World Food Programme

Hunger and malnutrition are among the greatest threats to humanity. 795 million people worldwide suffer from hunger. The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organisation fighting hunger, helping around 80 million people a year in 83 countries. Of all the UN organisations, the WFP receives Swiss Humanitarian Aid's largest financial contribution.UN Agencies, WFP receives the largest amount from Swiss Humanitarian Aid. In 2020 the WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The World Food Programme has a dual mandate:  humanitarian aid and development projects. It provides food assistance to countries during emergencies and on a long-term basis.  It also provides technical assistance to promote the economic and social development of countries in need. For example, it helps governments to develop or improve national programmes for disaster preparedness and nutrition. In addition, the WFP supports UN agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs in their humanitarian activities, for example operating passenger and cargo flights, and providing storage for food and other supplies.


The WFP is working increasingly in conflict-affected countries, where the number of malnourished people is three times higher than in countries without conflict. Crises today are not only lasting longer, but all too often are the result of armed conflict. This poses new challenges not only for the WFP but for the whole world. Humanitarian and development aid agencies must therefore work together more closely, while at the same time integrating peace-building measures.

With the changing and increasingly global nature of challenges, the WFP has evolved from a simple food aid organisation into a broader nutritional support organisation. It has expanded its approaches and tools to combat food and nutrition insecurity, through the introduction of vouchers, cash transfers, local purchasing programmes and production of local food by smallholders.


Cash transfers are one of the WFP's most successful instruments. People who are struggling to get enough food for their families receive financial support in the form of vouchers or cash. Vouchers can either be exchanged for food, used in selected shops or used freely to cover basic needs. Cash transfers are used to fight hunger in places where there is enough food but where poor people cannot afford to buy it. Payments often reduce food transport and storage costs and benefit the local economy, as the recipients spend the money on local markets.  People often prefer cash payments to traditional food aid because they have more choice and variety.

Switzerland's commitment

Switzerland's priorities

Agriculture and food security is one of the SDC's priority thematic areas. Switzerland is committed to global food security in accordance with the Food Aid Convention, which aims to improve the capacity of the international community to respond to acute food crises and other nutritional needs of developing countries.

Switzerland is not only a major donor to the WFP, but also an important partner in the field of human resources, regularly providing experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) for programme planning, coordination and logistics. Specialists are also deployed to work on emergency preparedness, reconstruction and cash and voucher programmes. Protection for and accountability to the affected population group are priorities for Switzerland. It ensures that aid provided is transparent and that people in need are involved in decisions.

Switzerland takes three criteria into account in its contributions to WFP operations:

  • Needs of the affected population/urgency and funding gaps

  • Potential synergies with other Swiss programmes

  • Presence of a Swiss cooperation office in the country


In February 2017 the SDC responded immediately to famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, stepping up its commitment in the four countries affected. The extra funding was implemented through programmes of existing partners, including the WFP. In South Sudan, for example, the expected famine was averted, thanks to early detection, coordinated aid and increased food support from the WFP. In 2017 the WFP provided urgently needed emergency and nutritional aid for around 4.4 million people.

The presence of Swiss Humanitarian Aid on the ground enabled close cooperation with the WFP. It also made it possible to open a transport corridor (White Nile Corridor) from Sudan, in order to reach those in need in northern parts of South Sudan. Thanks to the flexible use of Swiss funds, the WFP was able to transport the necessary food faster, more safely and more cheaply to the crisis areas and to build up supplies in areas that are not accessible during the rainy season (from Rabak in Sudan to Renk in South Sudan (Upper Nile State).

Switzerland provides major support for South Sudan.  Between 2012 and 2017, it made over CHF 24 million available to the WFP, with CHF 5.4 million for 2017 alone.


The greatest strength of the WFP is its ability to respond quickly and effectively to emergency situations. However, with 80% of those supported living in fragile, vulnerable circumstances, the WFP needs to develop innovative solutions in order to prevent their food and nutritional security from deteriorating and enable them to cope with future crises. The organisation's reorientation towards nutritional support requires increased resilience through infrastructure development, nutrition-related activities and innovative tools. These efforts will be supported by food security analyses and early warning systems to help governments and communities cope with natural disasters and secure development gains.