United Nations facing ‘crippling funding crisis’

Photo: WFP

The United Nations is facing a “crippling funding crisis” that has forced it to cut food, cash payments, and assistance to millions of people in many countries.

Carl Skau, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), said Friday that the organization has been forced to cut or plans to cut assistance soon in at least 38 of the 86 countries it supports – including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and West Africa.

The WFP’s operating requirement is $20 billion to provide aid to everyone in need, but it has only received around $5 billion so far this year, far below its target.

Skau pointed out that humanitarian needs have surged due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts like the war in Ukraine, climate change, food price inflation, and global economic challenges.

He warned that funding shortages could worsen the situation, making 2024 even more dire.

“The largest food and nutrition crisis in history today persists…This year, 345 million people continue to be acutely food insecure while hundreds of millions of people are at risk of worsening hunger,” Skau said.

Skau emphasized that conflict, insecurity, climate change, disasters, food price inflation, and debt stress are the primary drivers of acute hunger worldwide.

The WFP is seeking to diversify its funding sources but urged traditional donors to step up and support the agency during this challenging time.

The lack of funding has already resulted in drastic cuts to food rations in various regions. For instance, in Afghanistan, WFP had to reduce rations from 75 percent to 50 percent for communities facing emergency levels of hunger.

Skau said that in May WFP was forced to cut food for 8 million people – 66 percent of the people it was assisting – and now, it is helping just 5 million people in Afghanistan.

In Syria, 5.5 million people who relied on WFP for food were already on 50 percent rations, and this was further cut to 2.5 million people in July.

In Yemen, the WFP is facing a huge funding gap that will force it to cut aid to 7 million people as early as August.

Skau warned that ration cuts are not a sustainable solution and could lead to a worsening humanitarian emergency in the future.

He urged world leaders to prioritize humanitarian funding and invest in long-term solutions to conflicts, poverty, development, and other root causes of the current crisis.