ROME, Italy – The World Food Programme (WFP) is a United Nations agency that deals with world food deficiencies and works in areas facing dire situations. The WFP has been operating since 1961, yet this year the agency is facing some unprecedented challenges. Currently there are four level three emergencies that the agency is working on, emergencies the agency puts as its highest priorities.
The four emergencies are in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Philippines and Syria. The two African countries and Syria have their food crises in combat zones, making the situations there even more difficult to handle. Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the World Food Programme, has said that in these areas, “you have the inability to access those who are in what we call besieged areas… there are a lot more people who are in need of assistance.”
According to its website, the World Food Programme reaches more than 90 million people from 80 countries in an average year, so the agency is used to dealing with large populations. However, mass of emergencies occurring at the same time poses a new challenge for the program, a challenge that has never been dealt with by the program on this level. Thus, the program has had to deal with the emergencies in a number of different ways.
One of the results of the emergencies has been the prioritization of certain areas over others. Unfortunately, since the agency relies on volunteer donations, it does not always have the money to cover the various crises across the world. Cousin said for example, in Kenya, “we had to cut rations there, first 10 percent in December and another 10 (percent) in January.” This points to the need for more funding in this sector and the importance that relief for global poverty should hold in foreign policy decisions.
The WFP is forced to cut corners in certain areas, but for the most part it works with what it has without having to prioritize. The emergency operation that the Program has launched in South Sudan is project to cost about $58 million and will look to provide assistance to 400,000 Sudanese that have been displaced by the conflict. The money will go towards food products and protection for the food, as looting has been a problem in the region. The WFP estimates 10 percent of the food going to the region has been stolen, enough to feed 180,000 people.
In dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the World Food Programme was able to raise $130 million in a week and was able to reach 2.66 million people, an example of how effective the program can be if it gets the funds it needs. The food the WFP provided for the region made it easier for the nation to rebound and focus on rebuilding a country after one of the worst storms ever recorded.
The WFP’s main mission is to provide food for those in need, wherever they may be. However, violence and more extreme weather patterns are making their mission more difficult. The fact that members are still able to accomplish their missions in the face of daunting circumstances show the impact more funding for the fight against poverty could have. When thinking about global aid, the impact the WFP makes as one of many agencies helps provide some perspective for this fight against poverty.
– Eric Gustafsson