AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY
OGUNBIYI OLUWATOBI RICHARD ESQ.
Over the past five years, the world has been hit by a series of economic, financial and food crises that have slowed down, and at times reversed global efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. The WFP which is both a humanitarian and developmental UN agency majorly committed to fighting hunger worldwide. In emergencies, it distributes food where it is needed to save the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of the emergency passes, it focuses on development, using food to help communities rebuild their lives.
Note however its utmost goal, which is to eradicate food hunger in the world was adequately pronounced following its mandate at the Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition on 16th November 1974 by the World Food Conference and the first World Food Summit held in Rome in 1996, where food security was defined as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” As such, all member states committed themselves to the millennium development goal of reducing to half, the number of undernourished people from around 800 million to 400 million by 2015. In recent years, WFP has shifted its delivery mechanisms from “food aid” (focus on the shipment of food) to “food assistance” (including cash transfers, rather than physical food, where appropriate).
The focus of this presentation however is to consider the institution of the World Food Programme hereinafter referred to as (WFP) as the United Nations world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide as well as provide an assessment of some case studies in the developmental effectiveness of WFP operations. This presentation would also consider some challenges and inadequacies which militates against WFP and challenges its prospects of eradicating world hunger, not forgetting to do a critic of operations of the WFP, while at the same time, proffering some recommendations which is believed would be more effective in the fight against world hunger if implemented. At the end of the presentation, we are to determine whether or not the WFP has taken adequate steps in its task of eradicating hunger in the world.
.2.00 HISTORY OF THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
The WFP was first established in 1961 after the 1960 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Conference. WFP formally started its work in 1963 with a mandate from the FAO and the United Nations General Assembly on a three-year experimental basis. In 1965, the programme was extended to a continuing basis having its headquarters in Rome, Italy. However, at the first World Food Summit held on 13th-17th November 1996 in Rome, where all member states committed themselves to the millennium development goal of reducing to half, the number of undernourished people from around 800 million to 400 million by 2015 and ultimately eradicating world hunger. The programme started its course by voluntary pledges from participating countries in the form of commodities, cash or services such as shipping. Now, WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors.
3.00 GOALS AND STRATEGIES OF WFP
The World Food Programme started its operation in 1963 and today it has become the world’s largest international food aid organization with offices in over 80 countries world-wide. It should be noted that the WFP’s Strategic Plan as identified for years 2008 – 2013 identifies five strategic objectives for the organization;
To save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies (Strategic Objective 1);
To prevent acute hunger and invest in disaster preparedness and mitigation measures (Strategic Objective 2);
Restoration and rebuilding lives and livelihoods in post-conflict, post-disaster or transition situations (Strategic Objective 3);
Reduce chronic hunger and under-nutrition (Strategic Objective 4); and
Strengthen the capacities of countries to reduce hunger, including through hand-over strategies and local purchase (Strategic Objective 5).
The core policies and strategies that have governed WFP activities over the years are to provide food aid to improve nutrition and quality of life of the most vulnerable people at critical times in their lives, and to help build assets and promote self-reliance of poor people and communities. Also, the World Food Programme’s mandate which reflects the principle of universality is to;
• Use food aid to support economic and social development
• Meet refugees and other emergency food needs and
• Promote world food security in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations and Food and Agriculture Organization.
WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS. The bulk of the WFP’s work centers on responding to disasters around the world by providing food aid to populations that are struggling with hunger in light of crises. They also aim to build individual countries’ capacities to respond to hunger and to assist people in rebuilding their lives after being stricken by a food crisis.
WFP’s programming and operations is divided into three main categories, they are;
Emergency: WFP respond to emergencies occasioned by disasters, wars or conflict by providing food aid through WFP’s Immediate Response Account and, if warranted, a subsequent Emergency Operation (EMOP) which provides a minimum of 24 months assistance, that can assist populations in need by either food distributions or other projects such as food aid.
Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO): This kind of intervention is carried out in protracted crises to help sustain affected communities as they re-establish livelihoods and stabilize food security. A PRRO is formed when it becomes clear that the 24-month assistance provided under an EMOP will be insufficient and includes such activities as food for education and training, extended relief, relief for refugees and food for recovery (e.g., food-for-assets programs); and
Development: Development food aid is used to help the chronically food insecure escape from the poverty trap. WFP ensures its aid is concentrated on pre-identified, food-insecure areas inside recipient countries, usually rural areas of low productivity, areas prone to natural disasters and areas vulnerable to periodic food shortages. It also works in towns and cities with high concentrations of malnutrition;
Special Operations: Short-term operations are designed to speed-up the movement of food Aid and involve logistics and infrastructure work (e.g., infrastructure repairs, intermittent airlifts and provision of common logistics) designed to overcome operational bottlenecks.
