Food aid costs have skyrocketed, warns WFP

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Steven Were Omamo from the World Food Programme told journalists in Geneva that 800 million people go hungry every day, and the number could grow. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

Skyrocketing humanitarian needs are behind a 140 per cent "spike" in the cost of getting food to vulnerable communities, many of which need more help from their own countries, the UN said on Thursday.

The World Food Programme (WFP), it spent US$ 5.3 billion in 2015, whereas seven years earlier, its outlay was US$2.2 billion.

Co-author of the agency's report on World Food Assistance, WFP's Steven Were Omamo, blamed conflict and political instability for the situation, while also calling on governments to rethink their priorities.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Poor aid access to communities in need costs WFP around US$1 billion a year.

That's according to new data from the UN agency, which has warned of a growing funding gap that risks preventing it from reaching vulnerable communities in around 80 countries.

Other massive costs include those caused by climate shocks, poor delivery networks and conflict.

Find workarounds to these problems and the savings to WFP "could be as high as US$ 3.5 billion a year", it says.

Here's WFP's Steven Were Omamo, co-author of a new report on the state of global food assistance:

"This business is a costly business, it's a costly business due to a range of factors, many of which have to do with pure access issues, and when those access challenges are overcome there's a saving.”

It may be the world's largest international food assistance agency, but WFP's efforts are still dwarfed by national government initiatives – take India, which provides subsidized food to a staggering 800 million people.

That, by the way, is the number of people globally who go to bed on an empty stomach every night.

The reallocation of public funds for food in India is the kind of thing that WFP wants to see other countries start to imitate, though it could just as easily be in the form of cash-for-aid transfers.

Reflecting the huge shift in international food assistance in recent years, cash-aid – as opposed to food aid – has surged from almost nothing in 2009 to represent one-fifth of WFP's assistance last year.

Looking ahead, immediate food crises are already happening in South Sudan, Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia.

WFP will do everything it can to help, but Steven Were Omamo says that it's time for countries to "prioritize" their spending on food assistance, in recognition of the fact that food can address underlying problems of poverty.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’51″

 

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