The World Food Program (WFP) warned on Tuesday that a lack of cash forcing it to cut rations could push 24 million more people to the brink of famine.
The UN agency said it was struggling to meet growing global needs for food aid while facing a funding gap of more than 60% this year, the highest in its history.
“For the very first time, the WFP saw its contributions decrease while needs were steadily increasing,” underlines a press release from an agency which was nevertheless awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
This drop in contributions, which affects many UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs, could have disastrous consequences, with WFP experts estimating that for every 1% reduction in food aid, more than 400,000 people are at risk of fall into a food emergency.
It is the last stage just before famine, in the classification adopted by the UN.
Given the drastic reductions in food aid that the WFP is distributing, “an additional 24 million people could fall into a food emergency over the next 12 months, an increase of 50% from the current level.”
The head of the organization, the American Cindy McCain, stressed the urgent need for additional funding.
“With record numbers of people around the world facing famine, we must increase this vital aid – not reduce it,” she insisted.
“If we do not receive the support we need to avoid further disasters, the world will undoubtedly experience more conflict, more unrest and more hunger,” she said.
The WFP estimates that 345 million people worldwide face acute food insecurity, at level three or above of the food insecurity classification of up to 5, known as the IPC.
In total, 40 million of them are currently considered to be in a food emergency, meaning they are forced to take desperate measures to survive and risk dying from malnutrition.
“WFP food aid is a vital lifeline, often the only thing separating them from starvation,” the organization explains.
Yet the agency said it had already been forced to make massive reductions in nearly half of its aid operations around the world, including in acute crisis areas like Afghanistan, Bangladesh , Haiti and Syria.
In Afghanistan, where half the population suffers from acute food insecurity, WFP cuts have deprived 8 million people of the food aid they had previously received.
And in July, 45% of aid recipients in Syria and a quarter of those on the WFP list in Haiti also had to be excluded.
Same case in Somalia where 4.7 million people no longer received food aid from the UN agency last year.
The food agency’s experts warn of a “vicious circle” of humanitarian aid, in which the WFP would be forced to only help those who are starving to the detriment of those who are starving.
For Cindy McCain – the widow of former US presidential candidate and influential Senator John McCain -: “We must fund emergency operations to feed the hungry today while investing in long-term solutions that tackle the root causes of hunger.