutal and opportunistic ethnic fighting has forced millions of civilians from their homes – many of them numerous times.

Violence there in the first half of 2020 – some of it allegedly amounting to war crimes – uprooted over a million people.

Most of the more than five million Congolese displaced inside the country – Africa’s largest such population – live in makeshift camps and urban areas with poor sanitation and healthcare, making them especially susceptible to COVID-19. The U.N. World Food Programme provides many with food or cash.

Killer diseases, such as malaria and cholera, compound the hunger challenge.

By the time the country’s tenth and biggest Ebola epidemic ended in June, having claimed almost 2,300 lives in the east over two years – U.N. World Food Programme food assistance and aviation support were central to the response – the eleventh had erupted in the northwest, and continues to spread.

The central Kasai region is the epicenter of a large scale outbreak of measles, which significantly increases the risk of fatalities among malnourished children.

This year’s harvest is again expected to be below-average in much of DRC because of drought, flooding and pest infestations, as well as farmers’ limited access to their fields owing to insecurity and COVID-19 movement restrictions.

Yet with some 31,000 square miles of arable land – the second largest such area in the world after Brazil – and half of Africa’s water resources, DRC has the potential to produce more than enough food for its people.

Photos available here.  

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The U.N. World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. The U.N. World Food Programme works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

Follow us on Twitter: @WFPUSA @wfp_media, @wfp_Africa

Contact: 

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

PANAMA CITY – Two thirds of the 3 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru who have seen their jobs disappear and their incomes plummet during the pandemic will see their food insecurity worsen in 2020, according to the United Nations World Food Programme’s COVID-19 projections.

Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to register an alarming 269 percent rise in the number of people facing severe food insecurity when compared to 2019 – the highest relative increase globally. Nearly 16 million people*, which includes 1.9 million Venezuelan migrants, will this year face  a critical situation that warrants urgent attention.

“We are worried about the millions who are suffering the impact of the pandemic in our continent,” said Miguel Barreto, U.N. World Food Programme’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Without enough work and income, hunger is what’s next for them. We must act now. We can’t leave anyone behind.”

In the case of migrants, the projection combines moderate and severe food insecurity and is based on a remote survey the U.N. World Food Programme conducted between April and May 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. Economic indicators for Latin America and the Caribbean were also analyzed following the outbreak.

With predictions that gross domestic product (GDP) in the region will shrink by 9.1 percent** – the biggest contraction in a century, estimates suggest that poverty, extreme poverty and unemployment will affect millions more people this year.

Migrants are particularly vulnerable as they are not covered by national social protection programs which provide a safety net in times of crisis. The most recent U.N. World Food Programme survey found that 7 out of 10 migrants in these three countries were worried about feeding themselves and their families, a substantial increase compared to previous assessments. The proportion of migrants who only had one meal or did not eat the day before the interview increased 2.5 times compared to the pre-coronavirus period.

“To halt the increase in poverty and hunger for migrants and other vulnerable groups, we need lasting solutions. It is important to incorporate migrants and other groups into national social protection programs as the Government of Colombia has started doing with our support. For this we count on the support of our international partners and of financial institutions,” added Barreto.

To cope with the growing wave of hunger, the U.N. World Food Programme needs an additional $328 million in 2020 to reach 3.5 million people who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. To assist vulnerable Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the U.N. World Food Programme requires $120 million of the total figure.

Additional information for journalists:

In Colombia, the U.N. World Food Programme is assisting nearly 400,000 people a month with cash-based transfers or food rations, including migrants, members of indigenous communities, victims of armed violence, children in school feeding programs, and people affected by COVID-19. The U.N. World Food Programme plans to assist an additional 550,000 people, subject to the availability of funds, to support and complement national crisis response efforts.

In Ecuador, the U.N. World Food Programme provides vouchers to a monthly average of 96,000 migrants and, due to the crisis, has extended their duration from April to June for 20,000 families. In addition, the U.N. World Food Programme assists about 250 Ecuadorian returnees a month in temporary community kitchens in Pichincha province, and plans to assist 5,000 people in shelters and community kitchens during the pandemic.

In Peru, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing logistical support to the government to deliver nearly 240,000 food kits to vulnerable households in Lima and Callao, and food baskets to 20,000 families quarantining at home in 23 regions of the country. The U.N. World Food Programme also plans cash transfers for 98,000 vulnerable people, including migrants, who do not benefit from national social protection programs.

*The regional projection has been calculated for 11 countries where the U.N. World Food Programme has a presence and for small developing states in the Caribbean. The figure includes 1.9 million Venezuelan migrants in moderate and severe food insecurity in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

**As per the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Remote survey report on the impact of COVID-19 on market access, food security and livelihoods

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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 @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

HARARE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed an additional $10 million in funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for families in urban areas of Zimbabwe struggling to meet their daily food needs due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The contribution will assist almost 100,000 people with monthly cash transfers equivalent to $13 each, enabling them to meet almost two-thirds of their daily food requirements.

