UN’s World Food Program faces dire funding shortage, could run out by October

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the world’s largest initiative combating hunger, is confronting an unprecedented funding crisis, with its Executive Director Cindy McCain sounding the alarm on Sunday, warning that they are in a “desperate situation” and could exhaust their funds as early as October.

During an interview with ABC, McCain pointed to a confluence of factors contributing to the funding shortfall, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the escalating impact of climate change, and persistent conflicts worldwide. She also cited the rising cost of operations as a significant challenge.

“It’s a combination of things — it’s COVID, it’s climate change, it’s conflict, and also the cost of doing business,” McCain explained. “These factors, coupled with a global weariness of foreign aid, have created a precarious situation.”

McCain emphasized that the ones most affected by this funding crisis are those least able to endure it. In September, the WFP disclosed that it has been struggling to meet the growing global demand for food assistance, with contributions decreasing for the first time while needs continue to rise. Consequently, the organization has been forced to implement “significant cuts in hotspots such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Jordan, Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia, and Syria.”

The situation in Afghanistan is particularly dire, with McCain warning that the program lacks sufficient funds to operate beyond October. The WFP has been a lifeline for vulnerable populations in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021 and their imposition of strict restrictions.

McCain emphasized the urgency of the matter, stating, “Right now, women can’t work. They can’t hold jobs of any kind. And in the case of WFP, we’ve been feeding women, feeding women and children. And if we have to pull out, starvation and famine is going to be the result of this.”

When asked about the shift in international funding patterns, McCain suggested that ongoing international conflicts, particularly the situation in Ukraine, have diverted attention and resources away from global hunger issues. She acknowledged the importance of supporting Ukraine but underscored the desperate situations in other parts of the world that require immediate attention.

McCain also expressed concern that constituents and parliaments in many countries are becoming more hesitant to allocate funds for international aid, a trend that the United States is not immune to.

Highlighting the national security implications of supporting vulnerable communities abroad, McCain pointed out that terrorist groups often provide food to those in need using stolen resources. She stressed that addressing hunger now can prevent future conflicts, stating, “We have to pay attention to it because we’re either going to feed them now or fight them later. And there’s no way about this. And … as a human being and a humanitarian, we cannot turn our backs on this. We can’t. If we don’t do it, who will?”

Reflecting on her late husband, Senator John McCain, Cindy McCain noted that he would be deeply concerned about the current state of affairs and would be tirelessly advocating for action on this issue worldwide.

While Cindy McCain, a Republican, has been outspoken about her differences with former President Donald Trump, she refrained from offering a specific response regarding the potential outcome if he were to win the 2024 election, citing her current non-political work with the apolitical WFP. Nevertheless, she stressed the significance of considering the stakes and the impact of leadership decisions on global humanitarian efforts.