European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Food assistance

© UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran
What is it?

Food assistance is provided in anticipation of, during, and in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. Its objective is to save lives and livelihoods to avert emergency rates of acute malnutrition or detrimental coping mechanisms.

Through its humanitarian food assistance, the European Union aims to ensure the availability of, access to, and consumption of safe and nutritious food for the most hungry and vulnerable people in crises.

Why is this important?

According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, more than 135 million people across 53 countries required urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance by the end of 2019. Food crises were fuelled by conflict, climate shocks and economic turbulence. This number is substantially increasing in 2020 due to additional factors such as the coronavirus pandemic or the locust upsurge in East Africa. The number of people in the world facing food crises has remained well over 100 million in the last 4 years, and the number of countries affected has risen.

The 2020 State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World reports that almost 690 million people were hungry around the world in 2019, while the coronavirus could push an additional 83-132 million people into chronic hunger.

How are we helping?

The European Union provides humanitarian food assistance to victims of food crises around the world and invests in reducing the risk of famine. Since 2010, the EU has been rolling out its humanitarian food assistance policy and supported more than 100 million people lacking access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food. Overall, almost one fourth of the EU annual humanitarian aid budget is used to provide emergency food assistance and nutrition, making the EU one of the world's major donors in this sector.

EU food assistance is adapted to each specific crisis situation and to the needs of different groups, for example, children under the age of 5. The EU provides the most vulnerable people with essential and nutritious food items during critical times.

If the availability of food in shops and markets is sufficient and the victims of disasters have lost their financial resources to purchase food, the EU prefers helping vulnerable people get access to the food they need by providing them with cash transfers. This is often more efficient and effective than shipping sacks of rice or flour across the globe.

The EU prioritises providing sustainable solutions and restoring self-reliance by building resilience and protecting the livelihoods of households at risk of food shortages. It does this in a number of ways, for example, equipping vulnerable family farmers with seeds and toolkits so that they can grow their own food and restore their livelihoods and capacity to produce.

The European Commission is a member of the Food Assistance Convention and commits to provide a minimum of €350 million annually to alleviate food insecurity. The EU has largely exceeded its commitment in 2019 allocating in total €400 million for humanitarian food assistance and nutrition.

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