4.00 FUNDING OF THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors. Governments are the principal source of funding for WFP. It should be noted that the organisation receives no dues or portions of the UN assessed contributions and on average, over 60 governments underwrite the humanitarian and development projects of WFP. All government support is on an entirely voluntary basis. Also, through corporate-giving programmes, individual companies can make a vital contribution to fighting hunger. Corporate donations of cash, product or services have been found very resourceful in WFP task.
5.00 PARTNERS OF THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
The WFP coordinates and cooperates with a number of official partners in emergencies and development projects so as to strengthen and widen its course of hunger eradication in the world. These partners include;
National governments: The governments of the countries where WFP operates are principal partners to WFP as coordination and co-operation with them are essential both in emergencies and development projects.
Non-governmental Organizations: Non-governmental Organizations transports stores or distributes food on behalf of WFP. WFP have since inception worked a productive working partnership with many NGOs around the world to help and facilitate its course.
FAO and IFAD and other UN agencies: The two Rome-based UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) work together to address hunger in the world. WFP often collaborates with these and other UN sister Agencies relying on them for technical advice and non-food resources in both crises and development situations
Corporate Partners: WFP seeks also additional funding and valuable expertise from private companies active in areas such as food, transport, information and communications technology, logistics, finance and human resources.
6.00 WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND ITS JURISTIC NATURE
It is important to know that the law regulating the operations of the WFP is the World Food Programme General Regulations and Rules 2004 which came into force on 1st of January, 2004 hereinafter referred to as (WFP Regulations) as well as bilateral agreements between the UN, WFP and member states. The regulation provides for the establishment of the WFP, purpose and functions of the body, as well as Cooperation of WFP with the United Nations, FAO and with other relevant agencies and organizations
Article 39 of the ILO Constitution provides for the legal status and capacity of the body. It provides as follows;
(1). The International labour organization shall possess full juridical personality and in particular the capacity
(a) To contract;
(b) To acquire and dispose of movable and immovable property;
(c) To institute legal proceedings.
(3). “Any liability arising from the exercise of the legal capacity referred to above shall be met by WFP from its own funds and shall not constitute a liability on other funds of the United Nations or FAO. Note also Article IX of the WFP Regulations on eligibility for assistance which provides All States Members of the United Nations or Members or Associate Members of any specialized agency shall be eligible to submit requests for consideration by WFP. WFP may also provide emergency food aid and associated non-food items and logistics support at the request of the Secretary-General of the WFP”.
7.00 EFFORTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS TOWARDS ERADICATING HUNGER
It is important to highlight some of the notable efforts and achievements of the WFP over the years, especially in recent years to consider and examine its prospects for total eradication of hunger in the world.
WFP in year 2013 provided direct food-assistance transfers for 80.9 million people in 75 countries, most of whom were women and children. Also in the same year, WFP’s programmes distributed 3.1 million mt of food and USD 506 million in cash and voucher transfers. The value of cash and vouchers increased to 20 percent of the value of food transfers in the same year
In 2013, WFP responded to four major emergencies. The urgency, scale and complexity of the crises in the Central African Republic, the Philippines, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic. Also note the deteriorating situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia and Yemen. The crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is unparalleled in complexity and scale, with negative effects on the people in the country and the region increasing on daily basis. Nevertheless, WFP’s staff, partners and contributors showed outstanding determination in providing food assistance, and by the end of the year WFP’s operations distributed sufficient food to meet the needs of 4.5 million people.
In Nigeria, close to 8,000 Nigerians have fled since May 2014 into the remote northernmost region of Cameroon from the northern Nigerian states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno in April 2014. WFP provided assistance to Nigerian refugees in Cameroon in June 2014, reaching nearly 7,500 in a first round of food distributions. WFP has also provided local health clinics with new stocks of special nutritional products to help curb malnutrition and is planning to distribute these foods also to all children under five and to all pregnant and nursing mothers among the refugees to prevent malnutrition. Although, Cameroon was already hosting refugees from Nigeria in the main Minawao camp and in communities
In the Syrian Arab Republic, WFP worked with local partners to feed 1.5 million vulnerable people in government-held and opposition-held areas. A further 500,000 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries also required assistance which was provided by electronic cash and voucher systems that bring benefits to refugees and host communities by using cost-efficient commercial food-distribution channels.