A September 2019 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report said that more than 2.2 million people in cities and towns faced food insecurity, not least because of surging prices. COVID-19 has exacerbated economic instability, significantly impacting urban residents already living hand to mouth, many of them working multiple jobs in the informal sector. The U.N. World Food Programme forecasts that by March next year at least 3.3 million people – almost half (47%) the country’s urban population – will be food insecure.

“This additional funding underscores the strong commitment of the American people and government to the people of Zimbabwe,” said US Ambassador Brian A. Nichols.

“This generous and timely contribution will help alleviate the suffering of a large number of people struggling to cope with the twin shocks of COVID-19 and a still deteriorating economy,” said Eddie Rowe, the U.N. World Food Programme Zimbabwe Representative and Country Director.

The U.N. World Food Programme is scaling up its urban assistance program to deliver monthly cash transfers to at least 550,000 Zimbabweans in 20 of the country’s most food insecure urban areas.

Read more about how the U.N. World Food Programme’s urban assistance helps families in Zimbabwe here.

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The United Nations World Food Programme saves lives in emergencies and changes lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media, @wfp_zimbabwe

For more information please contact (name.surname@wfp.org): Claire Nevill, WFP Harare, Tel.+263 787 200 557

TRIPOLI/TUNIS – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), are joining forces in Libya in a project that will aim to reach up to 10,000 food insecure refugees and asylum seekers with emergency food aid this year.

The partnership was launched in recognition of the severe socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Libya as well as the effects of the ongoing conflict. Nutritious food supports a healthy immune system, which is even more critical in challenging times of a global pandemic. Regular food support helps to meet this basic need and allows for limited income to be used for other needs.

Most refugees and asylum seekers in Libya have been unable to find any daily work to support themselves as curfews have been introduced and food prices and the cost of basic goods have dramatically risen. The cost of a minimum-expenditure food basket that would meet basic needs has increased by 24 percent since March.  Many refugees say that they are only able to afford to eat one meal a day.

A quick-needs assessment conducted by the U.N. World Food Programme between May 30th and June 3rd 2020, carried out via telephone interviews with 10 percent of refugees proposed for assistance, found that on average, one out of two respondents had poor or borderline-poor food consumption. A majority showed significantly higher frequency of using negative coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals per day or limiting the size of meal portions. In the past 30 days, 77 percent of respondents could not access supermarkets, and 70 percent had no money to buy food.

“Every day, I am afraid of death because of hunger,” a respondent told the U.N. World Food Programme. “I sleep on mats. There are many shops that I want to work in but there is no work. There is nothing in my house other than bread and tea.”

“It is imperative that we hear these needs and support those most vulnerable,” said Samer AbdelJaber, Country Director and Representative of the U.N. World Food Programme in Libya. “Access to nutritious food is a right. UNHCR and WFP in Libya have worked together previously in times of crisis in the country, when the intensification of conflict left people of concern with no access to food. Now, with the added challenge of COVID-19, we are coming together to ensure support to food insecure refugees who are fully reliant on humanitarian assistance for basic needs.”

Among those who will be assisted under the project are refugees and asylum seekers recently released from detention centers with limited means of supporting themselves.  Others will include refugees in urban settings facing severe challenges in accessing food.

“The help we’re providing under this project has come at a critical time and will be a lifesaver for some of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas,” said Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in Libya.

“Most people relied on daily labor, but this work has dried up because of COVID-19 movement restrictions. They are living a hand-to-mouth existence and finding it very hard to feed themselves. In addition, as the U.N. continues to call for the orderly release of refugees and migrants from arbitrary detention, it is important that whenever the authorities release people from these centers, we can assist them in urban settings.”

The first distribution of food assistance began Monday, June 15th at UNHCR’s registration  center in Serraj, Tripoli.  Some 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers will be reached in the pilot phase.

The micronutrient-dense, ready-to-eat emergency food packages, provide enough food for one month and include hummus, canned beans, canned tuna, halawa, and date bars which cover 53 percent of the daily caloric requirement of a healthy person (around 1,100 calories).

The U.N. World Food Programme and UNHCR staff will distribute the food packages through the end of the year, ensuring COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as personal protection equipment, social distancing, disinfection and enhanced crowd controls, are in place for the distributions.

This innovative partnership will also go beyond emergency food support, extending to technology services which facilitate communication and exchange of information. The WFP-led Emergency Telecommunications Sector will be providing connectivity services to a UNHCR Community Day Center in Tripoli to help refugees connect to their loved ones and communities.

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. | Follow us on Twitter @UNHCRLibya and on Facebook

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 @WFPUSA @WFP_MENA @SamerWFP

For more information please contact:

UNHCR

  • Tripoli: Caroline Gluck gluck@unhcr.org, +218 91000 7195
  • Tunis: Tarik Argaz argaz@unhcr.org, +216 299 61295
  • Geneva: Charlie Yaxley yaxley@unhcr.org, +41 79 580 8702

WFP

  • Tunis/Tripoli: Flavia Brunetti flavia.brunetti@wfp.org, +216 58558309
  • Cairo: Abeer Etefa abeer.etefa@wfp.org, +201 0666 3435 2

Note for editors: Broadcast quality b-roll available to download here.

