The World Food Programme (WFP) has significantly reduced its provision of food, cash payments, and assistance to millions of people worldwide. WFP Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Carl Skau addressed the media on 28 July to express the dire situation the organisation is facing amid a severe funding crisis.

Skau highlighted that donations to the organisation have declined by half, while acute hunger continues to escalate alarmingly.

Skau attributes the main drivers of acute hunger to conflicts and insecurity, coupled with climate change, persistent disasters, soaring food prices, and mounting debt stress, all occurring during a global economic slowdown.

Discussing the emergency responses and operational challenges of the WFP programme, Skau revealed that 38 out of the 86 countries where WFP operates have either experienced or are planning to implement assistance cuts. Notable among them are Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and several countries in West Africa.

WFP’s operating requirement to provide aid to everyone in need stands at $20 billion. In recent years, the organization has averaged funding between $10 billion and $14 billion. WFP has only managed to secure approximately half of that amount, approximately $5 billion this year.

Skau cited specific instances of aid reduction in different regions, such as cutting rations from 75% to 50% for communities in Afghanistan facing emergency levels of hunger in March. In May, food assistance for 8 million people was cut, affecting 66% of those assisted.

Similarly, in Syria, 5.5 million people relying on WFP for food already had their rations reduced to 50%. In July, the agency had to cut all rations for 2.5 million people. In the Palestinian territories, cash assistance was reduced by 20% in May and June, leading to a caseload reduction of 60%, affecting 200,000 people. Meanwhile, Yemen is facing a considerable funding gap that will force WFP to cut aid to 7 million people as early as August.

Acute hunger is on the rise in West Africa. Most countries experience extensive ration cuts, particularly in the WFP’s seven largest crisis operations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon.

Skau emphasised the risks of cutting aid to people at the hunger level of crisis, as this could lead them to rapidly fall into the emergency and catastrophic hunger categories, exacerbating the humanitarian emergency.

Concluding the conference, Skau urged world leaders to prioritise humanitarian funding and invest in long-term solutions to conflicts, poverty, development, and other root causes of the ongoing crisis.