In response to sectarian violence in the Central African Republic in December 2013, WFP scaled up its assistance to reach 237,000 people. The collapse of social, economic and law-enforcement institutions led to looting, theft and threats to women. In response, WFP scaled up its food assistance and provided additional security training for its staff.
In the Sudan, WFP assisted 3.7 million people in 2013
In Philippines 2013, WFP launched a USD 88 million emergency operation in the worst affected areas like Leyte, Samar, Northern Cebu and Panay Island. By the end of December 2013, WFP had reached 1 million beneficiaries including 40,000 children under 5 with food and cash transfers.
In total, 80.9 million people most of whom were women and children received direct food assistance transfers from WFP in 75 countries in 2013. This figure exceeds the targeted number of planned beneficiaries..
An estimated 842 million people were undernourished in 2013, 12 percent of the global population. This figure has declined by 173 million since 1992, and by 26 million since 2012. Also in 2012, WFP assisted 97.2 million people, mainly women and children, in 80 countries. It provided 53 percent of global food aid in 2012
In 2011, WFP reached 99.1 million people in 75 countries and provided 3.6 million tons of food. The number of malnourished children who received special nutritional support in 2011 was over 11 million, up from 8.5 million in 2010. Some 23 million children received school meals or take-home rations. WFP has scaled up its use of cash and vouchers as food assistance tools. Some 4.4 million people received assistance through cash or voucher programmes in 2011. In 2011, WFP bought over 2.4 million metric tons of food, worth more than US$1.2 billion, in 87 countries. Out of the 2.4 million metric tons of food, 71 per cent was purchased in developing countries, representing approximately US$870 million and more than 1.7 million metric tons.
The WFP has launched a global advocacy and fundraising event called Walk the World. On one single day each year, hundreds of thousands of people in every time zone all over the world walk to call for the end of child hunger. In 2005, more than 200,000 people walked in 296 locations. In 2006, there were 760,000 participants in 118 countries all over the world. This event is part of the campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, specifically to reduce to half, the number of people who suffer from hunger and poverty by 2015
In 2010, WFP provided food to 109.2 million beneficiaries in 75 countries
Since 2008 WFP is coordinating a five-year Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot project. P4P assists smallholder farmers by offering them opportunities to access agricultural markets and to become competitive players in the market place. The project is underway in 20 of the 21 planned countries and since the launch, more than 500,000 farmers, warehouse operators and small & medium traders have received training from WFP and partners in improved agricultural production, post-harvest handling, quality assurance, group marketing, agricultural finance and contracting with WFP. More than 450,000 metric tons of foods valued at US$177 million have been contracted and 367,000metric tons successfully delivered across the 20 pilot counties.
Between 1990 and 2008, the poverty rate dropped from 47% to 24%, despite world population growth
In 2007, the World Food Programme joined forces with YUMI Brands, the world’s largest restaurant company, to launch the first annual World Hunger Relief Week, a global campaign to increase awareness about hunger, engage volunteers, and raise critically needed funds to help WFP serve the world’s areas of greatest need. World Hunger Relief Week 2007 leveraged the power of nearly 35,000 restaurants around the world, sparking a global movement to end hunger and generating an overwhelming outpouring of support from millions of customers, employees, franchisees and their families
WFP established The Fast Information Technology and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST). This is a group of technical specialists within the IT division of the WFP. FITTEST provides IT, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure to support humanitarian aid operations anywhere in the world. This is so because humanitarian emergencies demand rapid interventions that are efficient, coordinated and effective. FITTEST responds to emergency requests and ensures staff are on the ground and ready to operate within 48 hours.
In relation to grassroots efforts, WFP has launched a global advocacy and fundraising event called Walk the World. On one single day each year, hundreds of thousands of people in every time zone all over the world walk to call for the end of child hunger. In 2005, more than 200,000 people walked in 296 locations. In 2006, there were 760,000 participants in 118 countries all over the world. This event is part of the campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, specifically to halve the number of people who suffer from hunger and poverty by 2015.