ANKARA – As Syria enters its 10th year of conflict, which has forced more than 5.6 million people to flee their country, a survey of a major WFP cash assistance program in Turkey indicates that European Union-funded support has helped prevent 1.7 million vulnerable refugees – mostly Syrians – from falling deeper into poverty.

Families receiving assistance have been better able to cover their basic needs, are less likely to have children helping earn money to put food on the table, and were able to eat a reasonable diet, according to sample groups of refugees interviewed as part of WFP monitoring.

WFP and the European Union (EU) joined forces in late 2016 with the Turkish government and the Turkish Red Crescent to launch the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), a program which provides monthly cash allowances to the most vulnerable refugees.

“We know how important this assistance is to families,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “Parents have been able to give their children a roof over their heads and nutritious food to eat. It’s given families some financial stability so they can start rebuilding their lives after the trauma of war. The support provided is a demonstration of the power of partnerships.”

Turkey has taken more Syrian refugees than any other country. Of the approximately 4 million refugees in Turkey, some 3.6 million are from Syria. With work opportunities being scarce, many families have struggled to make ends meet.

The ESSN is the biggest humanitarian project the EU has ever funded, with WFP receiving $1.48 billion since 2016. It is also one of the largest humanitarian cash program ever mounted by the United Nations.

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said: “The European Union, together with its humanitarian partners, is continuing to make a real difference in refugees’ life in Turkey. They have a chance to get back to normality after fleeing atrocities and meet their basic needs, such as rent or food. I want to thank WFP and other partners for having developed this ground-breaking program.”

Thanks to the ESSN, each member of an eligible family receives the equivalent of $22 per month, plus quarterly top-ups according to family size. The money is loaded every month onto a special debit card – families can either withdraw the money at an ATM or use the card to pay in shops.

The refugees can spend the money on whatever they need. Studies show that the 1.7 million refugees mostly spend it on rent, utilities, food and other household supplies.

According to surveys of families, their lives improved or stabilized after they started receiving the monthly cash.

The percentage of people saying they were able to cover all their basic needs went up from one in four to one in two between May 2017 and September 2019. Over the same period, the proportion of families in which children had to work to help bring in money dropped by almost half. There was a corresponding reduction in the tendency of families to pull their children out of school. At the same time, the percentage of families saying they had been forced to cut back on health spending fell by a third.

Meanwhile, data on eating habits showed that, despite economic difficulties and rising prices in late 2018 and early 2019, almost all families receiving ESSN support (97 percent) have managed to maintain an adequately nutritious and diverse diet.

“The assistance card has helped us in many ways this winter, such as heating and buying clothes for the children and for ourselves,” said Amira, a Syrian woman living in Turkey with her husband and three children. “It has also helped us in buying clothes during the summer as well as getting vegetables, food and milk for the children from the market. The card has helped us in many things. Our life will be better as long as it exists.”

Since its launch, the ESSN has been implemented by WFP, working with the Turkish Red Crescent, and with critical support from the Turkish Government. WFP will step down in April, handing over its responsibilities to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The program was scaled up rapidly, going from zero to a million participants within the first year, because it was built on existing Turkish institutions and aid platforms rather than setting up new infrastructure.

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About WFP | 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, natural disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materializes quickly, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.

With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs over $200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.

“As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe. “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables.”

Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket. This year’s corn harvest was down 50 percent compared to 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement. By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance program to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.

Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, corn was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.

Worryingly, runaway inflation – a symptom of the wide-ranging economic crisis Zimbabwe is experiencing – has propelled the prices of basic commodities beyond the reach of all but the most privileged. Amid dire shortage of foreign exchange and of local currency, Zimbabwe has seen drastic price increases. Bread now costs 20 times what it cost six months ago, while the price of corn has nearly tripled over the same period.

The deepening hardship is forcing families to eat less, skip meals, take children out of school, sell off livestock and fall into a vicious cycle of debt. There is little respite expected for the most vulnerable, including subsistence farmers who grow most of Zimbabwe’s food and depend on a single, increasingly erratic rainy season.

This season’s rains are again late and inadequate, with planted seeds having failed to germinate in many areas. Forecasts of continuing hot and dry weather in the weeks ahead signal another poor harvest in April, putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

WFP’s operational scale-up is challenging in many respects. Owing to the acute shortages of local currency and rapid inflation, it entails a large-scale switch from cash-based assistance to food distributions. WFP is uniquely positioned to make this switch in times of crisis but can only do so with sustained donor support.

Because drought and flooding have tightened the availability of food across much of Southern Africa, much of the nearly 200,000 metric tons of food required to deliver assistance to the 4.1 million people targeted by WFP must be sourced beyond the continent, shipped to neighboring South Africa or Mozambique, and moved by road into land-locked Zimbabwe.

“While WFP now has the staff, partners, trucking and logistics capacity in place for a major surge in Zimbabwe, it is essential that we receive the funding to be able to fully deliver,” Balzer said. “The lives of so many depend on this.”


The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

Follow us on Twitter: @WFPUSA, @wfp_Africa @wfp_zimbabwe

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org): Steve Taravella, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1 202 653 1149, Mob. +1 202 770 5993

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