United Nations, July 29 : A funding crunch is forcing the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut its operations, said a high-ranking official.
“WFP is in the midst of a crippling funding crisis that is forcing us to scale back life-saving assistance right as acute hunger is hitting record levels,” Carl Skau, deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the WFP, told reporters on Friday at the UN Headquarters in New York.
At least 38 of 86 WFP country operations have already cut, or plan to soon cut, the size and scope of life-saving food, cash and nutrition assistance programs, he said.
In Afghanistan, the WFP was forced to cut rations from 75 to 50 per cent for communities facing emergency level of hunger in March; in Syria, the WFP cut assistance in July for 2.5 million of the 5.5 million people who rely on the agency for their basic food needs; and in Yemen, the agency will be forced to scale down its work as early as next month, with cuts for seven million people across the country, he added as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.
Most of the countries in West Africa are facing extensive ration cuts, particularly the seven larger crisis operations of Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon, where acute hunger is on the rise, said Skau.
“Less funding means WFP is forced to stop assisting people who are only in the hunger category known as ‘crisis level’.This is so that we can save those who are literally starving — those in the catastrophic hunger category,” he added.
But what happens is that those people at crisis level of hunger now rapidly drop into emergency level and catastrophe level, he said.
“And so, we will have an additional humanitarian emergency on our hands down the road if this continues. We are entering a humanitarian doom loop where we save people who are starving, at the cost of allowing millions of others to fall closer into that same category. Ration cuts are clearly not the way to go forward,” he added.
Skau warned that funding is drying up while humanitarian needs continue to grow and the drivers for hunger remain.
The funding prospects for 2024 are more dire as aid budgets and humanitarian budgets both in Europe and the US are not what they were in 2021 and 2022, he said.
World leaders must act to prioritise funding for humanitarian response, enhance coordination among aid organisations and governments, and invest in long-term solutions that address the root causes of these crises, such as conflict resolution, poverty reduction, and sustainable development, Skau added.
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