The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organisation dedicated to fighting hunger and malnutrition around the globe. In 2021, Switzerland contributed approximately CHF 100 million to WFP operations. Aside from its support for the WFP's general operations, Switzerland focuses on providing technical and financial support for protecting affected people and upholding accountability, as well as for climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and logistics.
World Food Programme
Hunger and malnutrition are among the greatest threats to humanity. They affect about 10% of the world's population. Conflict-driven forced displacement, COVID-19's economic fallout, climate change, and inflation are depriving millions of people of access to food of sufficient quantity and quality to meet nutritional needs.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world's largest humanitarian organisation. In 2021, it helped nearly 124 million people in over 80 countries. Of all the UN's multilateral organisations, the WFP is the largest recipient of Swiss humanitarian aid. In 2020, the organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to fight hunger and to promote conditions conducive to achieving peace in conflict-affected regions.
The WFP is charged with two missions: providing emergency humanitarian aid and promoting long-term development cooperation. The WFP's greatest strength is its ability to deliver food quickly and efficiently to crisis zones around the world. It also supports the humanitarian community by providing transport for personnel as well as food and relief supplies.
Most of the WFP's work is in conflict-stricken countries, where the number of undernourished people is three times higher than in countries at peace. Here, humanitarian aid and development aid work must be coordinated with each other and with peace operations.
Over time, the WFP has transformed from a food aid programme to a food assistance programme. It now strengthens countries' resilience in more comprehensive ways, such as developing physical infrastructure (roads, dams, silos, etc.), market frameworks (financial services, insurance, value chains, etc.), in-school campaigns to improve children's nutrition, and early warning systems based on satellite imagery. It provides technical assistance to further the economic and social development of the world's most fragile states.
The WFP champions new ways to provide assistance, such as vouchers and cash transfers. People in need receive cash or vouchers to exchange for food in shops or to use freely for their basic needs. This helps to fight hunger where food is plentiful but too expensive for poor people. It also benefits the local economy as the money is spent in local markets and makes more products affordable for the beneficiaries. The WFP avoids managing in-kind stocks because of the high costs entailed. Wherever possible, the WFP links its cash distribution programmes to any national social protection systems that may exist. It supports them by providing technical training to local authorities.
Switzerland's top priority here is for the WFP to adopt programmes that focus on the protection of and accountability to people in need. Switzerland aims to ensure that WFP operations meet the basic needs of beneficiaries safely and transparently across-the-board, while involving them in decisions that affect them. Gender equality and the protection of beneficiaries' digital data are key aspects of this.
Adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction is another Swiss priority. Thanks to new technologies and the work of scientists, meteorological crises are becoming increasingly predictable. Humanitarian actors can intervene before the damage is done. Taking anticipatory action makes it possible to provide pre-positioned assistance on the basis of pre-established plans for pre-identified communities — often at a lower cost.
Switzerland also supports the WFP's supply chain, which provides important infrastructure for the humanitarian community. It supports a network of warehouses around the world and air transport services that are essential for reaching the most vulnerable communities in fragile states.
Switzerland is also a major partner in terms of staffing. It provides Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit experts for one-off support in emergencies and for longer periods in protracted crises.
In 2021, the WFP called on the international community to mobilise more funds in response to unprecedented needs. Switzerland contributed a record amount of CHF 100 million to the UN organisation for the year 2021.
When Thailand closed its borders, thousands of migrant workers from Laos found themselves without jobs and had to return home within weeks. Thanks to Swiss aid, the WFP delivered more than 1.1 million meals and basic hygiene items to 42,000 people.
Conflict in Yemen has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. In 2021, Switzerland made a contribution of CHF 4.23 million — unearmarked to ensure it was used as flexibly as possible. The WFP has used these funds in a number of ways, such as investing in over 190 rainwater collection structures, canals and dams to improve people's access to water. As a result, sustainable water collection has increased by more than 500,000m³.
The WFP estimates that 323 million people will suffer from acute food insecurity or need urgent humanitarian assistance by the end of 2023. The Russian aggression in Ukraine has worsened the food situation around the world, especially in the poorest countries. This crisis has significantly increased the prices of food, fertilisers and energy. This comes on top of repeated extreme weather events, COVID-19 restrictions, and inflation. Hunger is taking on dimensions not seen since the crises of 2008 and 2011. Switzerland continues to monitor the global food insecurity situation with great concern.