8.00 PROBLEMS AND CRITICISMS
Here are few challenges and criticism that the WFP has suffered since taking on the fight against world hunger and which invariably has limited its prospects and chances of total eradication of hunger in the world.
Child malnutrition remains a concern. In 2010, almost 1/3of children in southern Asia were underweight as a result of hunger and malnutrition
Kenyan economist James Shikwati says in an interview with Der Spiegel “food aid programme does more harm than good. According to him, the food aid increases corruption as local politicians have the opportunity to steal some of the aid to bribe voters or to sell the aid in the black markets which is killing the local agriculture
World Food Programme campaign and activities is mostly towards developing countries and the urban areas of countries as they often time at the receiving end while neglecting the rural and impoverished area where the activities of WFP are mostly needed.
A broad challenge to WFP’s effectiveness is the issue of program interruptions, which are caused either by the lack of predictable donors, funding, poor contingency planning and inefficiencies in WFP operations.
WFP has not been particularly effective in addressing the cross cutting theme of gender equality. Most of its beneficiaries are young children, mostly girls and women
Environmental issue is also another area militating against the prospect of WFP to eradicate hunger in the world. There is need to address environmental impact on its choice of food and commodities as climate change, the environmental and ecological condition of a particular country may not support the choice of food or commodity sent to the affected country which invariably leads to mass wastage.
WFP provides food aid to countries affected by natural disasters and help sustain lives, restore and rebuild lives and livelihood in post conflict and post disasters, attend to emergency situations. What then happens to countries or areas though not affected by any disaster to necessitate the aid of WFP but they continually experience untold hardship occasioned by hunger and scarcity of food on daily basis?
WFP answers too easily to the calls of the corrupted governments, and supplies too much of food aid leading to reduction of the production of local farmers as no one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program.
WFP result performance measurement can never be without fault as it is autonomous in publishing its annual performance report which I think could be susceptible to manipulations of facts and figures. On the other hand, there could be some lapses in result performance measurement.
WFP needs to pay attention also to more systematically nutrition concerns rather than just interested in providing food in emergencies situation or where need arise without much concern for balance of nutrition or nutritional vital commodities
In operational terms, greater effort is required to ensure timely and full delivery of all elements to places of concern.
Timely delivering of sufficient quality of foods is necessary but not sufficient to overcome the underlying processes that cause malnutrition. Non-food resources of many kinds are essential also. This is most apparent where therapeutic feeding is concerned, because food must combine with medicines and clean water together with the services of skilled partners to achieve the desired results. As such, WFP should focus on distribution of other supplements that could aid food distribution and bring desired results
WFP should continue to increase the number of donors to provide the resources it needs as this would enhance its capacity development also, address the interruptions of programming that detract from WFP’s performance
WFP should aim at promoting gender equality in its programming by paying equal attention to both men and women, boys and girls in terms of food and other non-foods distributions as no one is entitled to die by hunger between the sexes and no one enjoys priority over the other to stay alive. It is hereby recommended that strengthening the capacities of WFP staff to carry out gender analysis should be a priority in WFP’s Corporate Action Plan.
WFP should also strengthen its results performance measurement so as to provide an exact state of food insecurity in the world. They need to be strengthened to ensure they reflect adequately the expected results of its programming. Regular, authoritative reports help maintain donor confidence and support resource mobilisation efforts. They also form the basis of WFP’s accountability to its donors and the international community.
- 10.00 CONCLUSION
Flowing from the World Food Summit and the expectation to halve the proportion of hungry and chronically undernourished people by 2015, a goal which was at the heart of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and which formed the basis of the first Millennium Development Goal. But today, with just fewer than 1 billion people going hungry every day, and an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world. Around 1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25 a day. Going by this statistics, one cannot but say that we still have a long way to go.
However, the efforts, impacts and interventions of this humanitarian agency in the fight against hunger over the past years cannot be overlooked notwithstanding the problems and criticism leveled against it. Although, a lot still have to be done and put in place in terms of capacity building and extension of its tentacles to other nations that have not really felt the impact of the WFP especially the local communities that suffer hunger on daily basis.
As long as there would be conflicts, natural disasters displacement of lives, homes and livelihood, which invariably lead to mass absence and lack of means living, food insecurity as well as hunger may not vanish from the face of the world and the WFP will keep striving to provide interventions as occasion demands