May 26, 2024

WFP funding crisis leaves millions without help as severe hunger crisis hits West Africa

WFP funding crisis leaves millions without help as severe hunger crisis hits West Africa

Mali and Chad are expected to face the greatest impact, as 800,000 individuals may feel compelled to take extreme actions.


In the month of June, Sahel region saw the initiation of a significant emergency operation by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to provide extensive aid in terms of food and nutrition. However, due to a lack of funding, the WFP will only be able to help a little more than half of the original 11. 6 million people they intended to assist. Therefore, millions will be left without aid during the lean season, exacerbating hunger levels.

Mali and Chad are expected to face the greatest impact, as 800,000 individuals may feel compelled to take extreme actions such as resorting to survival sex, entering into early marriages, or joining non-state armed factions.

The lean season response of WFP aims to support national governments in their fight against hunger amidst the challenges posed by conflict, climate crisis, and escalating food and fuel expenses. Initially, the WFP aimed to assist 11. 6 million individuals, including women, men, and children, in Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and northeast Nigeria between June and September 2023.

This assistance was intended for a total of 19. 2 million people facing a humanitarian crisis. However, due to limited funds, the WFP has had to prioritize aid for only 6. 2 million individuals who are considered the most at risk, such as refugees, recently displaced individuals, children below the age of 5 who suffer from malnutrition, and pregnant or breastfeeding women and girls.

“We’re in a tragic situation. During this year’s lean season, millions of families will lack sufficient food reserves to sustain them until the next harvests in September and many will receive little to no assistance to tide them through the gruelling months ahead. We must take immediate action to prevent a massive slide into catastrophic hunger,” said Margot Vandervelden, Regional Director ad interim, for Western Africa.

In West and Central Africa, the issue of food insecurity has reached its highest level in the past decade. This problem has impacted a significant number of individuals, totaling 47. 2 million, particularly during the lean season from June to August. Notably, Burkina Faso and Mali have been severely affected, with 45,000 people facing a dire situation of catastrophic hunger, as revealed by the March Cadre Harmonisé analysis.

Malnutrition rates have experienced a significant increase, with a projected 16. 5 million children under the age of 5 facing acute malnutrition this year. This marks an 83 percent surge compared to the average rate observed between 2015 and 2022.

Conflict is a significant factor that continues to cause hunger in the area, resulting in the expulsion of entire populations from their homes and hindering communities’ ability to cultivate land for agriculture. Conflict is furthermore extending throughout the region and neighboring coastal nations, potentially endangering the stability of previously unaffected and secure territories.

The number of individuals escaping conflict in the Central Sahel region and seeking sanctuary in four countries along the Gulf of Guinea has increased nearly fourfold in just half a year, escalating from 30,000 individuals in January to 110,000 people by June.

The objective of WFP’s response during the lean season is to offer essential food and nutrition support to families experiencing severe hunger as their food supplies dwindle. Nevertheless, making proactive investments in prevention and astute long-term strategies can substantially decrease the need for relying on emergency measures. Resilience-enhancing activities, social safety nets, and proactive measures such as climate insurance pay-outs are some of the proposed remedies.

In 2023, the African Risk Capacity (ARC) provided climate risk insurance pay-outs amounting to US$15. 4 These funds allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to distribute cash transfers to 490,000 individuals in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, and Mali who were affected by drought in 2022.

This reaction facilitated the farmers in overcoming the consequences of droughts by enabling them to fulfill their fundamental requirements, such as acquiring food for their families and obtaining seeds for the following planting period.

The main focus of WFP’s resilience program in the Sahel region is to actively involve the local community in planning for the sustainable use of water resources, enhancing the productivity of land, and providing assistance to small-scale farmers. This program also establishes connections with school meal programs and nutrition initiatives.

The program has yielded positive outcomes, as households involved have proven to be more resilient to hardships and better at handling challenging periods. In Niger, a noteworthy 80 percent of villages that received resilience aid from the WFP did not necessitate humanitarian aid in 2022, which sets them apart from other villages in the same region.

As a result of the investments made in building resilience, approximately 500,000 individuals were able to sustain themselves without relying on humanitarian food assistance. Expanding these activities will play a vital role in effectively preventing emergency situations from worsening.

WFP, in collaboration with UNICEF, is involved in a social protection initiative in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. This program aims to enhance the existing national systems by providing financial assistance and additional support services to millions of individuals. The program also aids in building national capability to predict and address climatic and other unforeseen events that cause humanitarian requirements.

The WFP is seeking a budget of $794 million to address the immediate needs of the Sahelian countries within the upcoming six months, from July to December 2023.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the biggest global aid group, providing food support to create a path towards peace, stability, and prosperity for those affected by emergencies, conflicts, disasters, and climate change.